Skoči do osrednje vsebine

Prevalence and long-term effects of adverse childhood experiences on adult functioning




1.4.2018 - 30.9.2020


prof.dr. Metka Kuhar

Research activity:

Social sciences

Research Organisation:


Citations for bibliographic records:


An increasing number of foreign studies show that experiences (both positive and adverse) in childhood strongly affect a person’s physical and mental health as well as socioeconomic status during their lifetime and/or even several generations. There even exist financial calculations of how expensive the consequences of adverse events are for a state, in terms of both taxes from individuals as well as healthcare and social security funds. Awareness of what early adverse experiences and their consequences are and primarily recognition of this phenomenon and ensuring of support aimed at reducing the risk factors and damage are among the key social and public health tasks. Adverse life experiences can be ranked within a continuum from subtle to obvious, from minor to serious, from one-off events to years of abuse, neglect etc. There are experiences that a person finds extremely distressing and threatening, too intense to tolerate and/or cope with in conventional ways. Early adverse experiences have particularly negative and long-term effects on health and different aspects of functioning. The bulk of data on the prevalence of adverse experiences in childhood and research evidence about the correlations between them and various outcomes in adulthood stem from the globally recognised Adverse Childhood Experience Study, also known as the ACE study. This study was conducted for the first time in the 1995–97 period in the USA and is still conducted every year in all US states. It was also conducted in many other countries, e.g. England, Wales, Scotland; recently also in Romania, Macedonia, Serbia, Lithuania, Latvia, Albania, Turkey, Montenegro, the Russian Federation, the Czech Republic, Poland, Norway, Canada, Brazil, China, the Philippines, Jordan etc. Despite the multitude of countries that have already conducted the ACE study, Slovenia is not one of them. Individual ACE studies always show important connections between the quantity of adverse experiences in childhood and health, psycho-social welfare and socioeconomic situation in adulthood. In the ACE studies, usually more than three-quarters of those surveyed report at least one highly adverse experience in childhood (in the original study 87% of the subjects reported more than one out of ten), whereas one-tenth to one-sixth of subjects report even four or more such experiences. These rates are higher in marginalised groups of population and in populations with a lower socioeconomic status. The highest probability that a person develops poor physical or mental health and/or other adverse outcomes is with those people who had four or more adverse experiences in childhood and adolescence. Our study aims to acquire data on the prevalence of adverse experiences, particularly in childhood, most frequent adverse experiences in childhood, their correlation with health and psychosocial outcomes in adulthood as well as on risk factors and protective factors in childhood and adulthood. In the second part of the project we will systematically review existing foreign models of good practices in the context of kindergartens and schools. In addition, in we will conduct focus groups with preschool teachers, school teachers and school consultants, with which we will determine whether or to what extent professionals working with children, recognize the adverse experiences in the lives of children, whether they are aware of the impact and consequences of adverse experiences and how they are equipped to respond appropriately in case of recognizing these experiences. Based on a profound understanding of perception and the actions of the education professionals, we will provide the possibilities for a more explicit, profound and systematic addressing of this subject also in the context of kindergartens and schools which are considered to be the core institutions which, through development of stimulative environments, can function as the basic protective factor in the lives of children with adverse experiences. Both qualitative and the quantitative methods will be applied. The survey will be conducted using a sample of Slovenian adult population (18–75 years). Besides the already established surveys from the ACE studies, we will broaden our study by including additional potential adverse experiences. These are for example participation in war, major injuries and accidents, invasive medical procedures etc., which have been recognised, in recent years, as potentially traumatic. Moreover, we will verify the influence of the socioeconomic factors, with particular attention on vulnerable groups (ethnicity, history of poverty, growing up in foster care etc.) Special focus will be on identification of protective factors as the key premises for developing competence of education professionals who work with children. In the qualitative part, the method of focus groups (presumably 4–6 groups with up to 10 members each, i.e. preschool teachers, teachers of lower grades of primary school and social workers) will be applied. This research will enable developing appropriate models of preventive action and systematic early intervention aimed at identifying and preventing adverse experiences, especially in children, mitigating their consequences and strengthening the protective factors. Moreover, we will be able to raise awareness among professionals in different spheres about the importance of recognising adverse experiences as well as develop good practice for mitigating the consequences, along with strengthening the protective factors.

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