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Bidirectional Relations between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Children’s Behavioral Problems

Abstract

Research has shown that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) increase the risk of poor health and well-being, yet less is known about the pathways through which these life outcomes emerge. For instance, prospective, longitudinal research into the link between ACEs and the trajectories of children’s behavioral problems is limited. Moreover, no longitudinal study has investigated whether children’s behavioral problems also increase their risk of adverse experiences over time. Therefore, the main purpose of this study is to explore bidirectional relations between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and children’s behavioral problems in a sample of low-income children. This study uses the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a birth cohort study of 4898 children followed from birth through 15 years of age. A random intercept cross-lagged panel model was fit to examine the bidirectional relations between ACEs and child behavioral problems. Study findings indicated that age 5 ACEs score significantly predicted age 9 anxious or depressed problems and age 9 aggressive problems. Age 5 anxious or depressed problems also significantly predicted age 9 ACEs exposure. From age 3 to age 9, ACEs also played a dominant role in the bidirectional relations with behavioral problems. There were certain bidirectional relations between ACEs and child behavioral problems. The findings have implications for understanding the etiology and consequences of adversities as well as the design of prevention and intervention strategies.

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Correspondence to Lixia Zhang.

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Zhang, L., Mersky, J.P. Bidirectional Relations between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Children’s Behavioral Problems. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 39, 183–193 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-020-00720-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10560-020-00720-1

Keywords

  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Child behavioral problems
  • Longitudinal study
  • Bidirectional relations