Childhood adversity disproportionately affects minority groups

A large national study has found that adverse experiences in childhood, such as parental separation or divorce, child abuse, or domestic violence, are common across the U.S. But these experiences are more prevalent among minority groups, including people with low income and educational attainment, people of color, and people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, the study found.

Previous studies have linked a greater number of adverse childhood experiences with greater risk of health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke.

Jack Shonkoff, Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Center on the Developing Child, commented on the study in a September 17, 2018 NPR article. “Nobody is immune to adverse experiences in childhood, but for some population groups they’re a larger burden of childhood adversity than others,” said Shonkoff, who was not involved with the study. “We need to focus on targeting limited resources to the people at greatest risk and making sure those resources go into programs that reduce or mitigate adversity.”

Read the NPR article: Childhood Trauma And Its Lifelong Health Effects More Prevalent Among Minorities

Learn more

How toxic stress can impact children separated from parents (Harvard Chan School news)

Protecting children from the trauma of gun violence, racism (Harvard Chan School news)