Understanding the Impact of Violence Against Children: The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study

What is the ACE Study?

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of the link between childhood maltreatment and health and well-being later in life. Using data from 17,000 participants, the study which was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente, demonstrates that trauma and adverse experiences during childhood are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death in United States, as well as for poor quality of life.
 

What are the ACEs?

The study defines “adverse childhood experiences” as exposure to:

  • child abuse
  • neglect
  • domestic violence
  • household members abusing alcohol or drugs
  • other traumatic stressors

The ACE Study uses the ACE Score, which is a count of the total number of ACEs respondents reported. The ACE Score is used to measure the total amount of stress in childhood.
 

Major Findings

Almost two-thirds of the participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one in five reported three or more ACEs. The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems. As the number of ACEs increase, the risk for health problems later in life increase. The following healh problems have been linked to adverse childhood experiences:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Depression
  • Fetal death
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • Liver disease
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Adolescent pregnancy

 

The ACE Pyramid

Adverse experiences in childhood (ACES) disrupt normal child development, negatively impacting children’s social, emotional and cognitive development.

This leaves children vulnerable, causing many of them to adopt risky health and social behaviors such as drinking, overeating, smoking and sexual promiscuity as a means of coping with the traumas they have experienced.

These risky behaviors translate into poor health, disease, disability and early death.
 

Preventing Violence against Children

Our children are our future parents, workers, and leaders, and they need safe, stable, nurturing environments that foster their healthy growth and development. Adverse experiences in childhood disrupt normal child development, negatively impacting their brain architecture. Such impairment leaves children vulnerable and without a strong foundation for future growth. Many children and adolescents adopt risky health and social behaviors such as drinking, overeating, smoking and sexual promiscuity as a means of coping with the traumas they have experienced. Eventually, these risky behaviors translate into poor health, disease, disability and early death.

 

For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

The information in this article has been graciously provided by Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina

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