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Adverse Experiences

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How Adverse Experiences connects to...

The trauma that comes from experiencing adversity releases stress hormones that can lead to changes in the body and brain. These changes can have negative consequences on academic achievement, cognitive skills, and other outcomes which can endure into adulthood. While Adverse Experiences can have far-reaching impacts, there are evidence-based interventions available to support recovery.

Main Ideas

Adverse experiences include:

  • Interpersonal experiences that occur between people (e.g., physical abuse, emotional abuse, witnessing assault; military combat); and
  • Non-interpersonal experiences inflicted by some other source (e.g., a motor vehicle accident, a natural disaster)

Exposure to trauma can begin in childhood, and have lasting consequences into adulthood. Trauma can come from many types of experiences: people of color may experience traumatic stress from racism over their lifespan; negative schooling experiences in childhood, including being bullied or ridiculed by other students or teachers, can cause adults to internalize negative messages about their intelligence. Adults may also experience trauma from being involved in the criminal justice system. These, among other Adverse Experiences, can result in long-term changes to health, behavior, social skills, and brain structure and functioning, and have the potential to increase the risk for learning disabilities and ADHD. These effects can have far-reaching consequences on academic outcomes and may also result in additional trauma through the loss of Social Supports and feelings of Safety.

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