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ACTRI Symposium Explores Impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences


ACTRI Center for Life Course Research leaders at the childhood adversity symposium are (from left): Dilip Jeste, MD; Gretchen Bandoli, PhD; Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH; Linda McEvoy, PhD; and Andrea LaCroix, PhD.

May 22, 2017 Patti Wieser

Maltreatment and trauma during childhood have deep and enduring effects, concluded presenters at the “Adverse Childhood Experiences: Consequences Across the Life Course” symposium. The Center for Life Course Research at UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) presented the symposium on May 17, drawing about 150 participants.

“It is critical to study the impacts of adverse childhood experiences on health across the life course,” said Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at UC San Diego and director of the ACTRI Center for Life Course Research. “We were pleased to present a symposium that brought together a distinguished and varied group of presenters to address multiple areas related to this topic. Through continued studies, we hope to develop measures for prevention.” Chambers co-directed the event with Dilip Jeste, MD, who also presented a talk, “Longer-term Effects of Childhood Adversity in People with and Without Serious Mental Illnesses.”

The event took place at the UC San Diego School of Medicine campus and included a broad spectrum of speakers, ranging from experts in pediatrics, aging, psychiatry, psychology, and epidemiology, to a delinquency court judge and a child welfare services official.

Vincent Felitti, MD, an international expert on childhood trauma and co-principal investigator of the internationally recognized Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, discussed the well-established link between childhood adversity and adult adverse health outcomes. He said researchers are finding that adverse childhood experiences are powerful predictors of social malfunction, psychological problems, disease and premature death. “Many of the most common and intractable public health problems are unconscious solutions to personal experiences,” Felitti said. He gave an example of a patient who, while being treated for obesity, revealed she had been sexually molested as a child and used obesity as a wall, becoming “safely over 400 pounds” as an adult. His talk was one of eight given.

In his presentation, “Childhood Maltreatment and Mental Health in Adulthood,” Murray Stein, MD, MPH, said studies indicate a strong link between abuse at an early age and mental disorders in adulthood, noting that hundreds of studies show that adverse childhood experiences are associated with profound effects on brain structure and function. Stein also discussed the Army STARRS study on risk and resilience in service members. He was co-principal investigator on the study. One component was the New Soldier Study, which showed a link between negative early life experiences and lifetime suicidality. “Suicidal behavior is strongly associated with childhood maltreatment,” said Stein, a distinguished professor in the departments of psychiatry and family medicine and public health at UC San Diego and a staff psychiatrist at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

The symposium also focused on resilience, with many of the speakers highlighting its buffering impact on childhood adversity and the need to better understand what defines these protective factors. The symposium concluded with the screening of “Resilience,” a film by James Redford and Karen Pritzer.

The ACTRI Center for Life Course Research co-sponsored the event with the Center for Better Beginnings and the UC San Diego Stein Institute for Research on Aging.

View symposium presentations. Powerpoint presentations available from symposium presenters Afifi, Giardina, Jeste, Katz, and Stein. Also available is a handout from Katz.

Read more about the ACTRI Center for Life Course Research

About UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute:

UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) is part of a national Clinical and Translational Science Award consortium, led by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Science. Established in 2010, ACTRI provides infrastructure and support for basic, translational and clinical research throughout the San Diego region to bring discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside, and facilitates training and education of the next generation of researchers. ACTRI carries out its activities in collaboration with institutional and corporate partners and currently has more than 1,300 members.