Methods: Using longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study, a total sample of 2,516 caregivers was included in the final analytic sample. To identify patterns of ACEs, latent class analysis (LCA) was performed. The study used binary indicators of ACEs: (1) childhood physical assault; (2) childhood psychological aggression; (3) childhood neglect; (4) parental substance use; (5) parental separation; (6) parental incarceration; (7) exposure to domestic violence; (8) poverty; (9) exposure to community violence and (10) parental mental health concerns. The study investigated whether class membership predicted school suspension and expulsion.
Results: LCA fit indices suggested that a four-class model fit the data best. The classes identified were (1) Class 1: Parental substance use and mental health concerns (11.7%); (2) Class 2: Child maltreatment and community violence (14.6%); (3) Class 3: Poverty (43.6%); and (4) Class 4: Low community violence (30.1%). The Class 1 was characterized by a high likelihood of having been exposed to parental substance use and mental health concerns. The Class 2 reported higher rates for being exposed to child maltreatment and community violence. The Class 3 had a high likelihood of living in poverty. The Class 4 had a lower probability of being exposed to community violence. Results of the logistic regression analysis showed that children in Classes 1 (OR=2.97, 95% CI=1.88-4.72), 2 (OR=2.47, 95% CI=1.60-3.82) and 3 (OR=1.87, 95% CI=1.26-2.77) were more likely to have experiences of school suspension or expulsion at age 9, as compared to children in Class 4.
Conclusions and Implications: The study identified subgroups of children with distinct profiles of ACEs. Noticeably, both children having higher risk of parental substance use and mental health concerns and children having higher likelihood of experiencing child maltreatment and community violence were found to have a greater risk of being suspended or expelled from schools. As ACE contributes to increased risk of school suspension/expulsion, it is imperative that social workers advocate for change for policies and practices that may be disadvantaging children with trauma histories in educational settings and seek to ensure children’s education is not disrupted (Loomis & Panlilio, 2022). Social workers can also study findings to inform interventions to meet the needs of children at risk for suspension and expulsion. Education can provide life opportunities, and any great efforts to mitigate ACEs’ impact on education should be taken.