Thursday, July 5, 2012

Overcoming Adversity

Hope it was a great 4th of July. A lot of people are struggling with triple digit heat and no power, so it's a tough one for many. By the way, how weird is it that all the adverse weather situations have Spanish names, el nifio, derecho. I'm waiting for the other shoe to fall when we get hit with derecha, which would be a plague of locusts in the winter...
Summertime is when the climate change deniers really go into overdrive. I doubt many of them are living in the Chicago area. Imagine suffering through record heat waves like the one they are experiencing in the Midwest and maintaining the no-problem-here attitude of the business-as-usual crowd. 
I'm not one for going into panic mode. Being an eternal optimist, I believe that we will blunder our way through, coming to our senses and moving quickly to a fossil fuel-free economy, before the ice caps melt. 
It will not be an easy transition, but we have one ace in the hole. It is the greatest resource any nation possesses: its people, especially its children.
The strange thing is, we are just now realizing what a precious resource our children are. One of the most basic human intuitions is only now being confirmed  by science. Adverse childhood experiences have a tremendous and long-lasting impact on human development.
A new study, known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACE study, examined over 17,000 cases to investigate the link between childhood maltreatment and  health and well-being later in life.
Adverse childhood experience can include physical, sexual or emotional abuse; having a parent abandon the family; having a parent who was a substance abuser; having a parent who went to prison or was institutionalized for mental illness; and witnessing domestic violence.
Almost two-thirds of the study subjects reported at least one ACE factor, while one in five had a score of three or more. Researchers determined that as the ACE score increased, so did the risk of developing serious diseases such as heart and lung disease, liver disease, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc..., as well as the likelihood of high risk behaviors including smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, and promiscuity. Those with higher ACE scores are also at increased risk of obesity, adolescent pregnancy, suicide, fetal death, intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
Of course there is a factor that can be easily overlooked, and that is the role of the healing power of relationships in overcoming adversity or trauma. As a society, I believe we will have to commit to a major project of healing, and that will include rebuilding a sense of community and belonging. It does indeed take a village to create healthy children. One of the factors impeding the development of our greatest resource, our children, is the lack of a communal culture. Much like alcoholics, the first step is recognizing that we have a problem.

Anthony Caplan is a teacher, writer and homesteader in New Hampshire. His latest novel Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home, is the story of overcoming an adverse childhood. Find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookseller.

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