Adults’ childhood traumas influence next generation

SPOKANE, Wash. – A new report from Washington State University shows that the amount and type of adversity experienced in childhood by the adult population of a community has a negative effect on the performance and well-being of the community’s children.

Hundreds of peer-reviewed research studies have consistently supported the role of those adverse childhood experiences – such as physical abuse and neglect – as being the single most powerful predictor of health and well-being in those adults, the report says, but less has been known about the relationship between adults with adverse childhood experiences and the effects of those experiences on the well-being of the children.

“While poverty continues to be an influence on youth well-being, the community and adverse childhood experiences by the young people themselves are more consistent predictors of youth well-being,” said Christopher Blodgett, director of the Washington State University Area Health Education Center in Spokane, which prepared the report.

The study was done in response to a request by the Washington Legislature in 2014 that a review be conducted of the community factors that may influence academic success and youth well-being. The WSU report – titled “No School Alone: How community risks and assets contribute to school and youth success” – was submitted to the Washington state Office of Financial Management. In preparing the report, WSU researchers studied public data, conducted interviews and used qualitative research findings from The Foundation for Healthy Generations.

“Emerging evidence demonstrates that adults with adverse childhood experiences are more likely to have children with adverse childhood experiences.” said Anna Rowe, an associate on the research project describing the need to address these challenges across generations.

A few highlights from their report:

  • 28 percent of Washington students live in communities where 35 percent of the adults report having had three or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
  • As the percentage of adults with high ACEs increases, fewer students in that community pass Washington standardized tests, and more students are likely to be involved in anti-social behavior and attitudes.
  • Local capacity to address the problems contributing to adverse childhood experiences is a practical solution but loss of local capacity with the recent economic downturn indicates targeted supports for local solutions is called for.


Christopher Blodgett, director, WSU Area Health Education Center, 509-358-7679,

Anna Rowe, project associate, WSU Area Health Education Center, 509-358-7608,