Dr David Bratt
One of the most difficult things to do is lose weight. There are many possible explanations for this: chronically expanded stomachs from poor eating habits; impaired glucose metabolism; abnormal gut bacteria etc. But one of the most intriguing is the possibility that obesity may be a defensive mechanism that children, girls especially, use to defend themselves from sexual abuse. This explains quickly and efficiently the difficulty in getting people to lose weight. What presents as the "Problem" may, in fact, be an attempted solution and "treating" the solution may threaten people and cause flight from treatment. There is physical safety in being obese.
Smoking may be another example. Smoking, which is medically and socially viewed as a "Problem" may, from the perspective of the user, represent an effective immediate solution: it relieves stress, especially toxic stress which is chronic, unremitting stress without any resolution in sight because, in the case of a child, there is no adult around to support that child. Dreadful really. That sort of thing can lead to early, chronic cigarette use. Decades later, this "solution" can manifest as emphysema, cardiovascular disease, malignancy, and early death.
The idea behind all this comes from a number of studies over the last ten years that looked at Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs and their relation to adult disease. The evidence is compelling. ACEs describe a traumatic experience in a person's life occurring before the age of 18 that the person remembers as an adult. Forgotten memories may be more important but no one has figured out how to obtain that sort of information from large groups of people. The major study that looked at remembered ACEs contained 17,327 participants and it was the largest study of its kind ever to examine over the lifespan the medical, social, and economic consequences in adults, average age 57, of adverse childhood experiences.
Ten ACEs have been identified. They are the usual ones that we have come to expect as part of normal childhood, which they most definitely are not: Child abuse, psychological, by the parents; physical abuse, also by the parents; sexual abuse, by anyone; emotional neglect and physical neglect, again by the parents; alcoholism or drug use in the home; loss of biological parents; depression or mental illness in the home; mother treated violently and finally, an imprisoned household member.
How we are children of our parents, made in their image.
The most common ACEs identified were physical abuse (28 per cent of adults); alcoholism or drug abuse (27 per cent); loss of parent (23 per cent) and sexual abuse (22 per cent).
If you give each ACE a score of one, a person can receive a score ranging from 0 to ten. The higher the score the more likely for the person to experience adult disease, such as major depression, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, sexually transmitted disease and frighteningly, intergenerational transmission of abuse. Other long-term consequences include a variety of social problems, homelessness, prostitution, criminal behaviour, unemployment, and shortened lifespan.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are very common. Unfortunately, because of the tremendous adaptive skills of children and the length of time between the ACE(s) and its effect, they are largely unrecognised. Yet they are probably the prime determinant of the health, social, and economic well-being of adults.
ACEs affect the development of the child, of the brain. They have neurobiological effects like causing brain abnormalities and stress hormone dysregulation and psychosocial effects: poor attachments, poor socialisations, and poor self-efficacy.
Another mechanism by which ACEs result in long-term health consequences is by those affected engaging in adult health-risk-taking behaviours like alcohol and drug abuse, having multiple sex partners, cigarette smoking, and compulsive eating leading to obesity. Adult health-risk-taking behaviours such as these may be an individual's attempt at coping and self-regulating the experiences of emotional pain, anxiety, anger and or depression related to unresolved adverse childhood experiences.
Some faiths believe that original sin is the cause of deviant adult behaviour. No folks, it's not original sin. It's the way you treat your children.'