Adverse Childhood Experiences project given £3.8 million funding

adverse childhood experience, child trauma
© Monkey Business Images

The Adverse Childhood Experiences project, led by Professor Kam Bhui and Professor Eunice Ma, aims to create interventions for children who suffer from life-shaping trauma

When it comes to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), children can lose up to twenty years of life expectancy depending on how many experiences they have and what kind of support they are given.

Dr Margot Sunderland, Child Psychologist, explained: “If we are not trauma informed, ensuring before giving any diagnosis and medication that we have heard the child’s life story to rule out trauma, we are in danger of damaging that child psychologically, and possibly neurologically, when giving them medication for a condition they don’t actually have.”

Here are some examples of Adverse Childhood Experiences:

  • Experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
  • Witnessing violence in the home or community
  • Having a family member attempt or die by suicide
  • Substance use problems in household
  • Mental health problems in household
  • Instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison

By the age of eight, seven in ten children have one Adverse Childhood Experience. This experience can reduce life expectancy by up to 20 years – it can also cause social, emotional, and cognitive impairment, risky behaviours, disability, social exclusion, and bad health.

One study found that intergenerational trauma, aka the ACEs of parents, can even pass down to the child via neurological changes that happen in the womb.

The new Oxford and Falmouth University-led project will be about both understanding ACEs and preventing them – via young people’s actual, lived experiences of what works. The team will use their UKRI funding to create interventions that can eventually function to protect adolescents from mental health problems created by ACEs.

‘ATTUNE will listen to young people’, says Professor Ma

Professor Eunice Ma, co-principal investigator, Provost, Falmouth University, said: “It’s a joy working with inspiring young people and the incredibly talented team of researchers and practitioners in the university, government, and NGO sectors. ATTUNE will listen to young people’s perspectives, and co-design prevention and care interventions. Using these exciting interdisciplinary methods, we aspire to transform social, education, health and care systems to provide therapeutic spaces and life opportunities for young people to flourish.

“We specifically seek to represent the perspectives of young people of diverse identities (race, ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ+) living in rural, coastal and urban areas.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here