ACES Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and Parental Alienation

Child victims of severe parental alienation (e.g. victims of pathogenic parenting) are at high risk for many medical problems later in life, according to a landmark study from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) called the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study ACES.

Severely alienated children (e.g. victims of pathogenic parenting) have an astronomical ACES score of at least 5 out of 10, possibly going as high as 6 out of 10, by scoring one point for each the following: 1) divorce, 2) emotional abuse, 3) mental illness in the family (e.g. borderline or narcissist) 4) emotional neglect (role reversal relationship), 5) domestic violence (the DoJ says DV includes "damaging one's relation with his or her children" .... and "forcing isolation from family/friends" ) and  6) there may be false allegations of something that could put someone in prison, which arguably counts for at least another point, especially if they are in jail after being arrested on a false allegation. Or the erased parent may be put in jail after falling slightly behind on child support, which is way higher because they are erased, and the abusive alienating parent got custody. 

 These problems are also somewhat consistent with observations from the American Psychiatric Association on disordered parenting. 

Read the information from the CDC (Center for Disease Control):
    As the number of ACEs increases so does the risk for the following:
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Fetal death
Health-related quality of life
Illicit drug use
Ischemic heart disease
Liver disease
Poor work performance
Financial stress
Risk for intimate partner violence
Multiple sexual partners
Sexually transmitted diseases
Suicide attempts
Unintended pregnancies
Early initiation of smoking
Early initiation of sexual activity
Adolescent pregnancy
Risk for sexual violence
Poor academic achievement

The American Psychological Association (APA) notes that Child Psychological Abuse is as harmful as Child Sexual Abuse, based on landmark research of long term outcomes.

Further, as noted in an APA Journal, it is simply a logical fallacy that an alienated child does not need help, just because things appear to be going well.

Things get worse when bystanders collude with the delusion and incorrectly assume that the rejected parent is somehow either inadequate or abusive. This includes therapists, lawyers, GALs, judges, neighbors, friends, and extended family.

See also Amy Baker's article on parental alienation and ACES

TED talk by Nadine Burke Harris on ACES

How Trauma is Changing Children's Brains:

Back in the 1990s, Dr. Vincent Felitti, working with very obese adults, discovered that a shocking majority of his patients had suffered significant traumas during childhood. Eventually, his work led to a mega-study, involving tens of thousands of patients, which showed the long-lasting effects of “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs, such as child neglect or abuse, or a parent with addiction or imprisoned. Those children often grow up to be adults who are more likely to be sick, to be violent, to miss work, and to marry often.

Since then, it’s become clear that the damaging effects of trauma are not saved until adulthood. It starts early and it affects students and teachers: in fact, kindergartners who have had tough experiences score below-average in reading and math, even when other factors like household income and parental education are considered, a study published this year found. Those traumatized 5-year-olds also are three times more likely to have problems with paying attention, and two times more likely to show aggression.

What neuropsychologists have found is that traumatic experiences actually can alter children’s brains. In times of great stress, or trauma, the brain activates its deeply instinctive, “fight, flight, or freeze” responses, while dialing down the areas of the brain where learning, especially around language, takes place. When this happens over and again, especially in children under age 5, the brain is fundamentally changed. Basically, it adapts for survival under the worst conditions.

“It’s an appropriate adaptation to their circumstances,” says Amanda Moreno, professor of early-child development at the Erikson Institute in Chicago. “But it comes at enormous cost to schooling, especially with the way we do schooling in this country, which is very standardized.”

The American Academy of Pediatricians Trauma Guide for Foster Care

See also the discussion in the Brainerd, MN dispatch.

See also The Long-Term Effects of Parental Alienation on Adult Children: A Qualitative Research Study  which identifies "(1) low self-esteem, (2) de-pression, (3) drug/alcohol abuse, (4) lack of trust, (5) alienation from own children, (6) divorce, and (7) other"

See also Paper Tigers ... a video about school with children with high aces scores

See also  The Science of Early Life Toxic Stress for Pediatric Practice and Advocacy   "Young children who experience toxic stress are at high risk for a number of health outcomes in adulthood, including cardiovascular disease, cancers, asthma, and depression. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently called on pediatricians, informed by research from molecular biology, genomics, immunology, and neuroscience, to become leaders in science-based strategies to build strong foundations for children’s life-long health."

The movie Resilience explores that exaggerated fear response that is induced when alienators force children into a false “victim mode”. Resilience is a sequel to Paper Tigers.

Here is the official ace questionnaire.

Here is an article by Karen Woodall on ACES and parental alienation: "Resilience is a film made about a group of people in the USA who noticed that the people they were working with who had physical health problems, had many things in common in their childhood history.  One of those things was sexual abuse.  Another was being witness to violence and another was the divorce or separation of their parents.  All of these things were recognized anecdotally by this team as having an impact on the physical well being of patients and so they began a longitudinal study, to find out whether this translated into evidence.  What they found was shocking. So shocking that even they could not believe it at first.  Patients who reported adverse childhood experiences were likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other life changing illnesses.  The risks for some were so high that it could be said that they reduced life expectancy by twenty years."

See more information about the harm of psychological abuse on children

See also a USA today article on Toxic Stress / Divorce / ACES that interviews Dr. Harris.

Other worthwhile topics: