American Indian and African American Kids More Likely to Experience Multiple Adverse Events

Posted July 19, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Update adverseexperiences 2021

Nation­al­ly, more than one in three Amer­i­can Indi­an chil­dren and one in four African Amer­i­can chil­dren has had mul­ti­ple adverse expe­ri­ences, accord­ing to new data from the Nation­al Sur­vey of Children’s Health.

What Is an Adverse Child­hood Experience?

Adverse expe­ri­ences are poten­tial­ly trau­mat­ic child­hood events, such as parental death, divorce or incar­cer­a­tion, fam­i­ly or neigh­bor­hood vio­lence, fre­quent socioe­co­nom­ic hard­ship or liv­ing with some­one who was men­tal­ly ill, sui­ci­dal, deal­ing with sub­stance abuse or racial­ly biased. These expe­ri­ences can dis­rupt children’s healthy devel­op­ment and have long-term, harm­ful effects on phys­i­cal health, men­tal health, edu­ca­tion, and oth­er life out­comes. The more adverse and trau­mat­ic events a child expe­ri­ences, the greater the risk of last­ing, neg­a­tive impacts.

The promis­ing news is that adverse child­hood expe­ri­ences and their harm­ful effects are pre­ventable. Pol­i­cy­mak­ers can work to ensure that effec­tive sys­tems, poli­cies, and ser­vices are in place to strength­en under-resourced com­mu­ni­ties, sup­port fam­i­lies, and pro­vide all chil­dren with safe, sta­ble, pos­i­tive rela­tion­ships and environments.

Racial Inequities in Who Expe­ri­ence Adverse Events

While adver­si­ty is com­mon among U.S. chil­dren, with near­ly one in five kids — or more than 13 mil­lion total — hav­ing mul­ti­ple adverse expe­ri­ences, the dis­par­i­ties for Amer­i­can Indi­an and African Amer­i­can chil­dren are stark and have per­sist­ed across all years of data avail­able from this survey.

Children who have experienced two or more adverse experiences by race

The data reveal a need to address the sys­temic inequities dri­ving these dif­fer­ences and to increase sup­port for the nation’s most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and fam­i­lies. At the same time, the data also reveal a hope­ful trend, with the per­cent­age of African Amer­i­can chil­dren expe­ri­enc­ing mul­ti­ple adverse events declin­ing from 33% in 201617 to 25% in 201819.

Where Adverse Child­hood Expe­ri­ences Are Occurring

At the state lev­el, data show vary­ing lev­els of child­hood adver­si­ty across the coun­try, from a low of 13% of chil­dren hav­ing two or more adverse expe­ri­ences in New Jer­sey to a high of 29% in Arkansas in 201819. Pre­vi­ous years of data show a sim­i­lar spectrum.

Access fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty data on the KIDS COUNT Data Center:

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