Disrupted Family Bonds: An Extremely Adverse Type of Childhood Experience, by Yael Gold, Ph.D.

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My last entries have focused on reviewing and defining various types of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). As a psychologist and as a humanitarian I feel compelled to write about the crisis that is unfolding right now before our very eyes, on our own soil, in the United States of America. I make this emphasis because until recently, while I was aware that these types of atrocities had occurred in this country historically, I wanted to believe that this form of abuse was behind us. I have come to realize that this simply isn’t true.

For many of us, it is not possible to witness these occurrences without being individually traumatized.  Often we’re reminded of painful events from our past experiences, from the collective histories of our ancestors, and even from historical events we’ve learned about. For me it serves as a reminder of my mother’s separation from her parents during the holocaust. While I am not comparing current events to the annihilation of six million people, what I am referring to is the forceful separation of children from parents with no explanation, no explicit plan of reconciliation, nor any knowledge of potential outcomes. If you imagine yourself as a child in this situation the degree of implicit terror is made clear.

One of the most important functions  of parent child relationships is the creation of safety and protection. This is critical to the developing child’s brain and influences both mental and physical health. When attachment to a parent is disrupted the child’s development is derailed and a whole host of problems ranging from difficulty with emotional rergulation, to learning problems, to anxiety, depression, and oppositional behavior are likely to ensue. 

Over time, unresolved traumatic effects can include cancer rates that are double those of the general population, and extremely high rates of alcoholism and suicide (ACEs). Much of the damage already experienced by these children is likely irreparable. They will always remember the abject terror of being separated from their parents. In order to prevent further harm to these children they need to be reunited with their parents right away. My hope is that an organized approach which includes locating the parents who have already been deported, and reunifying these families, will be enacted promptly and efficiently.

References

Green, D. (Host). (2018, June 20). Separating Kids From Their Parents Can Lead To Long-Term Health Problems. [Radio broadcast episode]

http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyid=621872722

https://acestoohigh.com/2012/10/03/the-adverse-childhood-experiences-study-the-largest-most-important-public-health-study-you-never-heard-of-began-in-an-obesity-clinic/

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