This level of toxicity present in many of our challenging youngsters' lives has been measured on the ACE index. The ACE Study measured 10 common types of childhood trauma. Five were the usual suspects: emotional, sexual and physical abuse, and emotional and physical neglect.
Five were family problems: a parent addicted to alcohol or other drugs, seeing a mother being abused, a family member in prison, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and a parent who’s disappeared through abandoning the family or divorce. (Although the word “trauma” is more commonly used to describe physical injury, in this milieu, it refers to any experience that causes toxic stress.)
The scores on this scale add up to a higher risk of many areas and children with toxic stress live their lives in fight, flight or fright (freeze) mode. They respond to the world as a place of constant danger. They can fall behind in school, fail to develop healthy relationships with peers, or develop problems with authority because they are unable to trust adults. With failure, despair, and frustration pecking away at their psyche, they find solace in food, alcohol, tobacco, methamphetamines, inappropriate sex, high-risk sports, and/or work. They don’t regard these coping methods as problems. They see them as solutions to escape from depression, anxiety, anger, fear and shame.
These all present health risks to them in later life and the stats on the higher incidence of illnesses is pretty staggering. Just imagine if these increased health costs could be channelled into a more supportive approach in schools instead of waiting for the fallout later in life.
Oh yes, and you can check your ACE score here