Study Suggests Increased Risk of Fatal Health Problems for Abused and Neglected Children

Child Abuse & Neglect, Youth

Photo of a young a boy hugging an adult.A new study from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation — the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, No. 20: Adverse Child Experiences (NSCAW ACES) — shows that children in the child welfare system have had experiences that put them at high risk for negative mental and physical outcomes in adulthood. 

The study found that most children who had contact with the child welfare system had personal histories that placed them at heightened risk for negative health outcomes as an adult, including ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, liver disease and skeletal fractures. 

The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being explored the well-being of 5,873 children who had contact with the child welfare system during a 14-month period beginning in February 2008. 

The researchers determined that more than half of the children were exposed to four or more adverse childhood experiences, including neglect, sexual abuse and household substance abuse.

Because of these risks, early intervention is critical for vulnerable children, in hopes to prevent long-term damage from accumulating multiple adverse childhood experiences.

Naomi Goldstein is director of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the Department of Health and Human Services. She is responsible for advising the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of ACF programs.

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