Suffering early trauma, many NM kids face devastating consequences - Albuquerque Journal

Suffering early trauma, many NM kids face devastating consequences

Kids in jeopardy a lasting crisis

State, federal agencies sometimes compete for 4-year-olds

Today, everyone should be talking about ACEs: adverse childhood experiences. That’s the view of a growing legion of experts who regard childhood trauma as one of the most profound and urgent public health challenges in the country.

Hundreds of studies link adverse childhood experiences to a huge array of diseases, mental illnesses and lifelong problems. An ACE is defined as one of 10 kinds of trauma, including all the things that happened in Frankie’s life, and more. Among them: sexual, physical or psychological abuse; emotional or physical neglect; mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence; an absent parent or incarcerated household member.

Exposure to these assaults at a young age can alter brain architecture, interrupt neurocircuitry, damage endocrine and immune systems and have lifelong harmful impacts on health and the human condition, potentially for generations to come.

The “toxic stress” of trauma can impair learning and emotional regulation, undermine social functioning and even change the signature of DNA.

An October 2017 report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found nearly 30 percent of New Mexico’s children had two or more ACEs – the fourth-highest rate in the country. A 2016 study by the New Mexico Sentencing Commission established a clear connection between traumatic experiences and juvenile delinquency. Among all 220 teens held in detention in 2011: Every one of the girls – 100 percent – had two or more ACEs; for boys the rate was 96 percent.

Nearly 25 percent of the girls experienced nine major traumas. A parent beat them so hard it left marks. They saw their mother punched or threatened with a gun. They’d been raped, molested, verbally abused or constantly humiliated. Someone at home was alcoholic or drug addicted. They’d gone hungry.

The study underscored what could be called an ACEs-to-prison pipeline.

“You’re basically creating a group of kids who are going to have lifelong learning problems – they’re basically going to be like human road kill on the economic highway,” says primary care physician Andy Hsi, who co-wrote the report with specialists like George Davis, former director of psychiatry for New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department.

But if this picture appears unremittingly bleak, the bigger message is that all early childhood experiences are powerful. Positive experiences are as determinative as negative ones. They build resilience and give children “protective factors” that help them thrive.

Even children who suffer severe adversity can develop resilience, according to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, a national leader in toxic stress and brain research. Resilience is built upon healthy early parenting and bonding, which make infants feel safe and nurtured.

“Loving the baby, kissing, holding, massaging, breastfeeding: The baby understands that language,” says Sanjeev Arora, a UNM physician and founder of Project ECHO, which brings high-quality medical treatment to remote parts of the state and worldwide. “The entire human experience is very intricately linked to feelings of security and lack of fear.”


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
Twins subplot aside, Lobos' Duffs prioritize getting the victory
College
Twin showdown, double trouble, twice the ... Twin showdown, double trouble, twice the fun ...The Duff and Cavinder sisters have und ...
2
Lobos face surprise of the Mountain West Saturday at ...
College
The ball sails freely in that ... The ball sails freely in that cold, thin air of Laramie, Wyoming.And as the University ...
3
Garvey tells Lobos their upward journey can begin here, ...
Baseball
When Steve Garvey first came to ... When Steve Garvey first came to Albuquerque in 1969 as a fresh-faced 20-year-old in just his second ...
4
Lobos begin indoor T&F stretch with MLK Jr. invitational ...
College
The University of New Mexico men's ... The University of New Mexico men's and women's track and field programs begin their four-weekend stretch of home meets Saturday with the Dr. Martin ...
5
NM tech firms awarded state matching grants
ABQnews Seeker
The NM SBIR grants are designed ... The NM SBIR grants are designed to support local science and technology companies in achieving their commercialization goals, according to a news release from ...
6
Editorial: Study paves way for more NM wildlife crossings
Editorials
Kudos to N.M. wildlife and transportation ... Kudos to N.M. wildlife and transportation officials for converting a sizable data-gathering project ...
7
Editorial: APS should learn it's not above open records ...
Editorials
APS should learn it's not above ... APS should learn it's not above open records law
8
Exhibit looks at the Rio Grande through photography and ...
Arts
Clarke Condé's photography speaks volumes without ... Clarke Condé's photography speaks volumes without him uttering one word.Yet, th ...
9
Exhibit looks at the landscapes of New Mexico, Colorado ...
Arts
Place can connect us to something ... Place can connect us to something beyond ourselves.For Placitas artist Joan Fenicle, t ...