Tue | Mar 28, 2017

Doctor's Appointment | Children learn what they live

Published:Wednesday | March 1, 2017 | 3:00 AM
Dr. Sara Lawrence and Dr. Carolyn Johnson take a quick break from their discussions on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), while on set of the Dr's Appointment TV Show
The experiences of children today are significantly different from those children 20 years or so would have had.
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When you reflect on your childhood, what do you remember? Are there positive memories or encounters that you simply wish to forget? And have you ever considered the kind of effects they may be having on your life as an adult? Your childhood experiences matter.

In this week's episode, we explored Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the role they play in shaping the realities of children who eventually become adults.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) explains that childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have tremendous impact on the likelihood of future violence, victimisation and perpetration, as well as the quality of health and opportunities. Adverse or unfavourable experiences range from the various kinds of abuse that is, physical, emotional, psychological to general neglect. They also capture instances where children are exposed to environments with negative adult interactions, such as community and domestic violence, drug usage as well as separation from primary caregivers.

These markers are derived from one of the largest investigations into experiences of abuse and neglect and their correlation to mental or emotional health in adulthood, noted the Kaiser Permanent Adverse Childhood Experiences Study. The American study tallies scores based on doses of bad experiences.

Jamerican paediatrician, Dr Burke Harris, an advocate of ACEs research findings and its approaches to child care, was invited by the CDA to Jamaica last April. Dr Burke Harris offered intriguing furtherance of the critical link between exposure to ACEs and life-threatening illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, lung cancer and other adulthood diseases.

CHANGE OF CONTEXT AND CULTURE

Based on this premise, Dr. Carolyn Pinnock Jackson, director of 'Caribbean Tots to Teens' and special guest on Dr's Appointment, noted that an important factor to consider in this discussion is the change of context and culture.

The experiences of children today are significantly different from those children 20 years or so would have had. This primarily has to do with more unstable family situations, and the onset of heavy technology use and widespread social media that expose children to graphic content.

However, she said the study created a framework that may be contextualised to assist with interventions into the lives of high-risk children, along with their parents upon detection of ACEs.

Despite training as a surgeon, Dr Pinnock Jackson was drawn to the relationship between children's encounters and physical manifestations of irregular bowel movements, abdominal pains among other issues.

While working at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, an informal study of 60 cases that had passed through the ranks of general practitioners and pediatricians, and the surgical clinic was done. The findings suggested the overwhelming cause was psychological.

Dr. Pinnock Jackson also suggested that physiological changes tend to occur in boys and girls who have lived through adverse events. This increases the risk of poor choices and concerning behaviours in adulthood. Nonetheless, there was no designated space to refer such cases to for specialised assistance.

'Caribbean Tots to Teens' was created to fill that gap in treatment, focusing on the whole person rather than just physical presentations of ill health. It incorporates the entire family where possible, exposing them to psychologists, counsellors and life coaches.

Although it is not possible to prevent negative experiences during childhood altogether, there are ways of controlling the impact and ensuring scars are minimal or non-existent. Dr. Pinnock Jackson suggested that expanding the ways children are raised, nurtured and taught life lessons is the way to change the future.

Children learn what they live, and childhood moments often determine the kind of adult they become.

They require open discussions, trust, stability, and positivity as they are sensitive and responsive to their immediate environments and various relationships.

- Join us for your next Doctor's Appointment on Sunday on TVJ at 5:30 p.m. when we look explore pros and cons of drinking cow's milk. We invite you to share your feedback on our facebook page @DoctorsAppt & our Instagram page @doctors_appt.