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Report: Arkansas Children Face High Rate of Adverse Experiences

A Child Trends report finds that problems at homes are among the most common adverse events experienced by children. (TetraImages/GettyImages)
A Child Trends report finds that problems at homes are among the most common adverse events experienced by children. (TetraImages/GettyImages)
February 16, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new report shows that a larger portion of kids in Arkansas experience adverse childhood events than in any other state. The report, released this week by the advocacy group Child Trends, finds that children who experience economic hardship, domestic violence or the loss of a parent have a much harder time becoming well adjusted adults.

It found that 56 percent of Arkansas children have experienced at least one event, well above the national rate of 45 percent. Vanessa Sacks, research scientist with Child Trends and lead author on the study, says these experiences can cause "toxic stress" and lead to problems later in life.

"The original study on adverse childhood experiences linked to them with almost every major public health issue that we face in the US,” she says. “Obesity, substance abuse, depression, suicide, smoking, chronic disease."

She adds that Arkansas also is among the five states with the highest number of kids who have had three or more adverse childhood experiences. Sacks says the study shows that, across the board, black and Hispanic children are much more likely than white or Asian children to experience one or more negative events.

She says there is also a connection between economic hardship and adverse experiences.

"We do know that among those five states where more children have had multiple adverse childhood experiences, several of them – including Arkansas – are also the states that have particularly high rates of children in poverty," says Sacks.

According to Sacks, kids who experience adverse events often have problems with self-control, managing their emotions, paying attention and forming social relationships.

"The research doesn't show that any one experience is necessarily worse than another for children,” she says. “But what we do know is that the more of these experiences that children have had, the greater their risk for these later negative outcomes."

Sacks believes that, short of preventing adverse childhood experiences, states need to prioritize social services and treatment programs for families and children in crisis.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR