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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

What are ACEs?

ACEs are defined as traumatic experiences that occur in childhood and the teenage years that may put children at risk for violence, chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance abuse in adulthood.

ACEs may include:

  • Experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
  • Witnessing violence in the home or community
  • Having a family member attempt or die by suicide

The child’s environment may also play a role if their sense of safety, stability, and bonding is impacted. Examples may include growing up in a household with:

  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health problems
  • Instability due to parental separation
  • Instability due to incarceration of a parent, sibling, or other member of the household

ACEs are common and the effects can add up over time.

  • 61% of adults had at least one ACE and 16% had 4 or more types of ACEs.
  • Females and several racial/ethnic minority groups were at greater risk for experiencing 4 or more ACEs.
  • Many people do not realize that exposure to ACEs is associated with increased risk for health problems across the lifespan.

Preventing ACEs can help children and adults thrive and potentially:

  • Lower risk for conditions like depression, asthma, cancer, and diabetes in adulthood.
  • Reduce risky behaviors like smoking, and heavy drinking.
  • Improve education and job potential.

Raising Awareness of ACEs

A step in helping young people at risk for ACEs is educating our communities, youth-serving and faith-based organizations, coaches, and caregivers to gain a better understanding of these experiences.

How to Help Prevent ACEs

It is important to know that ACEs are preventable. There are several strategies that involve people from all sectors of society that can prevent ACEs from happening and lessen the harmful effects of ACEs that have already occurred.

The harmful effects of ACEs can affect everyone in our communities, and everyone can be helpful in preventing them.

Preventing ACEs from occurring and taking quick action when an ACE happens, can help all children reach their full potential.