Association of Adverse Childhood Experiences with Co-occurring Health Conditions in Early Childhood

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To understand how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with co-occurring physical, mental and developmental problems during early childhood.


A subsample of 19,957 children aged 2–5 years were selected from the 2011–2012 National Survey for Child Health. Outcomes included 18 health conditions organized in singular condition domains (physical, mental, and developmental), and combinations of condition domains (e.g., physical plus mental, mental plus developmental, etc.). Predictors included 8 ACEs (divorce of a parent, death of a parent, exposure to domestic violence, living with someone with a drug or alcohol abuse problem, household member with a mental illness, parent incarceration, neighborhood violence, discrimination). Multivariable logistic regression was performed controlling for demographic characteristics, having a personal doctor, health insurance coverage, and seeing a health care professional in the previous year.


Experiencing 3 or more ACEs before the age of 5 years was associated with increased likelihood of nearly every co-occurring condition combination across 3 domains of health. Most notably, experiencing 3 or more ACEs was also associated with a 2-fold increase in likelihood of having ≥1 physical condition and ≥1 developmental condition, a 9-fold increase in likelihood of having ≥1 mental and ≥1 developmental condition, and a 7-fold increase in likelihood of having ≥1 physical, ≥1 mental, and ≥1 developmental condition.


This study demonstrates that we can identify the health effects of adversity quite early in development and that management should include communication between both health care and early childhood education providers.

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