Study Finds Home Trauma Carries to School with Kindergartners

If you have been reading Lakeside Connect, you probably recognize the very strong relationship between Adverse Child Events (ACEs) and the overall health and well-being of children and adults.  In other words, the research is pretty clear that the more a child experiences adverse child events the more difficulties they will have in life.  

Trauma at home haunts kindergarteners in school

This article focuses on the relationship between ACEs and the ability of students to be successful in school.  When we are struggling as a nation to improve the quality of education, it is essential to recognize the impact that trauma and ACEs have on the capacity of our children to learn.  Here is the article by Susan Livio:

3 month old at hospital with grandmother
A 3-month-old infant sits with his grandmother at the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome program at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick in this file photo. A pediatrician at the hospital published a study in a leading medical journal that links abuse and trauma in a child’s early years with trouble learning in kindergarten. (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media) (Patti Sapone | NJ Advance Media for (Patti Sapone)

TRENTON — The percentage of young inner-city students who have difficulty paying attention at school and struggle with basic literacy skills was three times higher for children who also were victims of abuse, neglect and other trauma, according to a new study featured in a medical journal by several New Jersey researchers.

Research has already shown abused and traumatized children are more likely to suffer from health problems. Less clear is how these traumatic experiences interfere with their success in the classroom, said Manuel Jimenez, assistant professor of pediatrics, family medicine and community health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a developmental pediatrician at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick who led the study.

The study shows educators, parents and social services professionals should intervene as early as possible in a child’s life to provide the support they will need to move past the trauma, he said.

“Our findings add insight into the pathways linking early childhood adversity to poor adult well-being,” according to the article in the February edition of Pediatrics.

Could a longer school day fix ‘state of emergency’? Lawmakers think so

Fifty-five percent of these 5-year-olds had suffered at least one “adverse childhood experience,” such as domestic violence, abuse, neglect, being raised by a parent or caregiver with a mental illness or addiction and having an incarcerated parent. Twelve percent of these children had lived through three or more of these experiences.

Among these kindergarteners, the percentage of children with attention problems was three times higher compared to their peers who had never experienced any traumatizing conditions. The percentage of children with aggressive behavior was twice as common in this group, as well, according to the article.

Successful programs exist to help prevent traumatic events from happening to children and intervene when they occur, but they should be more widely available, he said. The Nurse-Family Partnership program, which sends nurses to make routine visits during and after pregnancy, is an effective program used by the state Department of Children and Families, he said.

“There is a lot we need to understand about how these events affect children — and affect generations of families before who have gone through difficulties. But we also know enough to be able to say we need to make early childhood development a priority,” Jimenez said.

“This highlighted for me to really think about how I communicate with other (medical) providers and school officials, understanding that a lot of kids who have developmental and behavioral concerns are the same kids having difficulty in school,” he said.

Reach Out and Read, another national program that involves pediatricians giving children books and their parents advice on the importance of reading together, is also a success, he said. There are 71 medical practices using the Reach Out and Read model, according to the program’s website.

Jimenez collaborated with Roy Wade Jr. of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Lesley M. Morrow of the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University; Nancy E. Reichman, a pediatrics professor at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; and Yong Lin, an assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

The data used in the study was taken from the national Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study by Princeton and Columbia universities, which followed 5,000 children born in large cities between 1998 and 2000. The study includes interviews with families after a child is born and at ages 1, 3, 5, and 9 years old, according to the article.

Prevent trauma and improve lives

Once again, preventing trauma in the lives of children is a significant way to improve the quality and outcomes of students’ performance in the classroom even at a very young age.  Helping our parents provide a safe and healthy physical, emotional and relational environment in their homes is the best way to help our children succeed in school.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *