Adverse Childhood Effects (ACEs)
A landmark study, conducted between 1995 and 1997 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente on adverse childhood trauma revealed that there was a strong correlation between a child’s exposure to traumatic experiences and their likelihood of developing certain diseases in adulthood. The study specified 10 categories of stressful or traumatic childhood events, including abuse, parental incarceration, and divorce or parental separation.
ACEs are common. About 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs.
Its research showed that sustained stress caused biochemical changes in the brain and body and drastically increased the risk of developing health problems and mental illness. ACEs have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity.
ACEs can have lasting, negative effects on health, well-being, and opportunity. These experiences can increase the risks of injury, sexually transmitted infections, maternal and child health problems, teen pregnancy, involvement in sex trafficking, and a wide range of chronic diseases and leading causes of death such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and suicide. ACEs and associated conditions, such as living in under-resourced or racially segregated neighborhoods, frequently moving, and experiencing food insecurity, can cause toxic stress (extended or prolonged stress). Ultimately, ACEs can lead to an early death.
Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect such things as attention, decision-making, learning, and response to stress. Children growing up with toxic stress may have difficulty forming healthy and stable relationships. They may also have unstable work histories as adults and struggle with finances, jobs, and depression throughout life. These effects can also be passed on to their own children. Some children may face further exposure to toxic stress from historical and ongoing traumas due to systemic racism or the impacts of poverty resulting from limited educational and economic opportunities.
To learn more about ACEs and to take the quiz yourself, click here.