Home > Service needs of young people affected by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs): a systematic review of UK qualitative evidence.

Lester, Sarah and Khatwa, Meena and Sutcliffe, Katy (2020) Service needs of young people affected by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs): a systematic review of UK qualitative evidence. Children and Youth Services Review, 118, 105429. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105429.

External website: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC74678...

Background: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, or living in a household with domestic violence or substance misuse, can have negative impacts on mental and physical health across the lifecourse. A deeper understanding of the kinds of services that people affected by ACEs feel they need to overcome these negative impacts is required.

Review question: How do people affected by ACEs between the ages of 3 to 18 experience support and services in the UK? What are their needs relating to services and support?

Methods: Systematic review of qualitative evidence. We harvested relevant studies from existing systematic reviews of qualitative evidence located through a search of 18 databases. Included studies needed to be published in or after 2008, conducted in the UK, and report the views of people exposed to ACEs relating to their service needs. We included studies with participants who were affected by ACEs between 3 and 18 years old with no restriction on the age at which they accessed services.

Results: We identified 71 reviews from which we harvested 238 references on title and abstract screening. Following full text screening and quality and relevance appraisal we included 20 studies. Each of the included studies focussed on a specific ACE population. Almost half focused on young people who were fostered, looked-after or leaving care. No studies focussed on parental incarceration or divorce. Young people value emotional and practical support. Service providers were most valued for displaying empathy, being non-judgemental, and being active listeners. Supportive relationships, especially with adults, are a key factor in feeling understood.

Conclusions: People affected by ACEs describe the importance of stability and continuity in the support they receive. These factors are important for allowing necessary time to overcome obstacles and build up trust. Research often frames response to ACE in terms of short term individual psychological outcomes but these findings highlight the importance of focussing on wider social factors to encourage meaningful engagement with services.

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