transmitted diseases), and a shortened lifespan. 106 As depicted below, research by the Centers for
Disease Control demonstrates that early adverse childhood experiences influence the rest of a
child’s life. 107
CDC Diagram of the long-term impact of ACES. 108
There is also new research regarding the effects of trauma on children that goes beyond
neurological issues to genetic ones, and beyond the individual to possible intergenerational
4. Intergenerational trauma, community trauma, and epigenetics
It is not unusual to see families cycle through the court system. 110 Often, abused and
neglected children in child protection cases grow into adolescents charged in juvenile justice
cases, who next become adults charged in criminal cases. 111 These adults then have their own
children that are abused and neglected, and brought into child protection courts to begin the cycle
once more. 112 Thus, trauma and its impact can span across generations. For some families, this
intergenerational trauma and series of adverse experiences may seem “normal,” since both
106 See Linking Childhood Trauma, supra note 103; Bessel A. van der Kolk, Developmental Trauma Disorder: Toward a Rational
Diagnosis for Children with Complex Trauma Histories, 35 PSYCHIATRIC ANNALS 401, 402 (2005) (reflecting on ACES).
The [ACES] study confirmed earlier investigations that found a highly significant relationship between adverse
childhood experiences and depression, suicide attempts, alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, domestic
violence, cigarette smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, the more
adverse childhood experiences reported, the more likely a person was to develop heart disease, cancer, stroke,
diabetes, skeletal fractures, and liver disease.
107 Linking Childhood Trauma, supra note 103; see Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study: Pyramid, CTRS. FOR DISEASE
CONTROL & PREVENTION, http://www.cdc.gov/ace/pyramid.htm (last updated Jan. 18, 2013).
108 Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study: Pyramid, supra note 107.
109 Nat’l Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Early Experiences Can Alter Gene Expression and Affect Long-Term
Development 4 (Harvard Univ.,Working Paper No. 10, 2010), available at
110 Elizabeth M. Tracy & Pamela J. Johnson, The Intergenerational Transmission of Family Violence, in WORKING WITH
TRAUMATIZED YOUTH IN CHILD WELFARE 113, 113-34 (Nancy Boyd Webb ed., 2005); CHILD WELFARE COMM., NAT’L CHILD
TRAUMATIC STRESS NETWORK, BIRTH PARENTS WITH TRAUMA HISTORIES AND THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM: A GUIDE FOR JUDGES
AND ATTORNEYS 1 (2011),
111 See supra note 110 and accompanying text.