Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

In recent years, we have learned a great deal about the importance of childhood experiences to lifelong well-being. Early experiences have a broader and more profound impact than most of us would ever guess. Everyday interactions and experiences in infancy and childhood greatly influence the architecture of our developing brains and our subsequent emotional, cognitive, social and neurobiological functioning. In short, these early experiences affect the way we view ourselves and our world, the way we learn, how we cope with life's stressors, and how we form relationships throughout our lives. Positive experiences in childhood often lead to healthy and productive adulthood. Unfortunately, negative experiences, also called Adverse Childhood Experiences, can lead to poorer mental health, physical health, and socioeconomic status in adulthood.  

Adverse Childhood Experiences, otherwise known as ACEs, were first identified in 1995 in a study conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). It is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. The study is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente's Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego. More than 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) members undergoing a comprehensive physical examination chose to provide detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. To date, more than 50 scientific articles have been published and hundreds of conference and workshop presentations have been made.

The study looked at childhood maltreatment and family dysfunction (i.e. trauma) and the impact it had on an individual’s emotional, social and physical health. The findings of the ACEs study transformed our understanding of the impact trauma has on a child’s well-being later in life.  

The ACEs study utilized 11 trauma-related experiences to determine an individual's ACEs score.  An individual would receive one point, to a maximum of 11, if he/she experienced one of these identified traumas, no matter the severity. These 11 traumas/adverse childhood experiences included but were not limited to child abuse and neglect, exposure to domestic violence, or a household member abusing alcohol or drugs. Findings of the study suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. The more trauma a child experiences, the higher their risk of experiencing one or more of the many behavioral, social and physical ills we are trying to prevent today.  

Learn more about ACEs at www.cdc.gov/ace, www.acestudy.org and www.acestoohigh.com.

Read more about how Alaska Children’s Trust (ACT) is addressing ACEs through a collaborative effort called the Alaska Resilience Initiative.

See who is doing great work in Alaska focused on resilience and ACEs - Mapping of Current ACEs Work in Alaska