Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

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Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) is a questionnaire designed in the 1990s by Kaiser Permanente Hospital System and the CDC. The questionnaire asks to rate the frequency that someone may have experienced different components of neglect and abuse. The purpose of ACEs is to predict the level of risk that adults have for chronic issues later in life. That is, the higher one scores, the more likely they are to experience chronic illness, suicidality. mental health and substance/behavioral addictions later in life. You can get your ACE score by taking our quiz here.

ACEs does not solely predict the outcomes because there are several resiliency factors that can to some degree negate the negative impacts of toxic stress from childhood abuse and neglect. The traumatic piece of abuse and neglect is not always what happened to the child but instead to what degree the child dealt with these things alone. This is why the number one resiliency factor for adverse childhood experiences is whether or not the child had at least one caretaker whom the child could confide in and trust. This could be a family member, coach, pastor, teacher or anyone who the child has consistent exposure too.  Extending out from important individuals, resiliency can also be found in connection to both healthy community and culture. Lastly, resiliency can be cultivated through physical fitness/exercise, sports teams and spiritual beliefs.

It is important to remember that ACEs does not have predictive ability but instead is highly correlational. That is the higher the score, the more likely the negative consequences.  Many people will have experienced one or two ACES. However a score of 3 or more begins to substantially increase probability of later health concerns later in life. For adults who are reading this some years into adulthood, and who have struggles, perhaps use ACEs as validation and confirmation that you came from a difficult and often lonely path and not the result of some character deficit. Th next step for you might be to begin your own recovery process whether that starts with therapy or reading a book—everyone is unique and different when it comes to addressing these issues.  If you are a young person reading this or know a child who is in a bad situation recognize that NOW is the time to begin moving toward developing those resiliency factors.

Again, this is just one tool of many, it just happens to be a very reliable and highly validated too. If you have questions or feel like you need help feel free to reach out.