Abstract: How Do Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Interrupt Children’s Elementary School Education? (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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55P How Do Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Interrupt Children’s Elementary School Education?

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Hyunji Lee, PhD, Postdoctoral scholar, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Lisa Schelbe, PhD, MSW, Associate Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Mary Elizabeth Rauktis, PhD, Faculty, University of Pittsburgh, PA
Background: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with a wide range of poor outcomes later in life (Felitti et al., 1998; Hughes et al., 2017). Prior research has primarily focused on health-related outcomes, such as psychosocial/behavior outcomes, thus less is known about the association between ACEs and school suspension or expulsion (Pierce et al., 2022). Moreover, limited research examines what specific ACEs and combinations confer heightened risk for outcomes, especially school suspension or expulsion. To address this gap, this study identified different patterns of ACEs and examined ACEs’ impact on suspension or expulsion in elementary school.

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.