New Research Findings on Impacts of Childhood Experiences on Brain Development
Posted Oct 06 2009 6:01pm
by Lisa Frederiksen
Jane Stevens reported in her article, “ Traumatic Childhood Takes 20 Years Off Life Expectancy,” published today by Lawrence Journal World and News, the latest findings in the ongoing 14-year old Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. This study is “one of the largest investigations ever conducted on the links between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being.” It is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO).
I encourage you to read the article in its entirety. For me, it was the reference to three types of childhood trauma, which are also risk factors contributing to a person developing alcohol abuse and/or alcohol dependence problems — namely emotional abuse, growing up in a home with a household member who’s an alcoholic or drug user and/or growing up in a household with a household member who’s diagnosed with a mental illness.
Another statement that caught my attention read,
“In parallel research, the neuroscience community has found that trauma alters the function and development of children’s brains and nervous systems. Epigeneticists, who study how a person’s experiences turn their genes off and on, have found that trauma can turn on genes that manufacture the chemical stressors that affect the brain.
“That’s what’s happening in the brains of traumatized children who become hyper-vigilant, edgy, impulsive, and have hot tempers. They’re unable to focus on their schoolwork, they can’t sit still, and they regard social interactions as threats — all behaviors that can get them in trouble or suspended, and that can lead to engaging in risky behaviors, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, workaholism, eating too much, etc., that can affect their health.”
Ms. Steven’s article is well-worth the read – especially if you’re interested how the brain develops and the impacts of early childhood experiences on that development.