Adverse childhood experiences and psychosocial well-being of adult women formerly in foster care as children
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Objective: To assess the relationship between retrospective reports of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and psychosocial well-being of adult women formerly in foster care as children. Methods: A total of 101 women between 18-71 years old (M = 36.83, SD = 12.95) formerly in the foster care system from 36 states voluntarily completed an anonymous web-based survey about childhood maltreatment. ACEs were measured using the 10-item ACE Questionnaire. Psychological distress was measured using the 13-item Sense of Coherence (SOC) and the 12-item General Health (GHQ) Questionnaires. Results: Over 56% of respondents were identified as experiencing current psychological distress noted by scores above the GHQ threshold used to identify individuals at risk or likely to have mental problems . SOC sums (M = 54.26, SD = 15.35) showed a significant inverse correlation with both GHQ (M = 14.83, SD = 5.88) and ACE (M = 5.68, SD = 2.90) sums (r = -0.64 and -0.31 respectively). Most respondents (97%) reported experiencing at least one ACE; nearly 70% reported five or more, 33% reported eight or more, and 23% reported 9 or more ACEs. Foster care placement was associated with four ACEs (p = <0.001); each subsequent placement was associated with an increase in ACEs by 0.45. Linear regressions indicated that ACEs reported before foster care was significantly associated with reductions in the level of SOC (8%) and increases in the level of psychological distress (6%). Physical neglect and living in a dysfunctional household (parental loss, maternal abuse, and household member associated with substance abuse and prison) were significantly reduced subsequent to foster care placement by 16% and 19% respectively while the rates of emotional and physical abuse remained as prevalent. Conclusion: Psychological distress and the number of ACEs noted in this population were quite high. Research results are consistent with previous studies that showed an association between the number of ACEs and adult mental health problems. Reducing the number of ACEs and number of foster care placements may help protect developmental health. Clinicians who understand and address the effects of cumulative childhood adversities early may help improve adverse adult health outcomes.
- Nursing - Seattle