Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years).
experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
witnessing violence in the home or community
having a family member attempt or die by suicide
Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding, such as growing up in a household with:
substance use problems
mental health problems
instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison
ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education, job opportunities, and earning potential. However, ACEs can be prevented.
Please note the examples above are not meant to be a complete list of adverse experiences. There are many other traumatic experiences that could impact health and wellbeing.
How big is the problem?
ACEs are common. About 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs.
Preventing ACEs could potentially reduce a large number of health conditions. For example, up to 1.9 million cases of heart disease and 21 million cases of depression could have been potentially avoided by preventing ACEs.
Some children are at greater risk than others. Women and several racial/ethnic minority groups were at greater risk for having experienced 4 or more types of ACEs.
ACEs are costly. The economic and social costs to families, communities, and society totals hundreds of billions of dollars each year.