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How effects of childhood trauma last a lifetime

Center for Youth Wellness
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris with a young patient.

When we experience trauma as children — whether it’s the stress of an abusive parent, divorce, substance abuse, or the effects of poverty — do these traumatic events affect our lives even when we grow up?

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris says yes. She’s a pediatrician, and founder of the Center for Youth Wellness in Bayview Hunter’s Point.


She studies the effects of adverse childhood experiences or ACEs in adults. In the 1990s, the CDC and Kaiser Permanente authored a landmark study of more than 17,000 adult patients.


It proved that the more ACEs a person experienced as a kid, the worse their health as an adult. And not just behavioral health, but physical health.


Harris built on that research and found childhood stress changes our very brains and neural systems forever. She explains how in her new book, "The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity."



"Our kids were experiencing toxic doses of adversity that was actually inhibiting the ability of their prefrontal cortex."

Click on the audio player above to listen to the full story.





Hana Baba is host of Crosscurrents, KALW's weeknight newsmagazine that broadcasts on KALW Public Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area.