Today I saw an article about an ACE study in Minnesota that I had not seen before. http://www.health.state.mn.us/news/pressrel/2013/ace012813.html
I am very concerned that people who were gender non-conforming kids are at higher risk of health problems as they age as a direct result of abuse and bullying. Toxic stress causes brain changes which have a life long effect.
ACE is Adverse Childhood Experiences and the more of them you have, the more likely you are to have a poorer quality of life and health issues in later life. Generally, these seem to be related to inflammation.
So in Minnesota, they talked to over 13500 people and discovered that 55% had at least one adverse childhood experience. These experiences are limited to these certain categories because that was what the original research was: divorce or separation of their parents; an incarcerated household member; a mentally ill parent; domestic violence against a parent; a household member with an alcohol or substance abuse problem, or verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. I wish they could add bullying.
In this study verbal abuse was the most common at 28% and physical abuse was at 16%. A parent with a drinking problem was at 24%.
Now we know that gender non-conforming kids are abused and bullied at higher rates than gender conforming kids. ACE’s don’t look at bullying but we have quite a lot of data on the impact of bullying on the developing brain.
The more ACE’s a person has, the more likely they are to be depressed, anxious, have drug or alcohol problems, be obese, not graduate from high school, live in poverty, have COPD whether or not they smoke, have asthma, heart disease, liver disease, etc.
The study says adversity increases risk but adversity is not destiny. I think it is for some people and not for others. There are things people can do to decrease present day inflammation—like lower stress and interestingly enough, do yoga—and we should be helping clients do those things.
Regardless, parents of gender non-conforming kids who are verbally abusive by calling the child names or physically abusive to try to straighten the child out or worse sexually abusive are likely screwing up their child’s future health and shortening their child’s life. Again, I can’t point to that data but we know GNC kids are more likely to be abused and they are more likely to be bullied so it stands to reason that GNC kids are at higher risk.
This is part of what I think is behind poor outcomes for some people in the Swedish study. Abuse and harassment causes fight or flight, it creates a cortisol response and the child’s brain is in reaction mode.