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Adverse childhood experiences and health risk behaviours among adolescents and young adults: evidence from India.

BMC Public Health 2023 March 22
BACKGROUND: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic and stressful events that occur in childhood. These experiences at home, school, or in the community may damage the cognitive health and emotional skills of children and adolescents.

OBJECTIVE: The present study examines the association between Adverse childhood experiences and risky health behaviour indicators while controlling other background characteristics among boys and girls. This study also assesses outcomes in the aggregate to estimate the impact of cumulative adversity on various risky health behavioural factors among boys and girls among adolescents and young adults (age group 13-23) in India.

DATA AND METHODS: Data were drawn from the second wave of the "Understanding the lives of adolescents and young adults (2018-2019)" survey. Bivariate and logistic regression analysis were conducted to fulfill the objective.

RESULTS: The findings show that nearly 30% of boys and 10% of girls had violent behaviour. Substance use prevalence was much higher among boys (34.11%) than girls (6.65%). More boys had negative gender attitudes. The majority of the study participants had multiple ACEs. Boys who experienced more than three or more childhood adversity had two times higher odds (OR: 2.04; CI: 1.01-4.16) of the early sexual debut, while the same figure for girls was thirteen times (OR: 13.13; CI: 3.95-43.69) than their male counterparts.

CONCLUSION: The study findings underlined the need for implementing outcome-oriented approaches to adolescents' health care and behavioural risks. Therefore, identifying and intervening with adolescents and young adults who are at the highest risk of engaging in risky behaviors early in life may reduce the risk of these behaviors persisting into adulthood. In order to avoid health risk behavior in later stages among adolescents and young adults, policymakers need to focus on ACEs as risk factors and take action to reduce this burden. A potential model could be to create awareness among family members, caregivers, and communities to be more empathetic toward the children.

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