Ensuring that all children in Nebraska grow up to be happy and healthy adults requires a framework that extends beyond the traditional. When thinking about the course of a child’s life, it is important to consider the long-term impacts of different experiences on outcomes in adulthood. New data released last month from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) sheds some light on this topic.
The report focuses on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which are potentially traumatic events with lasting consequences on physical, mental, and behavioral health. Data collected from a national survey of parents highlights the prevalence of ACEs among American children, and offers broad direction for the most pressing issues of childhood today.
In Nebraska, like in 46 other states, economic hardship was the most common ACE, with 22 percent of respondents reporting that family income was insufficient for basic needs since the birth of their child. In line with national trends, divorce and alcohol abuse were also common for Nebraska respondents. An area that our state stuck out in, unfortunately, was in parental incarceration; with a 9 percent prevalence rate, we had one of the highest rates in the nation for children who lived with at least one parent who served time in jail or prison.
The research on the impacts of ACEs is troubling: consequences range from social, emotional, and cognitive impairment to disease, and even early death. With the knowledge that approximately 44 percent of children in Nebraska have experienced at least one ACE, we can lend greater energy to known solutions that both prevent the occurrence of traumatic experiences and ease their effects. The solutions are far and wide, such as addressing economic hardship through policies that promote self-sufficiency and stability, or supporting new parents with intensive home visits. A perspective in understanding the needs of individual children is the key to building future generations of happy and productive Nebraskans.