The Father Factor

Why Involved Dads are Key to Preventing Childhood Trauma

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May 1, 2018



Research now shows that divorce or separation of a parent or guardian is one of the two most prevalent adverse childhood experiences nationally and in every state. And which parent is the one a child is least likely to live with after divorce or another type of separation? That’s right. It’s dad.

An “adverse childhood experience” (ACE) is an experience or event in a child’s life that creates trauma and, accordingly, leads to a negative outcome during childhood or later in life. Many children experience multiple ACEs. One in 10 children, for example, experience three or more ACEs. These children are at especially high risk for a host of negative outcomes. One of these outcomes is toxic stress.

A vital hedge against toxic stress and other ACEs is a steady, supportive relationship with a caregiver, such as an involved, responsible, committed dad. That’s why helping dads to become the best dads possible must be part of any sane strategy to address ACEs. It can prevent parental separation in the first place and, when separation occurs, help repair the damage wrought by separation.

Child Trends recently analyzed national data from 2016 to identify the prevalence of ACEs nationally and in each state. Their findings are alarming to say the least.

  • Nearly half of all U.S. children have had an ACE.
  • A much higher proportion of Black and Hispanic children have had an ACE, compared to White and Asian children.
  • Along with being separated from a parent by divorce or another factor (e.g. having an incarcerated parent), economic hardship is the other most prevalent ACE.

Father absence also plays a role in economic hardship. Children in single-parent homes are more likely to live in poverty.

Are you curious about the prevalence of divorce or parental separation, economic hardship, and six other ACE’s in your state? Are you interested in the prevalence of ACEs by race and ethnicity? Click here to view and download Child Trends’ report. You can also learn about what researchers, policy makers, and practitioners have done to prevent ACEs and, when they occur, to ameliorate their effects.

How much do you know about ACEs?

How much do you know about the kinds of trauma caused by ACEs?

How to Mobilize Your City. County, or State Around Responsible Fatherhood

Topics: Featured, general fatherhood resources

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