Introduction to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can have both immediate and long-lasting effects on a person’s health and well-being. Based on decades of research, it is now commonly accepted that ACEs and traumatic events during childhood impact an individual’s health across their lifetime.

ACEs are divided into three categories: abuse, household dysfunction, and neglect.


  • Emotional Abuse
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse

 Household Dysfunction

  • Substance Abuse
  • Mental Illness
  • Domestic Violence and/or Intimate Partner Violence
  • Incarceration of a family member or other relative
  • Divorce and/or Separation


  • Emotional
  • Physical

The long-term impact of ACEs includes cognitive, behavioral, emotional, medical, intellectual, academic and social problems. ACES are linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, and early death.

Screening: The ACEs screening is a ten-question survey. You can find a copy of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire in the Reference Library. 

Education & Awareness: Many professionals working with children at schools, treatment centers, and health facilities are now integrating ACEs education into their trainings. This is the foundation for trauma-informed care and creation of trauma-sensitive communities in school settings.

Don’t ask ‘What’s wrong with you?’
Ask, ‘What happened to you?’

Research shows that the adverse events we experience as a child can affect how our biological stress response functions, leading to long-term changes in our brains and bodies. As a result, health problems which emerge during childhood may result in new health problems during adulthood. Experiencing four or more ACEs is associated with significantly increased risk for 7 of the 10 leading causes of adult death including heart disease, stroke, cancer, COPD, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and suicide. (source:

Knowing your own ACE score is important both professionally and personally. In our experience, many people who enter the helping professions—including law enforcement—often have a higher ACE score. This may or may not be true for you, but it’s worth a look.

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