Traumatic Childhood Experiences Linked to Adult Addictions, Mental Illness and Crime - Part 2

Written by Melanie G. Snyder on Saturday - March 01, 2014.

As mentioned in the previous article on trauma, ACEs and links to crime, addiction, and mental illness, various studies have found that early psychological trauma may actually cause lasting changes in the brain that are connected with addictions, mental illness and aggressive or violent behavior later in life.

What do these changes in the brain actually look like? The Family Policy Council of Washington State created a presentation on "The High Cost of Adverse Childhood Experiences." Here are a few of the slides from that presentation that explain the changes in the chemical and physical development of the brain ("Biological Effects of Abuse & Neglect") that occur with various traumatic experiences during childhood...

 The key variables in how early childhood adversity may affect brain development are shown in this slide:

WashFPC Key variables in brain outcomes

Because different regions of a child's brain are developing at different points in a child's overall development, the age at which any adverse childhood experiences may occur can have a profound impact on whatever parts of the brain are developing at that time. Here is a chart summarizing key times of vulnerability to various kinds of maltreatment: 

WashFPC Brain effects by critical periods

And here are charts showing specific impacts of various types of adversities or maltreatment on specific regions of the brain: 

• effects on the Hippocampus


• effects on the Corpus Callosum

• effects on the Superior Temporal Gyrus

• effects on the Cerebellar Vermis

• effects on the Cortex

(the full "The High Cost of Adverse Childhood Experiences." presentation is published on the Family Policy Council website at: 


About the Author

Melanie G. Snyder

Melanie G. Snyder

Melanie G. Snyder serves as the Executive Director of the Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization (RMO). She was a featured TEDx speaker at the first-ever TEDx event in Lancaster. 

She is an NIC-certified Offender Workforce Development Specialist, a certified Global Career Development Facilitator, and a certified instructor for the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Healing Communities model. She is also a trained restorative justice mediator.

Prior to Melanie's involvement with the RMO, she spent several years researching and writing the book Grace Goes to Prison: An Inspiring Story of Hope and Humanity (Brethren Press, 2009), which tells the true story of a woman who volunteered in Pennsylvania's state prisons for over 30 years, creating inmate education and reentry programs based on principles of restorative justice. After Grace Goes to Prison was published, Melanie traveled throughout the United States, doing speaking engagements and meeting with other reentry and restorative justice professionals to discuss criminal justice issues and exchange information and ideas.