Children of parents who experienced ACEs are at increased risk of arrest and conviction
The children born to parents who have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) such as abuse, neglect, violence in the home, or loss of a parent are at increased risk of arrest and conviction by the time they reach young adulthood.
Led by UCLA researchers, those working on the study say their findings point to the need to prevent ACEs for children, and to mitigate the impact of ACEs when they do occur, before they have ‘downstream’ impacts on future generations.
Youth arrest and incarceration can have damaging effects on health and social success well into adulthood, and the prison system is “highly overused” in the United States, the researchers said, especially among communities of colour and for people with multiple marginalised intersectional identities.
To achieve health equity, prevention of ACEs – and of the cradle-to-prison pipeline – is an important focus for policymakers.
“The study is based on a nationally representative dataset, and is the first to show an intergenerational relationship between parental ACE exposure and a young person’s involvement in the criminal legal system. This suggests that there may be an intergenerational transmission of risk,” said first author Dr Elizabeth Barnert.
“Our results suggest that it is not only important to prevent childhood adversity, but also to find ways to effectively mitigate the impact of ACEs when they do happen – because the effects may last even more than one or two generations.”
Dr Barnert, senior author Dr Adam Schickedanz, and colleagues have studied adverse childhood experiences, incarceration, and other issues affecting health and behavioural health.
They were surprised in this study that positive childhood experiences – like good relationships and interactions with caregivers, friends, neighbors and teachers – were not observed to provide a balance for the adverse ones.
“We had hypothesised that positive experiences might protect or mitigate against ACEs, but this did not necessarily bear out in the data,” Dr Barnert said. “This is likely because the sample size was too small.”