ACEs in Early Childhood
We know what ACEs are, we know what causes them, and we know some of the potential risks that go along with them. Let’s begin looking at ACEs and the effects at different developmental levels beginning at conception. Brain development begins in the womb as do other systems in the human body. While the brain isn’t fully developed until far after birth there are developmental factors to consider before a baby is even born.
Between the moment when conception occurs and the age of three the human brains undergoes amazing development and change. Neurons and synapses are developing new pathways in the brain and are transferring information at a constant rate. Some of this information is positive and builds brain structure while some is negative and can be harmful.
At birth the human brain has all of the neurons that it will ever have and begins rapidly developing synapses. What happens next, however, depends upon the circumstances that this child is born into. In the first three years of life brain synapses develop extremely rapidly when the child exists with optimum conditions. There will be more brain synapses in early childhood than in adulthood. This stage of development is when brains are most active and impressionable as well as fragile.
Why does the human brain develop such a surplus of synapses from birth to age three? It is due to a combination of nature and nurture. During childhood and later, the synapses will be thinned out making room for more important brain activity, but the initial synapses are determined by genetics. This is the “nature” of initial brain development.