100 Ways of Using Data to Make Lives Better

Adverse Childhood Experiences in Scottish Children in Their First Eight Years of Life

Published on: 1st June 2017

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Public Health
Case Study 34

Dr Louise Marryat and Prof John Frank, University of Edinburgh

By using data of almost 3,500 children and their families, researchers found that removing children from poverty would reduce the proportion of children experiencing adverse childhood experiences by 22%.

The Challenge

In the 1990s, a study was conducted in the US that showed that adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, can have a significant and lasting negative impact on the rest of our life.

ACEs include being the victim of abuse (physical, sexual or emotional), domestic violence, living in care, parental separation, neglect or living with an alcoholic or drug abuser or having a parent in prison.

Studies have been undertaken in many countries and regions, and now researchers are exploring how common ACEs are in Scotland.

The Research

The researchers from The Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research used data from Growing Up in Scotland, a long-term study tracking the lives of thousands of children and their families from the early years, through childhood and beyond. They calculated the ACE scores from just under 3,500 children born in 2004/5 and linked them with demographic data to tell them more about the circumstances the children were growing up in.

The Results

Around two-thirds of children had experienced at least one ACE, with 10% experiencing three or more.

Higher levels of ACEs were associated with being male, having a young mother, living in a low income household, and living in an urban area.

The researchers calculated that removing children from poverty would reduce the proportion of children experiencing ACEs by 22%.

The Impact

The majority of children born in 2004/5 in Scotland had experienced at least one ACE in the first eight years of life, far higher than reported in previous studies.

These results have generated substantial interest in Scotland, prior to publication, with the authors invited to speak to policy-makers at the Scottish Government and to colleagues from the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, which spans several Scottish Universities. A manuscript is currently under review at a peer-reviewed journal.


Find out more about the Growing Up In Scotland study visit: www.growingupinscotland.org.uk/

Enquiries to Sabine Kurz, Communications Assistant, The Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, sabine.kurz@ed.ac.uk

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