Adverse Childhood Experiences and Child Development Outcomes in Ceará, Brazil: A Population-based Study

Published:November 04, 2020DOI:


      More than 200 million children fail to reach their full developmental potential in low- and middle-income countries. Adverse childhood experiences, maternal mental health, and intimate partner violence are negatively associated with child development outcomes. The relationship of these risk factors with child communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem-solving, and personal–social development scores in Brazil are assessed.


      A population-based, cross-sectional study of preschool children living in the state of Ceará, Brazil, in 2017 was conducted. Child development was assessed with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire. Adverse childhood experiences for children were self-reported by the participants’ mothers using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Adverse Childhood Experiences Study‒adapted metric. Maternal mental health and intimate partner violence were evaluated using validated questionnaires. Sample-adjusted multivariable generalized linear models with interaction terms were used to determine the association of intimate partner violence, maternal mental health, and adverse childhood experiences with developmental outcomes and identify possible moderators. Data were analyzed between 2019 and 2020.


      Children exposed to ≥3 adverse childhood experiences had −0.12 (95% CI= −0.24, 0) lower communication, −0.25 (95% CI= −0.46, −0.03) lower gross motor, −0.27 (95% CI= −0.47, −0.07) lower fine motor, and −0.17 (95% CI= −0.3, −0.03) lower personal–social domain scores than children with no adverse childhood experiences. Furthermore, the greater number of adverse childhood experiences was linearly associated with lower developmental scores. Maternal mental health and intimate partner violence were also associated with lower development scores.


      Adverse childhood experiences were independently associated with developmental outcomes in Brazilian children. Community-based interventions to reduce the impact of adverse childhood experiences, intimate partner violence, and maternal mental health may benefits child development outcomes.
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