Below you can see a diagram that I call ‘The cycle of disadvantage.’ I’ve had this concept in my head for a long time because it’s something I’ve seen happen but I’ve never managed to put it down on paper before. Hopefully it is a good visual aid for you to see quite how much a childhood of trauma can affect a person’s whole life. Of course the impacts of childhood trauma are far more complex than the ones I have shown – there are biological effects too – but it will give you an idea.
In the UK we have whole teams dedicated to working with people who have experienced complex trauma (repeated and sustained trauma.) This is because the research shows just how much this can negatively influence someone’s life. One American study1 showed that adults who had experienced 6 or more types of trauma or household dysfunction (e.g. household member who was an addict, parent with mental illness, physical abuse, parent in prison, witnessing domestic violence) in their childhood lived on average 20 years less than adults who hadn’t! See the study’s diagram on the influences of childhood experiences below:
Sadly, we really see this being played out in Russia. The Russian federal statistics suggest that 9 out of 10 orphanage leavers will turn to drugs, alcohol, crime, prostitution or die by suicide or accidents by the age of 20.
This is why we know our work in Russia is so crucial – because any intervention at any part of the cycle can stop the domino effect from continuing. This could be as simple as supporting an orphan leaver to find a safe place to live, helping them to access a college course, giving them some life skills lessons on healthy boundaries in relationships or just having someone that supports and believes in their ability. We are so excited to have seen this happen as lives have been turned round through the practical and/or emotional and/or spiritual support provided by our Mentors. Our statistics show that 96% of young people involved in the Genesis project are now able to live independently! This is an amazing transformation and while we know there is still plenty of work to be done we are so thankful that we have had the opportunity to impact lives in this way.
Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults ‘American Journal of Preventive Medicine’. (1998). Vol. 14 pp 245–258.