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Early Childhood Experiences Affect Adult Health

Research shows a child's home environment affects her throughout life.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) research has determined that adult behaviors reflect childhood environments. Dr. Paula Zeanah, clinical psychologist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, brings out statistical information about how adverse experiences may be linked back as far as a mother's pregnancy.

Adverse experiences can be household dysfunction, abuse, or neglect. According to research, 74% of people have faced some adverse experiences. Zeanah says the sobering findings have been the impact of early experiences on later adult health and behavior. 

On implications of the Adverse Childhood Experiences study

The study asks adults about experiences they've had as children. They asked about things that they described as adverse experiences. Adverse experiences can be a variety of things: household dysfunction, abuse, and neglect.

Previously, those kinds of things had typically been asked one at a time. What they found, is that a large percentage of people had experienced some of the adverse experiences. The sobering findings have been the impact of those early experiences on later adult health and behavior. 

It's astounding to think that what goes on with our young children affects health later on. 

Early experiences can set the trajectory for the individual as they go through life.

On how ACE research should influence health care

It underscores the importance of paying attention to what happens early on. I think part of the reason it's getting so much press is because we have a better understanding of early brain development and how early experiences affect brain development. These early experiences can set the trajectory for the individual as they go through life. 

On how negative experiences continue generationally

If a mother is highly stressed during pregnancy, we know that her level of stress will be mirrored in her infant. The way the brain responds to that as an infant will determine how that child later responds to stress as an adult.

Time to Talk is produced with the Children's Coalition for Northeast Louisiana and BayouLife Magazine.

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