What's the evidence?

More than half of all Australian children have been exposed to two or more adversities by the age of 11 years (O'Connor et al., 2020), with adversity clustering in children from low socioeconomic backgrounds and minority ethnic and linguistic groups (O'Connor et al., 2020).

Family adversity has well-established negative impacts on mental health, increasing the risk of anxiety, internalising disorders, depression, and suicidality in childhood and across the life course (McLaughlin 2016, Jorm et al. 2017, Jorm 2014, Sahle et al. 2021).

Children who experience adversities as they grow are six to ten times more likely to develop mental health problems later in life (Sahle et al 2020).

Identification and responding to family adversity through universal health services represents a critical opportunity to promote good child and family mental health and wellbeing (Hiscock, 2018).

The Centre for Research Excellence in Childhood Adversity and Mental Health is undertaking a range of research, developing models of care, and evaluating these models to best support Australian families experiencing adversity. The following pages provide evidence-based strategies on how to act in your local community, by:

  • Co-designing and implementing Child and Family Hubs, or
  • Implementing other evidence-based strategies suitable for the Australian context.



There is some evidence that screening for adversities improves their identification, however, there is limited evidence that screening may improve connection to community-based services and uptake of these services.

There were no reported measures of mental health outcomes after screening for children or parents, therefore, there is no clear evidence that screening for adversities improves any of our outcomes of interest.

See recent systematic review on screening from our PhD student – Dr Sarah Loveday. Download PDF of research snapshot here.


An umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses was undertaken. This aimed to identify the key ACEs that are consistently associated with increased risk of mental disorders and suicidality.  

Findings demonstrate that ACEs, including the commonest types such as childhood maltreatment (sexual, physical, or emotional abuse), maladaptive parenting, and bullying, are associated with a two-fold increase in the risk of common mental disorders or suicidality in later life (Sahle et al. 2021). Read more...

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