In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Parents’ Adverse Childhood Experiences & Children’s Chronic Pain

Mother and father caring for and gazing at their infant child

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are common. In fact, around 61% of adults report that they had at least one ACE, while 1 in 6 adults report that they experienced at least four of them (1). There are numerous problems that such experiences can lead to, including impacting their own children when those people become parents.

Numerous types of events are considered to be adverse childhood experiences. These include a child experiencing violence, neglect, or abuse, or witnessing violence within their home or in their community. When people are impacted by adverse childhood experiences, they may have emotional and physical problems that continue into adulthood. Such experiences are linked to adults going on to have mental illnesses, substance abuse problems, and chronic health problems.

October 2020 Issue of the Journal Findings

Researchers set out to see how prevalent it is for parents who had adverse childhood experiences to have children who experience chronic pain. They published the findings of their study. To conduct this assessment, they had 170 parents participate who have children ages 10-18 suffering from chronic pain. A comparison sample from the community was also taken.

They found nearly 68% of the parents who have children with chronic pain had at least one adverse childhood experience themselves. Additionally, they found that 23% of those parents had at least four adverse childhood experiences. The research took a step further to control sociodemographic factors and found that the parents who had the adverse childhood experiences reported a rate of physical neglect that was significantly higher when compared with the community-based sample.

This information may be helpful to those who work with children who have chronic pain. If they are able to identify that the parents had adverse childhood experiences, they may be able to make suggestions. From suggesting support groups and beneficial therapy to providing information on how to prevent adverse childhood experiences from happening to children, there may be ways to simultaneously help the child and the parent.

Children who have been taught how to become more resilient may be able to lessen the consequences of adverse experiences. They can learn to become more resilient by:

  • Building strong social connections
  • Having resilient parents
  • Have a strong sense of purpose
  • Having problem-solving skills
  • Gaining support, and learning positive parenting skills

More research needs to be done regarding the connection between the two issues, but this offers some helpful information for those who are helping children who have chronic pain.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences.
  2. Pain Reports. Adverse childhood experiences in parents of youth with chronic pain: prevalence and comparison with a community-based sample. October 2020.

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