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Adverse Childhood Experiences and Developmental Delay in Young US Children

  • Nivens, Carleigh
  • Schwarz, Eleanor Bimla
  • Rodriguez, Rosa
  • Hoyt-Austin, Adrienne
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2024
eScholarship - University of California
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IntroductionAdverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are common and have been associated with poor developmental outcomes. We aimed to investigate the relationship between early ACE exposure, subsequent diagnosis of developmental delay, and receipt of developmental delay services by young children. In addition, we aimed to assess the impact of health-promoting behaviors such as breastfeeding and daily reading on these relationships.MethodsIn this cross-sectional analysis of nationally-representative data from the 2017-2018 National Survey of Children's Health, we examined the relationship between ACEs, prior breastfeeding, daily reading, and developmental delay diagnosis among 7837 children aged 3-5 years, using multivariate logistic regression to adjust for family, personal, and sociodemographic characteristics.ResultsWe found a dose-dependent relationship between ACEs and developmental delay diagnosis; compared to those without ACEs, developmental delay was more common among those with either one ACE (aOR = 2.03, 95% CI 1.17-3.52) or two or more ACEs (aOR = 2.34, 95% CI 1.25-4.37). Neither breastfeeding (exclusively breastfed for 6 months vs. never breastfed aOR = 0.70, 95% CI 0.33-1.46) nor daily reading (no reading versus daily reading aOR = 1.15, CI 0.57-2.33) were associated with incidence of developmental delay among study participants. There was no significant difference in receipt of services intended to meet developmental needs between children with and without ACEs.DiscussionChildren with very early ACE exposure are at increased risk for diagnosis of developmental delay. Early screening for ACEs and developmental delay may mitigate the early developmental manifestations of ACE exposure in vulnerable children.

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