Childhood should be a happy time in any person’s life. Ideally, one’s childhood should be filled with opportunities to learn and grow, as well as plenty of wholesome fun and recreation. Key to ensuring a happy childhood are a good, stable home environment and loving, supportive family members. Unfortunately, not all children grow up in such a positive environment.
The sad truth is that some children experience neglect, abuse, household dysfunction, or violence during their early, formative years. And while these children can grow up to be high-functioning, well-adjusted adults, there may be lingering effects from their childhood experiences. For some adults, these effects are minimal. For others, however, the events of their childhood shape their adult lives in a prominent way.
These negative childhood events are referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ACEs can affect many parts of a person’s life. One area, in particular, that may be affected is how an adult with a history of ACEs bonds with their children.
This relationship between a parent who has experienced ACEs and their child was brought to light thanks to research being conducted on infants and children with hearing loss. The audiologists and speech-language pathologists at Hearts for Hearing noticed that some pediatric patients with hearing loss showed little progress. The lack of progress was somewhat surprising because most of these young patients had been identified at birth as being deaf or hard of hearing, and they were fitted with appropriate amplification early and enrolled in timely intervention.
Upon noticing this trend, Hearts for Hearing participated in a yearlong partnership with an infant mental health professional. Based on this experience and research, it appears that Adverse Childhood Experiences in the parent’s past can create disturbances or disruptions in the attachment relationship between parent and child. Because this attachment is essential in the development of the child, these issues place the child at risk for impaired development and social-emotion functioning.
In addition to disrupting a deaf or hard-of-hearing child’s progress in speech-language development, these attachment problems can have life-long effects for the child. ACEs have also been linked to many health problems, meaning that a parent with ACEs is more likely to encounter health problems throughout their life.
To improve the attachment relationship between parent and child, improve the parent’s outlook, and benefit the child’s development, it is important to identify and address Adverse Childhood Experiences. An ACE questionnaire may be helpful, which includes 10 questions based on household dysfunction, abuse, and neglect. Once the parent’s ACEs have been identified, they will be able to better address them and prevent them in the next generation.
Another important tool in handling Adverse Childhood Experiences is to develop resilience. The parent must become resilient and continue to do what they know is best. For example, they should be certain to bring their child with hearing loss to appropriate appointments. The parent can also teach their child resilience, which will serve them throughout life.
While Adverse Childhood Experiences are unfortunate, they do not need to define a life – of a parent or a child. To learn more about ACEs and how they can impact children with hearing loss, we invite you to contact our audiology office today.