Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the CDC ACE Study. Five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members. There are, of course, many other types of childhood trauma. The CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study uncovered a stunning link between childhood trauma and the chronic diseases people develop as adults, as well as social and emotional problems. This includes heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and many autoimmune diseases, as well as depression, violence, being a victim of violence, and suicide.
To find out your ACE score, answer yes or not to the following questions (prior to your 18th birthday):
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
- Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
- Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever… Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
- Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
- Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
- Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
- Was your mother or stepmother:
Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
- Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
- Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
- Did a household member go to prison?
Now add up your “Yes” answers: This is your ACE Score.
The study’s researchers came up with an ACE score to explain a person’s risk for chronic disease. The higher your ACE score, the higher your risk of health and social problems. As your ACE score increases, so does the risk of disease, social and emotional problems. With an ACE score of 4, the likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390%; hepatitis 240%; depression 460%; attempted suicide 1,220%.
Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs)
Source: JAMA Pediatrics
In 2019, researchers found that positive childhood experiences, no matter how much adversity you have in your life, could offset the risks of ACEs. If you have a lot of adversity AND a lot of positive childhood experiences (PCEs), you are less likely to suffer the consequences of ACEs. If you have no PCEs and few ACEs, the consequences of the ACEs are more likely to appear.
To find out what positive childhood experiences you have, answer the following questions. How much or how often during your childhood did you:
- Feel able to talk to your family about feelings?
- Feel your family stood by you during difficult times?
- Enjoy participating in community traditions?
- Feel a sense of belonging in high school?
- Feel supported by friends?
- Have at least two non-parent adults who took genuine interest in you?
- Feel safe and protected by an adult in your home?
Now add up your “Yes” answers: This is your PCE Score.