by Michael Allen
psychology child photo Photo by h.koppdelaney

How many of you are familiar with the ACE study (Adverse Childhood Experiences) test? The original ACE Study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente by Dr Robert Ander and Dr Vincent Felitti from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection. Over 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California receiving physical exams completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors.

This is a wonderful tool used for mental health to predict outcomes for adult mental health problems. If your score is too high it can also predict the likelihood of physical problems because as we now know mind and body are connected. If you suffered emotional stress as a child it can affect your physical health as an adult. That said, here is a fundamental error with it that we need to address.

Question number 7:
Was your mother or stepmother:

Often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her?

Sometimes or often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard?

Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

Do you see the problem here?

“Mother or Step Mother” should be changed to “Caregiver”. Since every situation is different this question the way it is currently worded skews the data. How many kids witnessed a woman slap/hit or yell at their male caregiver?

Domestic violence transcends gender. As a society we tend to ignore it when it happens to males. It is just as damaging emotionally to men because they are programmed to “take it” and it is even more damaging to children to witness it happen to someone they love.

This statement may anger some but unfortunately it is reality. Domestic Violence is absolutely wrong and no matter what gender perpetrated it. It’s still wrong and hurts everyone affected by it. Men are also less apt to say anything due to the social shame associated with it. This video is powerful in our perception of violence in society:

We are moving forward as a society but we still have a long way to go. It goes back to trauma. How do we see it? How do we treat it and break the cycle so it doesn’t affect our children? It starts with us as individuals. If you’ve been a victim of trauma, address it. Get trauma counseling…..EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), CBT(Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), DBT(Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) are wonderful tools to help heal trauma.

What I love about the ACE Study is that it addresses divorce or loss of a parent as a trauma for a child.

Question number 6 reads:
Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
Yes/ No

As a society if we start to understand abuse and how it relates to trauma we will move forward. Abuse is abuse. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man abusing a women, a woman abusing a man, a parent abusing a child. Abuse is abuse. During a divorce if an attachment to a parent is disrupted by another parent or caregiver it is emotional abuse. It is child psychological abuse.

Psychological trauma doesn’t leave physical scars but it is just as damaging. A parents’ divorce even if amicable hurts a child deeply. That’s why question number 6 is so simple. A divorce is a trauma to a child. It’s ok if a marriage doesn’t work out. However you have a child together you have to figure out how to minimize the impact on the beautiful baby you created together.

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) 90% of mental illness, addiction, etc are created by childhood trauma. Let’s figure out as a society & collective consciousness how to break the pattern of family trauma for our children.

Michael S.R. Allen, High Conflict Divorce Coach