Adverse childhood experiences: Basics for the paediatrician


Paediatrics & Child Health, Volume 24, Issue 1, February 2019, Pages 30–37,


In 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Adverse Childhood Experiences study established the profound effects of early childhood adversity on life course health. The burden of cumulative adversities can affect gene expression, immune system development and condition stress response.

A scientific framework provides explanation for numerous childhood and adult health problems and high-risk behaviours that originate in early life.

In our review, we discuss adverse childhood experiences, toxic stress, the neurobiological basis and multigenerational and epigenetic transmission of trauma and recognized health implications.

Further, we outline building resilience, screening in the clinical setting, primary care interventions, applying trauma-informed care and future directions. We foresee that enhancing knowledge of the far-reaching effects of adverse childhood events will facilitate mitigation of toxic stress, promote child and family resilience and optimize life course health trajectories.

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