Adverse Childhood Experiences: Screening and Health in Children From Birth to Age 5

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Introduction: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have lifetime consequences for health and development. This study examined whether there is evidence to support a screening approach that assesses children’s current exposures to risks that act as proxies for ACEs, measured in a way that falls below a threshold of explicit abuse, neglect, or illegal behavior. Method: We used data collected during routine home visitations of at-risk children aged 0–5. Home visitors used the Family Map Inventories (FMI; Whiteside-Mansell et al., 2007) to screen ACEs and measure health outcomes, and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (3rd ed.; ASQ-3; Squires, Twombly, Bricker, & Potter, 2009) to screen child development. Parents (N = 2,004) were 28 years of age on average and most were White (60%). Children were 32 months of age on average and equally divided on gender (51% male). Results: Children were exposed at rates of 27%, 17%, 11%, and 11% to 1, 2, 3, and 4 or more FMI-ACEs, respectively. Logistic regressions revealed significant associations between FMI-ACE scores and health environments and outcomes for children, including health risks in the home (e.g., safety and secondhand smoke exposure), underuse of preventive health care, and overuse of emergency medical treatment. In terms of development, having four or more FMI-ACEs was associated with the child having a chronic health condition and screening at risk for delay in at least one area of development. Discussion: Findings highlight the potential use of questionnaires and in-home observations to measure and intervene in potentially developing ACEs. Further, our screening was associated with children whose health was at risk very early in development.

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