What Are ACE Scores?

ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences, a questionnaire created through a study done by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) along with Kaiser Permanente. ACE scores tally three different types of experiences: abuse, neglect, and dysfunction within the household, experienced before the age of 18.

The original ACE study noted that these adverse experiences are common, with 67% of the population having experienced at least one of the items on the list, and that 1 in 8 people had an ACE score of 4 or higher. The study also took note of the impact of these adverse childhood experiences. Nadine Burke Harris stated in her TED talk on childhood trauma that one may assume that someone experiencing abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction may present with “bad behavior”. However, what the study showed is that this is more than bad behavior —it is science. People with an ACE score of 4+ have a 2.5 times higher risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than someone with an ACE score of 0. An ACE score of 7+ has triple the lifetime risk of lung cancer and 3.5 times more risk of ischemic heart disease. Statistics similar to those continue for a variety of physical and mental illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, substance abuse, depression, cancer, and suicidality.

Childhood trauma impacts the development of a child’s brain structure and function, immune system, and hormones, which is why some are calling childhood trauma a public health crisis. While the impacts of childhood trauma are serious and lasting, there is hope-both for prevention and recovery. ACE scores take into account the negative experiences, but do not account for the positive. The presence of safe, caring, and stable relationships and environments help promote resilience, and work toward healing a broad range of health problems.

Here at GROW, we are honored to be a resource in joining you on your own path toward recovery, or in your pursuit of providing safe relationships and environments in your own families and communities. If you are curious about your own ACE score, you can take the quiz here.

Written by: Courtney Hintermeyer

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