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Safe Neighborhoods and Supportive Communities Protect Children from the Health Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)


Protective factors such as safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments can prevent the long-term effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Recently, policymakers and practitioners have sought to better understand environmental level influences on exposure to ACEs, given the crucial role of social determinants of health in alleviating racial health inequities. Thus, this study seeks to understand how ACEs can be mitigated through neighborhood-level factors; it examines the relationships among ACEs, safe and supportive neighborhoods, and overall health status by race/ethnicity using a national data sample. Data were obtained from 30,530 households with children who participated in the 2018 National Survey for Children’s Health, a nationally representative survey. Using multivariable logistic regression, safe and supportive neighborhoods were assessed as potential moderators of the association between ACEs and overall health status by race/ethnicity. Two separate models were run for each moderator, controlling for sex, age, and gender of the child. The presence of a safe neighborhood weakened the association between ACEs and overall health status. This was demonstrated by lower odds of experiencing poor health. The presence of a supportive neighborhood showed a similar pattern. However, these patterns varied when disaggregating the data by race/ethnicity. This study underscores the importance of community-level prevention and intervention efforts to mitigate the health effects of ACEs. Public health efforts seeking to prevent poor health outcomes should consider the socio-environmental influences on health behaviors across the lifespan and continue to address the varying needs of historically disadvantaged populations.

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Correspondence to Aditi Srivastav.

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Srivastav, A., Richard, C., McRell, A.S. et al. Safe Neighborhoods and Supportive Communities Protect Children from the Health Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Journ Child Adol Trauma 15, 977–986 (2022).

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  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Children’s health
  • Social cohesion
  • Protective factors