Abstract: Neighborhood Context at Birth and Risk for Adverse Childhood Experiences over the First 15 Years of Life (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Neighborhood Context at Birth and Risk for Adverse Childhood Experiences over the First 15 Years of Life

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Kathryn Maguire-Jack, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Sarah Font, Assistant Professor, The Pennsylvania State University, PA
Kathryn Showalter, PhD, PhD Candidate, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Rebecca Dillard, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Darejan Dvalishvili, MD, MSW, Ph.D Student, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Background/Purpose: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – such as emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, witnessing domestic violence, household substance abuse, mental illness in the household, parental separation or divorce, or incarceration of a household member – have been linked to poor adult health outcomes. The probability of exposure to ACEs varies by a variety of child and family characteristics. The current study sought to whether the exposure to ACEs from early childhood to late adolescence can be predicted by neighborhood poverty at the time of a child’s birth.

Methods: Using data from 6 waves of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, this study examined the likelihood that a childhood will experience adverse childhood experiences at ages 1, 3, 5, 9, and 15. The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study is a longitudinal cohort study of 4,898 children from large, urban cities in the United States, followed from birth to age 15. We compared ACEs among children born into neighborhoods with high poverty (20% or higher) to those born into low-poverty neighborhoods. Controlling for child race, sex, maternal education, marital status, household income, and maternal age, we ran a mixed poisson model (with time nested within individuals) to examine the relationship between neighborhood poverty rate at the time of a child’s birth and the cumulative count of ACEs at five time points.

Results: Children born into high-poverty neighborhoods were more likely to experience a greater number of ACEs by age 15. Neighborhood poverty at prior timepoints increased the likelihood of ACEs at later timepoints, but the effect of neighborhood poverty at birth was not significant over time, once neighborhood poverty at age 15 was included. Individual characteristics of families, including income, maternal age, and marital status were also associated with ACEs.

Conclusions and Implications: Neighborhood poverty may be related to increased likelihood of adverse childhood experiences, but individual characteristics of children and families (e.g. income, marital status) explain the variation in outcomes. Improving neighborhood conditions may not be sufficient to reduce risk for adverse childhood experiences; assisting individual families with their circumstances is required as well.