Sun | Jan 23, 2022

Understanding how ACEs affect us

Published:Tuesday | March 26, 2019 | 12:00 AM


Many thanks to Dr Michael Abrahams for the series on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and highlighting for us the various consequences associated with it. A relatively new concept, the exploration of ACEs has gained attention. Now that it has been given a name, it is more focused. The Government should be paying serious attention to these articles by Dr Abrahams as he has cleared the air on what mistreatment does to children, and eventually, to adults.

The number one ACE, in my opinion, is corporal punishment. Meted out in various fashions and forms with various implements, in varying degrees, the majority of children have experienced it, however slight.

Generally, when people think of child abuse, or in this case ACEs, they might think of some horrific behaviour on the part of parents, caregivers, or educators. It doesn’t have to be horrific, but it has to have a severe emotional reaction on the part of the child. Laughing at being spanked as a child is not a severe reaction, but at the time of the spanking, the reaction might have been radically different. Some children laugh or keep silent while being spanked as a defence mechanism. This reaction causes the person doing the beating to hit harder. Some children cry out loud until the person doing the beating tells them to “stop the noise”.

All the consequences named by Dr Abrahams are entirely possible. There is more. We all have some adverse childhood experience but not necessarily the most serious effects of it. Our own personality has a lot to do with that. How resilient are we? How sensitive are we? How fragile are we?

Some children are gifted with mental toughness. They can even handle bullying, but the frail person is likely to crumble at being called names. No one should bully another person, but if it happens, children should know how to respond and not let it get under their skin enough to drive them to suicide. Children have to be taught how to react in order to protect their emotions.

Some school systems are studying ACEs in children while threatening them with a beating or actually using it. This is astonishing and perplexing. There will be ACE even with a ban on corporal punishment, but a ban would eliminate the most widespread ACE.