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Translating the Neuroscience of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Inform Policy and Foster Population-Level Resilience

NCJ Number
American Psychologist Volume: 76 Issue: 2 Dated: 2021 Pages: 188-202
Date Published
15 pages

This review begins with a discussion of integrating the language used to describe and identify childhood adversity and their outcomes to clarify the translation of neurodevelopmental findings.








Imaging methods have elucidated several neurobiological correlates of traumatic and adverse experiences in childhood. This knowledge base may foster the development of programs and policies that aim to build resilience and adaptation in children and youth facing adversity. Translation of this research requires both effective and accurate communication of the science. An integrative term, Traumatic and Adverse Childhood Experiences (TRACEs+) is proposed, alongside a revised adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) pyramid that emphasizes that a diversity of adverse experiences may lead to a common outcome and that a diversity of outcomes may result from a common adverse experience. This term facilitates linkages between the ACEs literature and the emerging neurodevelopmental knowledge surrounding the effect of traumatic adverse childhood experiences on youth in terms of the knowns and unknowns about neural connectivity in youth samples. How neuroscience findings may lead directly or indirectly to specific techniques or targets for intervention and the reciprocal nature of these relationships is addressed. Potential implications of the neuroscience for policy and intervention at multiple levels are illustrated using existing policy programs that may be informed by (and inform) neuroscience. The need for transdisciplinary models to continue to move the science to action closes the article. (Publisher abstract provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2021