Missouri children report more frequent incidents of negative events

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COLUMBIA - According to a new study, children in Missouri have a harder time growing up than their peers in other states.

The 2016 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) data shows Missouri ranks above average on the percentage of children under 18-years-old that have experienced more than one adverse childhood experience (ACE). An analysis conducted by the Child & Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows:

  • 47.8 percent experienced one or more ACEs, compared to a national average of 46.3 percent
  • 27.2 percent experienced two or more ACEs, compared to a national average of 21.7 percent

Adverse childhood experiences include but are not limited to:

  • Family financial problems
  • Parental/guardian divorce or separation
  • Parental/guardian death 
  • Parent/guardian served time in jail
  • Witnessed Domestic violence
  • Victim of violence
  • Lived with anyone mentally ill, suicidal, or depressed
  • Lived with anyone with alcohol or drug problem
  • Suffered racial/ethnical discrimination

Joy Oesterly is the executive director of the Missouri KidsFirst, a non-profit organization focused on preventing and educating people on child abuse. 

"If those are experiences that are repetitive of nature, experiences that they endure over a long period of time, or that they experience frequently. Those kinds of stressors can become toxic stress to children," she said.

The impacts of traumas related to ACEs can lead to future social-economical issues for the child. 

"Those kinds of stressors can actually change the brain of a child," Oesterly said. "Just by having those experiences, we have already diminished the potential for those individuals to have productive adulthood. And we have diminished their economic earning power." 

Some of the long-term impacts of adverse experiences during childhood can lead to smoking, alcoholism, depression, heart and liver diseases, and dozens of other illnesses and unhealthy behaviors.

The NSCH data also showed 33 percent of U.S. children with two or more ACEs have a chronic health condition involving a special health care need, compared to 13.6 percent of children without ACEs.

The same data shows family and physiological support can help children cope with stressors caused by adverse situations and prevent unwanted adulthood behavior.