This report estimates the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on children born to teen mothers in New Zealand, and the extent to which these factors are correlated with school readiness outcomes. ACEs are experienced by
both the child and mother and include exposure to maltreatment, witnessing violence, living with household members with mental illness, those who abuse substances, have a history of incarceration, or have experienced parental divorce.
In this study, we calculate adjusted associations between ACEs and school readiness indicators using linear regression analysis that controls for family income, neighbourhood deprivation at time of pregnancy, maternal education, child’s ethnicity, and maternal cohabiting status at birth.
Much of the methodology in the present paper is a replication of the approach taken in previous research using Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) participants (Walsh et al., 2019). We, therefore, provide a brief sketch of the method and refer the reader to the earlier paper to supplement what is presented here.
Data and design
The dataset that we use consists of 5,562 mother2-child combinations (also known as ‘dyads’) born in the Auckland and Waikato region who were recruited to the GUiNZ study before the birth of the child and completed the 54-month
wave of the survey. Ethics for the GUiNZ study was approved by the Health and Disability North Y Committee (NTY 08/06/055). The exposure variable we are interested in is the count and type of ACEs that the child experienced in the first 54 months. Appendix 1 shows the mapping between ACEs and the survey responses. All standard ACEs except sexual abuse were able to be mapped. One important difference between the methodology used in Walsh et al. (2019) and the present paper is that we gather all ACE exposure from the surveys of mothers only, and do not use information from partners to ascertain ACEs. We split the study sample by age of the mother at the birth of the child (less than 18, 18-19, 20-21 and more than 21) and calculate the rates and count of ACE exposure over the first 54 months.
School readiness outcomes
The outcomes of interest are seven school readiness measures as observed at the 54-month survey (see Appendix 2). Restricting attention to the 301 teen mothers (less than 20 years), we calculate the crude and adjusted association between each of the school readiness measures and the count and type of ACEs. The following specific ACE outcomes could not be analysed because of low count: alcohol abuse, maternal jail, and domestic partner violence. For comparison, we also calculate the crude and adjusted associations between each of the school readiness measures and the count and type of ACEs for the entire cohort. We calculate adjusted associations using linear regression analysis with controls for family income, neighbourhood deprivation at time of pregnancy, maternal education, child’s ethnicity, and maternal cohabiting status at birth. We also use a predictive modelling approach to identify which children should be enrolled into preventive services to reduce the risk of ACEs. All analyses were completed using STATA version 15.0, and standardised coefficients were computed with the listcoef command.
- ACEs are more commonly experienced by children of teen mothers than by children of non-teen mothers, for example: 42.9% of children born to teen mothers had experienced two or more ACEs at age 54 months compared to 16.4% of children born to non-teen mothers.
- Although it proved difficult to establish statistical significance in some cases, a consistent finding of a negative relationship between an increasing number of ACEs and a child’s school readiness was observed.
- Poorer performance on school readiness tests at all levels of ACEs exposure however suggests the path to poor school outcomes for children of teen mothers is not purely via ACEs exposure, and that children born to teen mothers might benefit from support to improve school readiness, even if their observed ACE scores are low.