ACE: Adverse Childhood Events

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I recently read the Family Resources Spring 2013 newsletter.  In their article, “The High Price of Trauma, ” they discuss the ACE Study (Adverse Childhood Events). This study suggests that the more traumatic events a child experiences, the more there are impacts on the child’s life and health. There is strong evidence that as the number of ACEs increase, so do illnesses as diverse as depression, alcoholism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ischemic heart disease, and liver disease. Also correlated are social ills such as higher crime rates, domestic abuse, unemployment, gang and criminal activity, and higher dropout rates. Divorce rates, incidence of smoking, suicide rates, number of adolescent and unintended pregnancies, fetal death numbers, and illicit drug use also rise. The ACE Study Web site outlines what constitutes emotional or physical abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente conducted their initial study from 1995 through 1997. They gathered information via questionnaires and health histories. The results of the study show solid evidence that physical and emotional trauma experienced during childhood rewires the brai, and changes how a person reacts to stressful events throughout their lifespan. A constant state of “flight or flight”creates chemical changes, which set a child up for destructive lifestyles and health problems later in life.

Greater awareness of this study’s results could spur changes in approaches and policies in healthcare, mental healthcare, and efforts to reduce crime and recidivism. Several organizations offer support and training towards these societal changes.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has formed the National Center for Trauma-Informed Care (NCTIC) to address the risks associated with childhood traumatic events. They encourage us to change our mindset from asking, “What’s wrong with you?,” to asking, “What has happened to you?” NCTIC provides training for staff, leaders, consumers, and others. Family Resources is leading the Quad-Cities in developing Trauma-Informed Care.

An additional resource addressing the fallout from Adverse Childhood Events is the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

On an individual basis, with greater awareness of possible causes of behavior, we can have a more compassionate approach in our relationships with ourselves, our loved ones, and those in our community.


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4 thoughts on “ACE: Adverse Childhood Events

  1. Frank Grijalva August 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm Reply

    Thanks for the thoughtful examination of the ACE study and the link to trauma informed care. Additionally I would like to add that even though the brain gets wired in ways that create reactivity and fear in those of us who watch the wiring develop into behavior, the plasticity of the brain allows for rewiring yet again. Much of the work involved in a trauma informed response to a child struggling with multiple ACES and compromised resources is focused on early and less costly interventions as well as greater fiscal and emotional savings to the community.

  2. thereseguise August 31, 2013 at 11:38 pm Reply

    Thank you, Frank, for the hopeful note. I know EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), for example, can be a really helpful modality in helping with the “rewiring” process. . It’s great that resources are focusing on early interventions.

  3. thereseguise September 15, 2013 at 10:39 pm Reply

    Additional information can be found on the Family Resources website, under the Advocacy tab, located through Trauma Informed Care in the drop-down menu:
    On the right-hand side of the page are video links providing more information on TIC.

  4. thereseguise September 28, 2013 at 10:35 pm Reply

    A friend just sent me this book recommendation. The description mentions the author’s epiphany when she discovered information about the ACE Study. It’s now on my Amazon Wish List:

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