What's missing from the ACEs framework



The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) framework has long contributed to advances in developmental sciences by showing how the accumulation of adverse childhood environmental exposures can change the course of children’s life trajectories.


Today, we’re excited to share an important conceptual article by our colleague Dr. R. Gabriela Barajas-Gonzalez that calls out a critical dimension missing from the ACEs framework, which has historically focused on adversities originating at home: that is, the role of pervasive, systematic oppression for specific racialized groups. This article is published in the August issue of Social Science and Medicine.


Specifically, in the case of Latinx children of immigrant parents, racialized immigration policy and enforcement practices — taking forms such as family marginalization, Immigrant and Custom Enforcement (ICE) raids, direct experience of detention and deportation, threat of detention and deportation, and more — produces chronic uncertainty about family safety and preservation. An ACEs framework missing this perspective means that clinicians and researchers fail to see how restrictive immigration policies enact psychological violence on children.


An ACEs framework missing this perspective means that clinicians and researchers fail to see how restrictive immigration policies enact psychological violence on children.

Latinx children are far from the only ethnic/racial group affected by restrictive immigration policy, but — as Barajas-Gonzalez and her co-authors explain — their parents are most represented in the U.S. population targeted by such policy. This article thus draws on the literature on Latinx families, and proposes a framework specific to Latinx children of immigrant families. The authors’ new, expanded ACEs framework adds distinct, related and often co-occurring immigration-related events alongside common ACEs, bolstered by a practical discussion of screening and assessing ACEs in clinical and research settings.


Congrats to our colleague, who also plays a critical role in longitudinal studies on the impact of ParentCorps, for this contribution.


Read the full article: “An ecological expansion of the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) framework to include threat and deprivation associated with U.S. immigration policies and enforcement practices: An examination of the Latinx immigrant experience” in Social Science and Medicine, by R. Gabriela Barajas-Gonzalez, Cecilia Ayón, Kalina Brabeck, Lisseth Rojas-Flores, and Carmen R. Valdez.


Shanika Gunaratna is a Senior Program Coordinator at ParentCorps.