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Updated: Nov 29, 2021

The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and household challenges and later-life health and well-being.

The original ACE Study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection. Over 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California receiving physical exams completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors. The results were staggering, and the data collected has since helped shape community and health policies around the world. New efforts are emerging nationwide to advance policies and environments that help families raise healthy children and increase resilience.

So what are ACEs?

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years). For example:

  • experiencing violence or abuse

  • witnessing violence in the home or community

  • having a family member attempt or die by suicide

Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with:

  • substance misuse

  • mental health problems

  • instability due to parental separation, military deployment, or * household members being in jail or prison

ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education and job opportunities.

You can take this quick quiz to determine your ACES score:

How widespread is this problem?

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. Some children are at greater risk than others. Women and several racial/ethnic minority groups were at greater risk for having experienced 4 or more types of ACEs.

But here's the good news: even people with higher ACES score can lead productive and fulfilling lives - it all has to do with resiliency. Resilience can be fostered in children, and for adults, trauma informed therapy can be tremendously helpful. How do you stack up? If you're looking for support, please reach out to me or a qualified, licensed, trauma-informed therapist or counselor in your area.

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