Could storytelling, more good parenting examples prevent childhood trauma?
This article was first published in the Pensacola News Journal
Although smoke inhalation can be deadly, when firefighters show up to a house fire, they don’t bring large fans to disseminate the smoke. Rather, they find the source to put out the fire.
Similarly, society should take the same approach when dealing with struggles like substance abuse, smoking and obesity by first addressing any childhood trauma that may have triggered it, said Dr. Vincent Felitti. He works as a clinical professor at the University of California San Diego and spoke at the Trauma-Informed Care Partners Conference at the Pensacola Bay Center on Monday.
Felitti’s talk centered around the Adverse Childhood Experience study, where he serves as a co-principal investigator. The questions ask about experiences at home as a child, often relating to different forms of abuse, and links those experiences to diseases later in life.
“Adverse childhood experiences, damaging childhood experiences are remarkably common, overwhelmingly unrecognized, have profound effects decades later, half a century later, on people’s emotional state, on people’s, so called, health risks on people’s biological health and on their life expectancy,” Felitti said in an interview with the News Journal.
His ideal solution to the issue is figuring out how to improve parenting skills throughout the country, but not by lecturing and books. Instead, he believes it would be much more valuable to teach Americans what supportive parenting looks like, perhaps through storytelling.
“Really the biggest public health advance that I can think of, would be to figure out how to improve parenting skills in this nation,” Felitti said. “What if someone were to create a serial TV program that had woven into the story-line illustrations of what supportive parenting looks like? ‘Oh yeah, I guess I could do that.’ That kind of idea.”
Mark Jones, with FamiliesFirst Network of Lakeview Center, which put on the conference, said he hopes the more than 1,000 attendees walk away with more awareness and the ability to recognize trauma.
“A lot of times, we mistake depression, acting up behaviors, things like that for just that,” Jones said. “But most of the time, it’s trauma. Many times, trauma is inter-generational. So if we don’t become aware of it, we’re not going to break the cycle down the road.”
Amy Proshek, a guidance counselor, and Rebecca Smith, an exceptional student education teacher, attended the conference together. Smith said many of her students have traumatic backgrounds, often struggling with things like learning problems. After learning more about the ACE study, the findings make sense to her.
“My hope too would be that parents that are in these situations see the long-lasting effects that their behavior now will have on their children, that might be a red flag,” Proshek said.
What’s asked in the ACE Study?
3. Before your 18th birthday, did an adult or person at least five years older than you ever touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? Or attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
4. Before your 18th birthday, did you often or very often feel that no one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? Or your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
6. Before your 18th birthday, was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment, or other reason?
7. Before your 18th birthday, was your mother or stepmother: often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? Or sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? Or ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
9. Before your 18th birthday, was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
10. Before your 18th birthday, did a household member go to prison?
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention