Neglecting children’s emotional needs during a divorce may result in the development of harmful health conditions. Adverse childhood experiences (referred to collectively as ACEs) including a confrontational divorce may generate a traumatic effect that interferes with the child’s growth and health for years to come.

Studies have shown that children exposed to adverse childhood experiences may face an increased risk of heart disease, cancer or depression later in life. By screening children for ACEs earlier and throughout their development, California’s medical professionals may identify those at risk.

Proper care provided at an early stage could help a child overcome the effects of a traumatic event. Preventative intervention could result in a higher quality of life as traumatized children grow into adulthood. Overall, the intent behind childhood screening is to recognize common anxiety or stress triggers that require treatment to help prevent a serious condition from developing.

Data provided by California health officials reveals that approximately 63% of the state’s residents experienced at least one ACE while growing up. About 18% of the individuals studied experienced at least four adverse childhood experiences.

Questions pediatricians may ask

Pediatricians licensed by the Medical Board of California have the authority to screen children for ACEs by asking them questions related to their stress. According to U.S. News & World Report, doctors can discuss family issues to determine a young patient’s exposure to toxic emotional situations or trauma.

A standard medical questionnaire may include options for answering how a divorce or a parent’s drinking habit has affected a child. Parents or caregivers may provide answers on behalf of a patient under the age of 12. Questions relating to family dysfunction could include how a child feels emotionally or physically. The screenings can also determine if any abuse has occurred.

Stress during divorce

For many California families, navigating through a divorce is a time of uncertainty and is often stressful for parents and children.  However, the process may enable them to grow stronger when they work closely together and amicably to resolve the issues. By avoiding contentious proceedings involving the children, families may be able to avoid trauma that may add to the child’s overall ACE score.