Emotional cutoff and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has studied the impact of traumatic childhood experiences on a child’s mental health and future prospects. The more ACEs a child experiences the greater the likelihood of future violence, victimisation and perpetration of abuse, and the poorer lifelong health and opportunity.

Going through parental separation is one of the most common ACEs worldwide e.g. in Wales it is the highest ACE with 25% of the adult population experiencing it as a child.

Children who are manipulated to emotionally cutoff from a normal range parent may experience at least 3 ACEs:

  • A biological parent was lost to them through divorce or separation.
  • They may live with someone who is depressed, mentally ill, or suicidal and
  • Emotional abuse.

These children will experience the loss of the parent they reject. The person manipulating the child to reject may have strong narcissistic traits or a personality disorder and may employ a number of emotionally abusive strategies. The child may be sworn at, insulted, put down or humiliated for wanting a relationship with their parent. They may be made to feel they will be physically hurt or abandoned by the manipulator or made to think the parent targeted for rejection will harm them/not look after them properly. The parent being targeted for rejection may become depressed or suicidal as they struggle with the emotional abuse by their ex, the hostility of their children and the ineffectiveness of a Family Court system that does not protect their child or them from this form of emotional abuse.

The more ACEs experienced as a child, the increased likelihood of developing damaging behaviours in adulthood such as drug addiction, teen pregnancy, contracting a sexually transmitted disease, being obese, alcohol dependency, smoking and being the victim of or perpetrating violent behaviour.

Our brain registers traumatic experiences and wants us to resolve it somehow. As adults we may find that we subconsciously put ourselves into situations where we get to re-live our childhood experiences in some way until we learn our lesson and modify our behaviour e.g. you may have a pattern of picking a partner that subconsciously reminds you of an abusive parent, that is until you recognise/are told this is what you’re doing and then learn to make healthier love choices.

N.B. Spanking for disciplinary purposes is not considered an ACE. This is because it is currently generally considered to be a normal range disciplinary practice in many countries. Again it depends on the severity of the spanking as to if it should be considered abuse e.g. did it leave a mark?, was it a rare occurrence?, Were other abusive behaviours present e.g. degrading the child? Assessment of abuse should only be performed by qualified experts.

Sources that were useful in pulling this information together: