In 1995 the CDC and Kaiser Permanente began a study looking at the impact that Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) have on people later in life. ACEs are serious, impactful, often traumatic events that kids experience early in life. ACEs include things done directly to a child such as emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect; and things that may have occurred in the household like domestic violence, someone in the house with substance use or mental health issues, parental separation or divorce. Over 17,000 people participated in the study; they were mostly white middle-class educated people. The researchers found that two thirds of the people had experienced at least one ACE; and more than one in five people had experienced three or more ACEs. The participants’ medical data was followed to see how ACEs impacted their health later in life. They found that those with ACEs had an increased risk for things including: alcoholism, multiple sexual partners, drug use, depression, liver disease, financial stress, sexually transmitted diseases, suicide attempts, risk for intimate partner violence, poor academic achievement and more.
Are kids who have experienced ACEs such as parental divorce, difficult family circumstances or abuse histories destined for a life of hardship then? Experts say not necessarily. There are protective factors that can help cushion kids from negative outcomes. Protective factors are self-characteristics or positive influences in their lives that help them be more resilient. The more resilient a child is, the less the ACEs will impact him or her.
You might be thinking: what are some protective factors? One of the biggest ones is a safe, stable, loving relationship with an adult. Guess what stepmoms? That could be YOU. You may never take the place of bio mom (nor should you want to), you may never get top billing or credit for all of the love you have in your heart or the work that you do. But you could make a huge difference in the life of your stepchild. Sure, your name may never be lit up on a billboard, there may be no fireworks and no award. Rather, you may be the quiet presence in the background of the family. But your loving, stable, constant, positive, appropriate, faithful, hopeful actions could help your stepchild be resilient. And a resilient kid means less chance for those negative medical and social outcomes listed above.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather help a kid be healthy than get a trophy. How about you?
Today I am thankful for the opportunity to help others with the gifts that God gave us.
God talks about our gifts and the way we should serve others in Romans 12:8;10-13 (NIV): “if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully…Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
What are your gifts and what are you thankful for?
To read more about the ACE study: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html
To learn more about protective factors and resiliency read what the Minnesota Department of Health has to say here:
2 thoughts on “The Protective Stepmom”
Well written – I love this piece!
thanks so much, Jackie! i’m glad it spoke to you!