Adverse Childhood Experiences movement

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The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) movement is defined as a traumatic experience that happens to someone before the age of 18 that the person remembers as an adult.[1] ACEs can involve sexual, psychological, or physical abuse.[2] ACEs has been linked to premature death as well as various health conditions and risks.[3] It has also been linked to childhood maltreatment, which is related to a number of neurological changes in the structure of the brain and its function and reaction to stress. The ACEs movement was the first large scale study to look at the relationship between ten categories of adversity in childhood and health outcomes in adulthood.[4] Psychologists, politicians, therapists, educators, and countless other professionals are working on the forefront of the ACEs movement, advocating for universal screening for ACEs while creating awareness of ACE and possible treatments for its residual effects.[5] ACE can happen from rejection or anything that causes the mind to be upset that can cause the mind to have a long-term affect.

Start of the ACEs movement[edit]

The ACEs movement arose out of the need for a bidirectional effort to create a public health change, with both individuals and institutions/ government systems. Change on the individual level is essential, because individual change is self-directed.[1] The institutions and government systems engagement is essential, because without the structure surrounding individuals changing, the very systems that are intended to help, can perpetuate the cycle of trauma.

Types of ACEs[edit]

ACEs are divided into three categories: abuse, household challenges, and neglect. Examples of ACEs include being exposed to abuse and neglect, violence in the family, mental illness, parental divorce or substance abuse. It is said to disrupt a child's development, leading to poor health outcomes and low life expectancy.[6]

The ACEs list was created in 1997 when a study was conducted to examine different childhood traumas. From 1995-1997, the CDC Kaiser ACE study involved more than 17,000 people sharing their stories about their unforgettable childhood trauma experiences. They used this study to make a list of ACEs to determine and examine how these traumatizing experiences can lead to health issues and stunt developmental growth.

ACEs Score[edit]

To determine what someone's ACEs score is, they must answer the 10 ACEs questions that have to be answered about events that occurred prior to their eighteenth birthday. From there, a score is determined.[7] The questions are:

1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?

4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?

5. Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?

6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?

7. Was your mother or stepmother: Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?

9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?

10. Did a household member go to prison?

Long Term Effects of ACEs[edit]

According to the Center for Youth Wellness website, "Exposure without a positive buffer, such as a nurturing parent or caregiver, can lead to a Toxic Stress Response in children, which can, in turn, lead to health problems like asthma, poor growth and frequent infections, as well as learning difficulties and behavioral issues. In the long term, exposure to ACEs can also lead to serious health conditions like heart disease, stroke, and cancer later in life."[8]

Additional Information[edit]

Sandra Bloom and Brian Farragher's book Destroying Sanctuary states in its introduction that 17th century philosophers like Descartes took apart the person and "turned over the body to physicians and the mind to philosophers and clergy," and in the ACEs movement society is now trying to bring them back together.[4]

ACE Nashville has repurposed the acronym, ACE to stand for All Children Excel and is trying to raise awareness about adverse childhood experiences in Nashville, Tennessee.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)". 2019-10-21. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
  2. ^ Felitti, V. J.; Anda, R. F.; Nordenberg, D.; Williamson, D. F.; Spitz, A. M.; Edwards, V.; Koss, M. P.; Marks, J. S. (May 1998). "Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study". American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 14 (4): 245–258. doi:10.1016/s0749-3797(98)00017-8. ISSN 0749-3797. PMID 9635069.
  3. ^ "About Adverse Childhood Experiences |Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC". 2019-10-22. Retrieved 2019-11-16.
  4. ^ a b Bloom, Sandra L.; Farragher, Brian (2010-10-28). Destroying Sanctuary: The Crisis in Human Service Delivery Systems. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199830848.
  5. ^ "Building a Movement". Center for Youth Wellness. Retrieved 2019-11-16.
  6. ^ a b "The Weight of Adverse Childhood Experiences". Nashville Scene. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  7. ^ Stevens, Jane (1 January 2017). "Got Your ACE, Resilience Scores?". Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  8. ^ "How ACEs Affect Health". Center for Youth Wellness. Retrieved 2019-11-13.

External links[edit]