What Tennesseans experience in childhood can play a significant role in the employees they grow up to be, a new study just released by the Tennessee Department of Health reveals.

A survey of Tennesseans conducted by the Tennessee Department of Health concludes that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are “widespread, common and prevalent” among adults in the state. ACEs are stressful or traumatic experiences that disrupt the safe, nurturing environments that children need to thrive. Examples of ACEs shown to have an adverse impact on development include child abuse and neglect as well as family dysfunction, including households with substance abuse issues, incarcerated parents, mental illness, divorce/separation or domestic violence. Read the complete report

The Tennessee study indicates at least 52 percent of the statewide adult population has at least one ACE, while 21 percent have three or more. The more exposure to ACEs a person has, the more his or her risk increases for social, mental and health problems, the national Adverse Childhood Experiences study confirms.

ACE scores are shown to correlate with impaired worker performance, including higher absenteeism, poor work habits and financial problems. Among the Tennessee findings that can impact the state’s workforce:

  • Individuals with four ACEs are far less likely to graduate from high school or college as compared to their peers.
  • Individuals with multiple ACEs are unemployed at higher rates than those with no ACEs.
  • Individuals with four or more ACEs are extremely likely to earn less than $10,000 annually.
  • A person with four or more ACEs has seven days of poor mental and six days of poor physical health each month on average.
  • Persons with one or more ACEs are more likely to binge drink or smoke, leading to higher instances of addiction and related health problems.

The Tennessee study is an extension of the national Adverse Childhood Experiences study, a large-scale research collaboration begun in the late 1990s that assesses the link between negative childhood experiences and negative adult outcomes.

Research shows that promoting a safe, stable, and nurturing relationship between children and their parents is the key to preventing ACEs. The Family Center serves Middle Tennessee parents who are most likely to abuse and neglect their children, including incarcerated parents, parents in substance abuse recovery, and parents involved with the legal system. Over 50 percent of the parents served by The Family Center have an ACE score of six or more (out of 10)...a score is associated with a decease in lifespan by 20 years. 

Services of The Family Center are fulfilling a critical need at a time when state and local governments, educational institutions and employers are focusing more resources on career readiness and workforce development.

*Graph is courtesy of the Tennessee Department of Health