there is no threat. 95 Thus, the youth remains hyper-vigilant and overreacts to minor events. 96
Such a youth, feeling constantly threatened, can engage in frequent fight or flight behaviors. 97
3. Long-term effects of adverse childhood experiences
Overall, traumatized youth are less prepared to start school, do not perform as well while
they are in school, and are more apt to drop out of high school than non-traumatized youth. 98
Trauma often has a significant impact on a child’s performance in school due to the fact that
trauma robs the child of many of the skills necessary to be productive in a school setting. 99 Child
trauma results in neurological changes that may diminish memory, concentration, and language—
“abilities that children need to function well in school.” 100 Research also reveals that exposure to
domestic violence may actually lower a child’s IQ score. 101
A twenty-three year longitudinal study of the impact of intrafamilial sexual abuse on
female development found that sexually abused females were more likely to experience:
The most striking research regarding the long-term effects of early childhood
mistreatment involves the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES). 103 ACES focuses on
early maltreatment—including a child living in a household where a member is incarcerated,
doing drugs, mentally ill, or engaging in domestic violence. 104 The individual circumstances that
Miller cites, specifically home and familial environment and experiences, 105 as relevant to
sentencing, would all qualify as adverse experiences. The ACES research demonstrates that the
number of adverse events a child experiences directly relates to the likelihood that the child will
develop clinical problems later in life including psychiatric disorders (such as depression which
leads to increased suicide attempts), high-risk health behaviors (smoking, alcoholism, drug use, or
having multiple sexual partners), medical issues (heart disease, liver disease, obesity, or sexually
97 See BRUCE D. PERRY, CHILDTRAUMA ACAD., EFFECTS OF TRAUMATIC EVENTS ON CHILDREN 3 (2003),
98 NAT’L CHILD TRAUMATIC STRESS NETWORK, TRAUMA FACTS FOR EDUCATORS 1 (2008),
http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/ctte_facts.pdf; Stacy Overstreet & Tara Mathews, Challenges Associated with
Exposure to Chronic Trauma: Using a Public Health Framework to Foster Resilient Outcomes Among Youth, 48 PSYCHOL. SCHOOLS
738, 742-43 (2011); HELPING TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN LEARN, supra note 60, at 4.
99 HELPING TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN LEARN, supra note 60, at 4.
101 Putnam, supra note 72, at 2. “In one study IQs decreased approximately 8 points, which is about twice the effect measured for
significant exposure to environmental lead.” Id. (citation omitted).
102 Penelope K. Trickett et al., The Impact of Sexual Abuse on Female Development: Lessons From a Multigenerational, Longitudinal
Research Study, 23 DEV. PSYCHOPATHOLOGY 453, 453 (2011).
103 See Linking Childhood Trauma to Long-Term Health and Social Consequences, ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES STUDY,
www.acestudy.org [hereinafter Linking Childhood Trauma] (last visited Nov. 2, 2013) (study by Robert F. Anda & Vincent J. Felitti).
105 Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 2468 (2012).