SocialWorkSynergy

ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Basics

by Pat Shelly

What Is the Adverse Childhood Experiences [ACEs] Study and What Is Its Significance? 

The ACEs Study [published in 1998] is important because it found links between childhood trauma and long-term health, behavior and social consequences among adults.

How Were These Links Discovered?

Per the below infographic, the authors – from Permanente Medical Group (Kaiser Permanente), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Emory University and the University of Arizona – asked adult patients about any exposure they had as a child to the following:

The Truth About ACEs –                     Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

A comparison to the participant’s adult health status was made, and strong links were found between high ACE scores (on a scale of 1 to 4+, having more than 2 or more adverse experiences) and impaired health/mental health.

In addition to the negative impact adverse childhood experiences are likely to have on a person, this graphic also shows the prevalence of ACEs and the three primary types of ACES: abuse, neglect and household dysfunction.

The ACE study has provided social workers and other clinicians with an invaluable tool to assess the types of trauma an individual had as a child. It is a way to begin to discuss, “What happened?” with a person. ACEs help establish a history that de-pathologizes the person and enhances a trauma-informed practice.

Below is a pyramid chart created by the CDC that illustrates the gaps that still exist in our knowledge of the full impact of ACE , emphasizing the need for ongoing research.

ACE Pyramid – CDC

Longitudinal studies of the ACE Study participants continue through Kaiser and the CDC.

Find out your ACE score here:

UB School of Social Work curricular module on ACEs

Illustration credits:

The Truth About ACEs Infographic – Robert Woods Johnson Foundation

ACE Pyramid: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ACE Study site
                 Here you will find the pyramid, plus CDC ACE studies and updates.

Additional resources:

How has the ACE Study affected your practice? Teaching? Please share with us your use of or views on ACE.