Category Archives: trauma

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:

  • Recurrent physical abuse
  • Recurrent emotional abuse
  • Contact sexual abuse
  • Alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
  • An incarcerated household member
  • Someone in the household who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized or suicidal
  • Mother is treated violently
  • Parents are separated or divorced
  • Emotional neglect
  • Physical neglect
The Truth About ACEs - Robt. Wood Johnson Foundation

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

ACE Pyramid – CDC

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

Find out your ACE score here:

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:

  • The ACE Study
    The original (1998) study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
  • ACES Too High
    Great site for background, news and information about the ACE study, including
    developmental neurobiology — how severe stress and trauma affect a child’s developing brain and nervous system, and epigenetics — how our genes turn off and on in response to our experiences and social environment.

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

Dancing Past Trauma: One Billion Rising

Pat Shelly

Dancing through Trauma: 1 Billion Rising

Blog 1billionrisingLOGOfirst

Here is the math:

There are 7  billion people on this planet.

Half are women and girls – around 3.5 billion people.

One  out of three females will experience a sexual assault in her lifetime.

3.5 billion divided by 3 = 1.6666 billion.

How  does a society address the reality of 1/3 of its members undergoing this trauma?

Here is one way:

On Friday, February 14, 2014, women around the world will be dancing in the streets.

What’s the celebration? It is the expression of a different kind of love on this Valentine’s Day, a love of our/women’s endurance and survival and capacity for joy in the face of the global epidemic of gender-based violence.

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Essential Trauma Resources from the UB School of Social Work

Pat Shelly

To start off this brand-new SocialWorkSynergy blog and provide you with an invaluable resource, this first post will provide you with access to the UB School of Social Work’s rich collection of resources on trauma.

These essential trauma tools include :

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Welcome to the SocialWorkSynergy Blog!

BLOG ImageCroppedTransform

SocialWorkSynergy (SWS) is a biweekly blog from the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, created to be a forum of information and discussion for you on trauma, human rights, trauma-informed care and practice, and related topics.

To provide you with as wide a range of experiences and stories as possible, guest authors and interviews with professionals will be included.

Lastly, if you would like to either be a guest author or interviewee, please contact us at


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