Background: Children are not always recognized as being susceptible to stress, although childhood stressors may originate from multiple events in their everyday surroundings with negative effects on children’s health. Methods: As there is a lack of large-scale, European prevalence data on childhood adversities, this study presents the prevalence of (1) negative life events and (2) familial and social adversities in 4637 European pre- and primary-school children (4–11 years old), using a parentally-reported questionnaire embedded in the IDEFICS project (‘Identification and prevention of Dietary- and lifestyle-induced health EFfects In Children and infantS’). Results: The following findings were observed: (1) Certain adversities occur only rarely, while others are very regular (i.e. parental divorce); (2) A large percentage of children is shielded from stressors, while a small group of children is exposed to multiple, accumulating adversities; (3) The prevalence of childhood adversity is influenced by geographical location (e.g. north versus south), age group and sex; (4) Childhood adversities are associated and co-occur, resulting in potential cumulative childhood stress. Conclusions: This study demonstrated the importance of not only studying traumatic events but also of focusing on the early familial and social environment in childhood stress research and indicated the importance of recording or monitoring childhood adversities.
Archives of Public Health, 2012, Vol 70, Issue 26
Child; Life Events; Adversity; Prevalence; Stress; Epidemiology