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  • Writer's pictureJessica C

Adverse Childhood Experiences

The study of Adverse childhood experience was first studied by Felitti et al. (1998). Since its original research the study has expanded to multiple studies.

“ACEs” stands for “Adverse Childhood Experiences.” These experiences can include things like physical and emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver mental illness, and household violence

The more ACEs a child experiences, the more likely he or she is to suffer from things like heart disease and diabetes, PTSD, poor academic achievement, and substance abuse later in life

Experiencing many ACEs, as well as things like racism and community violence, without supportive adults, can cause what’s known as toxic stress. This excessive activation of the stress response system can lead to long lasting wear-and tear on the body and brain.

It is this toxic stress that, when not properly addressed and reduced, can lead to long-term behavior issues, health complications, and diseases that are caused by ACEs.

Toxic stress can effect the brain

  1. the stress pathway leads to anxiety, depression and impaired learning

  2. Emotional processing and regulation leads to hypervigilance and reduced attentional control

  3. Evaluation of reward leads to difficulty experiencing joy

  4. Brain connectivity leads to difficulty understanding the relevance of situations and how to respond

The CDC-Kasier ACE study found that adults with an ACE score of 4 or more were at significantly greater risk for many behavioral, physical, and mental health issues later in life.

behavioral: smoking, etoh abuse, lack of physical activity, drug abuse, missed work

Physical and mental health: increases in obesity, depression, diabetes, suicide attempts, STD, chronic lung disease, stoke, cancer, heart disease, broken bones

Epigenetics: Epigenetics describes the way that our genes are turned on and off – whether a specific gene is used or not. life experience changes our genes. Not only does this affect the individual, the way our bodies respond to stress can be passed from one generation to the next through our genes.

Lets look at the study results of the 17,000 people 2/3 had at least an ace score of one.

As your ACE score increases, so does the risk of disease, social and emotional problems. With an ACE score of 4 or more, things start getting serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 percent; hepatitis, 240 percent; depression 460 percent; attempted suicide, 1,220 percent.

What happens if we can prevent ACES:

Reduce a large amount of health conditions and save money since ACE's are costly for the economy

Raising awareness of ACEs can help:

  • Change how people think about the causes of ACEs and who could help prevent them.

  • Shift the focus from individual responsibility to community solutions.

  • Reduce stigma around seeking help with parenting challenges or for substance misuse, depression, or suicidal thoughts.

  • Promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments where children live, learn, and play.

How to Prevent


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