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Divorce named as an adverse childhood experience

When we think about traumatic events in a child’s life that can impact them permanently, many people don’t consider divorce. However, a group of Tennessee officials recently met with community leaders to show them how adverse childhood experiences, known as ACEs, can actually rewire a developing brain.

These changes to the brain, which can be permanent, can have societal impacts as children grow up. The ACEs that can have lifelong impacts include abuse, exposure to addition and domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, incarcerated parents and divorce.

It’s estimated that over half of Tennesseans experienced an ACE. Over 30 percent of these involved a separation or divorce.

The impact of childhood trauma on people as they age is not a new finding. Neuroscientists and social scientists have been saying this for years. Besides literally rewiring the brain, they’ve found increased health risks as well as a greater risk of addition and incarceration.

The head of the new ACE Awareness Foundation, based in Memphis, says that cultural change is needed. Those involved in the recent ACEs Summit hope to make our state the first to put the focus on preventing “toxic stress” in young children by redirecting state funds to promote early intervention instead of having to pay later for incarceration and other impacts of childhood trauma..

Of course, every child whose parents divorce, or who experiences any other ACE, is not going to experience these changes in the brain or other negative effects later on. One psychology professor notes that having a stable relationship with one or more caring adults can reduce the impact of the ACE on them. However, she notes that young children who experience trauma and stress in their home are more likely to view the world differently “because they’ve seen anger over and over and over.”

This is all the more reason why it’s essential that estranged parents find a way to get along well enough to effectively co-parent children. Your family law attorney can recommend counseling resources for you and your children to help everyone deal with the inevitable stress than comes with a divorce.

Source: The Tennessean, “Tennessee looks to change culture on childhood trauma,” Anita Wadhwani, Nov. 12, 2015

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