Adverse Childhood Experiences in children at high risk of harm to others. A gendered perspective.

Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice

Abstract of Report

The body of evidence linking a range of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to health-harming behaviours and poorer health outcomes is becoming increasingly better understood. Although these experiences are surprisingly common in the general population, certain vulnerable groups, such as people involved in offending, are known to have experienced higher levels of adversity than others.

This paper documents the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences in a sample of 130 young people aged under 18 who present high levels of risk in relation to serious violent, sexual or extremist behaviours. The paper also considers the impact of childhood bereavement which, although known to be a common feature in the lives of young people involved in offending, is rarely documented in Adverse Childhood Experience studies.

The paper confirms elevated levels of adversity in the backgrounds of these vulnerable young people who posh a high risk of harm, but also presents potential evidence of gender effects and begins to reflect on how gender might interact with how young people, and the systems and professionals around them, respond to adversity in childhood.

The paper suggests that this gendered response to Adverse Childhood Experiences may underlie the excess criminality seen among males, and that future studies should test this hypothesis directly.

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