Reframing Childhood Adversity with Julie Sweetland

Season 4Episode 6April 14, 2022

What if the way we message about the problems of child abuse and childhood adversity makes it harder to solve them?

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a great time to talk about the way we message around child abuse and childhood adversities. The ways in which we’ve messaged about childhood adversity in the past may have served us very well, helping people come to terms with how important the topic is, the scope of the problem, and the lifelong impacts of it. But they may not be serving us very well now.

What if, in describing the problem as enormous and making that the centerpiece of our messaging, we’re making people think that the problem is intractable and they’re powerless as an individual person to make a change? Or, in focusing on the stories of individual families in order to gain empathy for them, what we really seem to be implying to the public is that there’s no room for public policy solutions, that this is a matter for each family to solve by themselves. We talked to Julie Sweetland, senior advisor at the FrameWorks Institute, about how to reframe childhood adversity.

Topics in this episode:

  • Origin story (2:21)
  • Common communication traps (6:15)
  • Threat of modernity (14:28)
  • Key recommendations (19:09)
  • Systemic racism (32:16)
  • Hope and resilience (35:45)
  • Collective responsibility (39:55)
  • Evidence-based communication (42:00)
  • For more information (43:52)


Julie Sweetland, Ph.D., is a sociolinguist and senior advisor at the FrameWorks Institute.

ACEs: adverse childhood experiences

Reframing Childhood Adversity: Promoting Upstream Approaches,” by Julie Sweetland, FrameWorks Institute (February 16, 2021); a presentation of the report is also available on the FrameWorks site

Harvard University Center on the Developing Child

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child

Prevent Child Abuse America

Social Current

CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Zero to Three

Ascend at the Aspen Institute

Building Better Childhoods

For more information about National Children’s Alliance and the work of Children’s Advocacy Centers, visit our website at And join us on Facebook at One in Ten podcast.

Transcript to come.