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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-22412: Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 28 March 2019

To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-22153 by John Swinney on 23 March 2019, whether it plans to record the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences.

Answered by: John Swinney 17 April 2019

The term adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) was originally developed in the US in the 1990s in a survey of childhood adversity, current health status and behaviours. This question set has been adapted for use in many subsequent surveys across different countries to establish the prevalence of ACEs. Such ACE prevalence studies have been undertaken with adult populations to retrospectively ask them about experiences that occurred between 0 to 18 years, usually focusing on 10 commonly measured adversities, including: being the victim of abuse (physical, sexual and/or emotional) or neglect (physical and emotional), having separated parents, and growing-up in a household in which there are adults experiencing alcohol and drug use problems, mental health conditions, domestic violence or imprisonment.

In line with such ACE prevalence studies in other countries, the Scottish Government has incorporated questions about these adversities into the 2019 Scottish Health Survey undertaken with adults. The survey findings will establish the prevalence of ACEs amongst the Scottish adult population and the links with health outcomes and behaviours.

As well as these ten commonly measured ACEs, there are a range of other types of childhood adversity that can also negatively impact on children’s healthy development. These include bereavement, bullying, poverty, community adversities (e.g. area deprivation, neighbourhood violence) and other adversities. The Scottish Government is committed to addressing all types of childhood adversity, and this is anchored in our long-standing, national approach of Getting it right for every child.

In terms of understanding the prevalence of ACEs in the current population of children and young people, information is available from the Growing up in Scotland (GUS) study. GUS tracks the lives of 2 cohorts of approximately 10,000 children from across Scotland and collects information on a range of adversities, including: parental separation, childhood bereavement, maternal health problems, mental disorder in the family, domestic violence and parental imprisonment. This information from GUS will also be complemented by the new Health and Wellbeing Census which will ask some questions about childhood adversities appropriate for the age and stage of the pupil. It is anticipated that the Census will be operational in 2020.