PCEs and Addiction

PCEs and Addiction

This entry was posted in Dual Diagnosis on by .

If you’re looking at addiction and what impacts a person’s chance of developing a substance abuse disorder, you need to look at both the negative and positive factors. Positive childhood experiences (PCEs) are those experiences that can help reduce the chance of addiction. When it comes to PCEs and addiction, it’s important to understand what can be classified as a positive experience and what role that plays in addiction.

As we explore PCEs and addiction and the relationship between the two, we’re also going to look at how addiction treatment programs, like those at Desert Cove Recovery, can help people battling an addiction.

What are PCEs?

PCEs or positive childhood experiences help to build a child’s feeling of belonging and give them a connection. PCEs are believed to predict positive outcomes in a child’s life regarding health and success at school.[1] They can also help to buffer the negative effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

PCEs and Addiction 1

A 2021 study by The National Center for Biotechnology Information found that PCEs are vital for excellent mental health in adulthood. PCEs can help moderate any negative experiences and help in a child’s development.

Research also indicates that for those with some exposure to ACES, those who reported 3-5 positive childhood experiences had 50% lower odds of depression or poor mental health compared to those with 0-2 positive childhood experiences.[2]

Examples of PCEs

When we’re talking about PCEs, there are many different examples of how these can enter a child’s life. Here are some examples of PCEs:

  • Feeling safe and protected by an adult at home
  • Believing that a family member stood by them during a difficult time
  • Feeling comfortable talking to a family member about feelings and feeling like they were accepted

PCEs and Addiction 2

Some children may have PCEs outside of the home as well. These can include:

  • Feeling supported by friends
  • Having a relationship with a non-parenting adult who takes interest in the child
  • Feeling a sense of belonging at school, church, sports, etc.

These experiences can help children trust others they’re scared or when life becomes uncertain. As children experience more of these, the better off they will be as they develop.

PCEs and Addiction: What’s the Connection?

It’s been documented that depression and anxiety can lead to substance abuse disorders. That’s why it’s important to look at the relationship between PCEs and depression. Studies have shown that the proactive promotion of PCEs for children may reduce the risk for adult depression and promote healthy relationships.[1] While more work in the area still needs to be done, it’s important to note this connection as we look at PCEs and addiction.

PCEs vs. ACEs

As we explore positive childhood experiences, it’s also important to look at adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and how the two compare when talking about addiction.

PCEs and Addiction 3

ACEs or adverse childhood experiences are stressful events that can disrupt a child’s neurodevelopment.[3] This can impact a child’s cognitive functioning and the ability to cope with negative or disruptive emotions, leading to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance use.

ACEs can include:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Verbal abuse
  3. Sexual abuse
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect
  6. Having a parent who is an alcoholic
  7. Having a family member in jail
  8. Having a family member diagnosed with a mental illness
  9. Experiencing the divorce of parents

One study found that the number of adverse childhood experiences was associated with both social-emotional deficits and developmental delay risks in early childhood. However, positive parenting practices show positive effects independent of the number of ACEs.[4] This is why PCEs are so important in a child’s life.

How to Promote PCEs

Promoting PCEs in a child’s life doesn’t have to be difficult. There are several steps you can take:[5]

Pay attention to your child when they’re talking to you. This means dropping the phone and giving him your full attention. Kids know when you’re not really focusing and will take that to mean that you’re not interested in what they’re saying.

Establish a routine. Routines provide structure for children and allow them to thrive. Establish a routine, and be sure to stick with it.

Praise your child. When they do something good, let them know about it. The more praise you give for good behavior, the more likely they will be to behave this way again.

Set aside time for your child. We all lead busy lives, but setting aside time for your child lets them know they are important and strengthens your bond. Try to set aside time each day to talk to your child, find out about their day, and talk about anything that may be bothering them.

PCEs and Addiction 4

Parents are often encouraged to seek help by talking to family and friends about promoting PCEs. Doctors can also help as well as community support groups. The more support there is, the greater the probability that a child will have more PCEs during their development.

Research has shown that the odds of being depressed or having poor mental health as an adult are more than 70% lower for people with higher levels of PCEs. This is why promoting PCEs at a young age can help prevent depression and other issues leading to substance abuse later in life.

Getting Help for Addiction at Desert Cove Recovery

At Desert Cove Recovery, we help people battle their substance abuse disorder. We incorporate various techniques to help each individual thrive during their treatment program. Our team recognizes that each person’s addiction is different. Therefore their treatment plan has to be different as well. We work with each person to determine which treatments work best.

Our treatment programs can include a combination of therapy sessions, a 12-step program, and a variety of holistic treatments. Call us today or contact us online to start your path to sobriety.



[1] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2749336

[2] https://positiveexperience.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/BRFShandout2-18.pdf

[3] https://mnprc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/aces-behavioral-health-problems.pdf

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30772146/

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/prevent-child-abuse/index.html