Have you ever wondered why you remember some childhood memories vividly, and others not? Do you ponder about how you grew up into the person you are today? Does it happen to you that you seriously doubt your ability to get something done, despite your qualities and proof to the contrary? Do you ever get annoyed about how annoyed you can get? Are you sometimes struck by a sense of loneliness that seems to come out of nowhere? Do you often engage in negative self-talk?
These are among the types of questions that we, as ACE Aware NL, would like to see addressed more, both in science and society at large, because the processes linked to these questions often may turn out to have a link to childhood experiences. The way you experience the world as a child, the way you are treated, and the relationships you build with those closest to you, are a strong driver for how your worldviews and your behaviours manifest themselves. In several scientific disciplines, a large number of studies have tried to find out how these developmental processes work.
It so happens, however, that much of the literature and population-based research targeted at advancing our understanding of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is based on rather dry and numerical research. Questions such as ‘how present are they actually in the general population’, ‘how much do they impact the functioning of adults in the present’ and ‘what are the key insights that we can use to prevent them from happening’, are currently answered largely through quantitative-based surveys and scales. To illustrate, researchers have been correlating scores on an internationally accepted ACE scale or quiz (person X matches the criteria for N number of ACEs) with (longitudinal) measurements or observations for disorders, diseases or risk behavior at a later stage in adulthood.
We feel that this way of studying the importance of early life for human development in general, and ACEs in particular, is missing some more in-depth, personal, narrative insights. We feel that human life trajectories are too colourful, too multi-faceted and too unique to be summarized by checkboxes, pre-defined categories and descriptions researchers come up with, however applicable they may seem here and there. What we would love to learn about, is how you, yourself, would describe the link between your early years and your current self. We therefore invite you to make yourself a soothing drink, sit down at ease in a place where you feel comfy, and take a trip down the memory lane. What was your childhood like for you? How safe and secure did you feel? What barriers did it throw on your path? Who made a difference for you in overcoming the most difficult circumstances? Who was that one person that truly saw you for who you are?
Qualitative methods such as open-ended questionnaires, in-depth interviews and thematic conversations have a history of making these deeper layers more visible. As such, today we join international colleagues who encourage the inclusion of qualitative insights and the use of multiple methods to research this topic, by putting forward an online questionnaire entitled ‘From Childhood to Life Happiness’. The questionnaire is written in both Dutch and English and is meant for both lay persons and professionals. It includes both direct closed questions and exploratory open questions. We think it is short enough not to demand too much of your time, and thorough enough to give you the much needed space to provide a nuanced view of your personal experiences. We emphasise that the questionnaire is fully anonymous and hope that this will support you in writing openly about what was important then for your life now. The aim is to get the questionnaire circulating at a national level in the Netherlands, so that the results will be an honest reflection of as many different people and their insights into the link between their childhood and adulthood.
We look forward to your responses that will make a valuable contribution by giving a more personal insight and unexplored context to the scientific knowledge of how important our early years and our loving relationships truly are. Thank you very much in advance for your honest musings and your trust in our efforts to use them for the benefit of people’s journey ‘from childhood to life happiness’!