What Does Early Childhood Have to Do with Addiction? 

Substance Abuse has been a hot topic in Tioga County for some time. Tioga County is above the national average for youth who have reported ever drinking alcohol and for youth who report binge drinking. The average age our youth start experimenting with substance use is 13. Data and research tell us that effective prevention efforts must start early.  

Links between ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences and addiction are well documented. The CDC-Kaiser ACE study (195-1997) revealed that the risk of addiction in adulthood increased with the number of adverse childhood experiences.   

In his book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Gabor Mate states, “A child’s capacity to handle psychological and physiological stress is completely dependent on the relationship with his parent or parents.”  

Mate is a physician specializing in addiction recovery. This reference to the processes involved in early brain development point to the importance of providing education and support to families to reduce the risk of addiction later on. 

Fortunately, ACEs can be alleviated or prevented altogether. Programs and community efforts to support and strengthen families can focus their efforts on supporting the Center for Social Policy’s Protective Factors Framework. These Five protective factors are known to reduce the risk of developing ACEs and to support long-term positive outcomes for children.   

The Protective Factors include: Parental Resilience, Social Connections, Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development, Concrete Support in Times of Need, Social and Emotional Competence of Children.  

All parents need support at one time or another. A strong continuum of support beginning early and lasting through the teen years is ideal. 

In support of the work of the Tioga A.S.A.P. coalition, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tioga County is hosting a community screening of the film Resilience, produced by KPJR films with a community conversation facilitated by Prevent Child Abuse NY immediately following.  

This event will be held on March 13 as a kick-off event for the formation of a Tioga Strong Families Coalition that will work closely with Tioga A.S.A.P. to prevent and alleviate the negative effects of ACEs through community collaboration. 

For more information, contact Jackie Spencer at jds77@cornell.edu.

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