Adverse experiences in infancy and toddlerhood: Relations to adaptive behavior and academic status in middle childhood

Lorraine M. McKelvey, Nicola Conners Edge, Glenn R. Mesman, Leanne Whiteside-Mansell, Robert Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study articulated the negative effects of childhood trauma on long-term well-being. The purpose of the current study is to examine the associations between ACEs experienced in infancy and toddlerhood and adaptive behavior and academic status in middle childhood. We used data collected from a sample of low-income families during the impacts study of Early Head Start (EHS). Data were collected by trained interviewers demonstrating at least 85% reliability with protocols. Data come from 1469 socio-demographically diverse mothers and children collected at or near ages 1, 2, 3, and 11. At ages 1, 2, and 3, an EHS-ACEs index was created based on interview and observation items. The EHS-ACEs indices were averaged to represent exposure across infancy and toddlerhood. At age 11, parents were asked about school outcomes and completed the Child Behavior Checklist. Across development, children were exposed to zero (19%), one (31%), two (27%), and three or more ACEs (23%). Logistic regression analyses, controlling for EHS program assignment, and parent, school, and child characteristics, showed ACEs were significantly associated with parental report of the child: having an individualized educational program since starting school and in the current school year, having been retained a grade in school, and problems with externalizing and internalizing behavior, as well as attention. Findings suggest that ACEs influence children's behavioral and academic outcomes early in development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)168-177
Number of pages10
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Academic status
  • Adaptive behavior
  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Early childhood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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