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Original research
Factors associated with adverse childhood experiences in Scottish children: a prospective cohort study
  1. Louise Marryat,
  2. John Frank
  1. Farr Institute/Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Louise Marryat; louise.marryat{at}


Background and objectives Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been associated with a range of poorer health and social outcomes throughout the life course; however, to date they have primarily been conducted retrospectively in adulthood. This paper sets out to determine the prevalence of ACEs at age 8 in a recent prospective birth cohort and examine associations between risk factors in the first year and cumulative ACEs.

Design This study uses the Growing Up in Scotland Birth Cohort 1, in which children born in Scotland in 2004/5 were identified using Child Benefit Records and followed up for 7 years (n.3119). ACE scores and sample characteristics were calculated and described. Logistic regression models were fitted to explore associations between risk factors (sex, mother’s age and education, household income, area level deprivation and urban/rural indicator) and ACE scores.

Results Seven ACEs (or proxies) were assessed: physical abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, parental separation, parental incarceration and emotional neglect. Instances of sexual abuse were too few to be reported. Emotional abuse and physical neglect could not be gathered. Around two-thirds of children had experienced one or more ACE, with 10% experiencing three or more in their lifetime. Higher ACE scores were associated with being male, having a young mother, low income and urban areas.

Conclusions Using prospective data, the majority of children born in 2004/2005 in Scotland experienced at least one ACE by age 8, although three ACEs could not be assessed in this cohort. ACEs were highly correlated with socioeconomic disadvantage in the first year of life.

  • child abuse
  • epidemiology
  • child psychology

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  • Contributors LM designed the study, cleaned and analysed the data and drafted the final report. JF advised on study design and analyses. LM and JF both read and agreed the final manuscript and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Funding LM is supported by the Farr Institute at Scotland, which is supported by a 10-funder consortium: Arthritis Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute of Health Research, the National Institute for Social Care and Health Research (Welsh Assembly Government), the Chief Scientist Office (Scottish Government Health Directorates) (MRC Grant No. MR/K007017/1). LM sits within, and JF is supported by, the core grant to SCPHRP from the MRC, with half that support from the Scottish Chief Scientist Office (MR/K023209/1).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All data are available through the UK Data Archive.

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