Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences: Findings from a Low-Income Sample of U.S. Women

Mersky, J. P., Janczewski, C. E. (2018). Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences: Findings from a Low-Income Sample of U.S. Women. Child Abuse and Neglect.

Objective
Despite great interest in adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), there has been limited research on racial and ethnic differences in their prevalence. Prior research in the United States suggests that the prevalence of ACEs varies along socioeconomic lines, but it is uncertain whether there are racial/ethnic differences in ACE rates among low-income populations.

Method
This study examined the distribution of ACEs in a sample of 1523 low-income women in Wisconsin that received home visiting services. Participants ranging in age from 16 to 50 years were coded into five racial/ethnic groups, including Hispanics and four non-Hispanic groups: blacks, whites, American Indians, and other race. Following measurement conventions, ten dichotomous indicators of child maltreatment and household dysfunction were used to create a composite ACE score. Five other potential childhood adversities were also assessed: food insecurity, homelessness, prolonged parental absence, peer victimization, and violent crime victimization.

Results
Results from bivariate and multivariate analyses revealed that, while rates of adversity were high overall, there were significant racial/ethnic differences. Total ACE scores of American Indians were comparable to the ACE scores of non-Hispanic whites, which were significantly higher than the ACE scores of non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics. Whites were more likely than blacks to report any abuse or neglect, and they were more likely than blacks and Hispanics to report any household dysfunction.

Conclusion
The results underscore the need to account for socioeconomic differences when making racial/ethnic comparisons. Potential explanations for the observed differences are examined.

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