By David Finkelhor, Child Abuse & Neglect, July 30, 2020
Background: It is important for those called upon to discuss major social determinants of health such as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) to have accurate knowledge about generational trends in their prevalence.
Objective: To review available trend data on major forms of ACEs. Methods: A search of academic data bases was conducted by combining the term “trend” with a variety of terms referring to childhood adversities.
Results: Available trend data on ACEs from the 20th century show multi-decade declines in parental death, parental illness, sibling death, and poverty, but multi-decade increases in parental divorce, parental drug abuse and parental incarceration. More recent trend data on ACEs for the first fifteen to eighteen years of the 21st century show declines in parental illness, sibling death, exposure to domestic violence, childhood poverty, parental divorce, serious childhood illness, physical abuse, sexual abuse, physical and emotional bullying and exposure to community violence. Two 21st century ACE increases were for parental alcohol and drug abuse. Overall, there appear to have been more historical and recent improvements in ACEs than deteriorations. But the US still lags conspicuously behind other developed countries on many of these indicators.
Conclusion: Awareness of improvements, as well as persistent challenges, are important to motivate policy makers and practitioners and to prompt them to recognize the feasibility of success in the prevention of ACEs.