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A Matter Of Opinion

Jamie’s Sunday Column

I miss having Jamie Tobias Neely as a colleague here. But the now EWU journalism prof still graces our pages once a month.

In her Sunday column, she skillfully showed the link between early childhood trauma and adult chaos/illness/despair.

Researchers were studying obesity among employed middle-class Kaiser Permanente members. Running through a list of questions with a severely overweight woman, one of these researchers misspoke. Rather than “how old were you when you were first sexually active?” he asked, “How much did you weigh when you were first sexually active?”

Her answer: “Forty pounds.” Her father had raped her.

Researchers asked more questions. Before long, they realized that many of the subjects who lost weight only to quickly regain it had been sexually abused.

After that the research expanded to eight painful childhood experiences, such as having a father in prison or the mother treated violently. The study’s co-authors have come to realize these stories are far more common than most people would ever imagine.

They found that a traumatic childhood was related to higher rates of alcoholism and heart disease. A man with six of these experiences was 4,600 percent more likely to become an IV drug user than one with none.

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