Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur in a child’s life. Examples of ACEs include abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, bullying, discrimination and homelessness. There is a relationship between traumatic experiences as a child and negative health and well-being outcomes as an adult. The childhood experience of, or exposure to, ACEs can increase the adult risk of substance use and abuse, depression, unintended pregnancies, obesity, heart disease and missed work days. For children, recurrent experience of or exposure to ACEs can also significantly impact the brain development.

The ground-breaking Adverse Childhood Experiences Study originally linked childhood trauma to adult health and social outcomes. The ACE Study is an ongoing collaborative research between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia and Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, California. Under the leadership of Drs. Robert Anda and Vincent Felitti, more than 17,000 Kaiser patients volunteered to participate and data continues to be collected an analyzed.

  1. Reduces the ability to respond, learn, or figure things out, which can result in problems in school.
  2. Increases difficulty in making friends and maintaining relationships.
  3. Increases stress hormones which affects the body’s ability to fight infection.
  4. Lowers tolerance for stress, which can result in behaviors such as fighting, checking out or defiance.
  5. Increases problems with learning and memory, which can be permanent.

ACEs: Origins and Essence of the Study

This article provides an overview of the first adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) study conducted Dr. Vincent Felitti at Kaiser Permanente and Dr. Robert Anda at the Centers for Disease Control. The study included over 17,000 patients and uncovered two major findings. The first major finding was that ACEs were common. About two-thirds of the study participants had at least one ACE. The second major finding was that ACEs occurred in clusters. Study participants who reported at least on ACE were also likely to multiple ACEs. Download the PDF.

Understanding ACEs
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Truth about ACEs Infographic
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