Key Point

One in 10 children in Nebraska and Iowa have experienced 3 or more incidents of childhood trauma.

Let’s Break It Down

That’s nearly 120,000 children in Nebraska and Iowa.

State level data tells us that 3 in 10 children have experienced 1-2 incidents of childhood trauma. Additionally, an estimated 46,008 children in Nebraska and 72,222 children in Iowa have experienced 3 or more incidents of trauma.

Unfortunately, there currently isn’t enough publicly available data available to understand what’s happening in our local community around this issue. While we have community data on the occurrence of reported child abuse or neglect, as well as the number of children removed from their homes, we do not have a complete, community-level picture of all of the factors contributing to childhood trauma and the impact it has on children. Many organizations are mobilizing to address this issue by collecting data on childhood trauma and creating more concentrated approaches to behavioral health services for children who have experienced trauma.

One way of talking about trauma is through the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study. The study looks at traumatic or dysfunctional childhood experiences and their correlation to adverse health behaviors in adulthood. ACEs are categorized in seven areas:

While it doesn’t encompass the entirety of a child’s experience, the ACE score does offer some insight into their risk level for health complications later in life. The higher the score, the more increased risk a child has for mental, emotional, and physical illnesses manifesting into adulthood. While there are many other causes of stress that may impact health, this looks at the ten most common for children. Click here to take the ACE quiz, find your score, and learn more about how trauma may (or may not) have affected your own childhood.

Why Does It Matter?

Childhood trauma is linked to higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse, poor health, justice system involvement, and more.

What happens to our children today directly influences the adults that they become. Adults who have experienced 4 or more incidents of childhood trauma (compared to those who had none) had a 4 to 12 times increased risk for alcohol or drug abuse, depression, and suicide attempts. They also had between 2 to 4 times increased risk for smoking and described themselves as having poor health. Overall, children who have experienced childhood trauma are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness or even become involved in the juvenile justice system, which can often lead to involvement in the adult criminal justice system.

It’s important to note, that while ACEs provide some insight into what might happen later in adulthood, it does not take into consideration all contributing factors or the individuality of children, their resilience, and the positive experiences children may have even after experiencing trauma.

How Do We Compare?

Without local data, it’s difficult to compare.

Nationally, 35% of children have experienced 1-2 incidents of childhood trauma (compared to 30% in Nebraska & Iowa) and 11% have experienced 3 or more incidents (compared to 10% in Nebraska & Iowa). On the local level,  data shows that in Pottawattamie County 17% of adults have had 4 or more ACEs, one of the highest rates in Iowa.  This data was collected through a state-wide Iowa ACEs initiative. While we have data for Iowa we do not have data for Douglas and Sarpy County and it’s difficult to understand how our community overall might be faring.

Data Source: 2012 National Survey for Children’s Health and Centers for Disease Control and The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, ACEs Iowa & US Census Bureau American Community Survey 2014 5 Year Estimate Table S0901

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