Associations Between Adverse Childhood Experiences, Adolescent Screen Time and Physical Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Acad Pediatr. 2022 Nov-Dec;22(8):1294-1299. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2022.07.007. Epub 2022 Jul 16.


Objective: To determine the associations between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), adolescent screen time, and physical activity during the early COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Data (2016-2020) from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study were analyzed. Linear regression analyses estimated associations between ACE score and screen time and physical activity in May 2020, adjusting for potential confounders.

Results: Of the 6749 adolescent respondents primarily aged 12-13, 81.6% reported a history of one ACE or more. In adjusted models, a higher ACE score was significantly associated with greater hours per day of screen time, with youth with ≥4 ACEs associated with 2.3 more hours of screen time per day compared to youth with 0 ACEs. In addition, the adjusted models found that a higher ACE score was associated with lower physical activity; youth with ≥4 ACEs averaged 0.8 fewer hours per week of physical activity and 0.5 fewer days per week of 60 minutes of physical activity compared to youth with 0 ACEs. Gender and race were also significantly associated with changes in screen time and physical activity.

Conclusions: ACEs are associated with higher adolescent sedentary behaviors, particularly greater screen time, during the early COVID-19 pandemic (May 2020). Clinicians caring for youth exposed to trauma in the postpandemic environment should explore screen time and physical activity behaviors.

Keywords: Adverse Childhood Experiences; COVID-19; adolescence; physical activity; screen time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Screen Time