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ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences)

page updated Spring 2018

ACEs: Adverse Childhood experiences

On this page we will collate information we find about ACEs which is a relatively new scientific concept impacting early childhood and our work. The more we find out about ACEs, the more we can apply it in our practice. 

The science is clear, early adversity dramatically affects health across a lifetime...The single most important thing we need today is the courage to look this problem in the face and say this is real and this is all of us. (Dr Nadine Burke Harris)

This is vital information for every leader and every setting and school in terms of applying the knowledge to support and inform practice and understanding of attachment, trauma and stress and how adverse experiences in childhood can affect behaviour, brain development, stress, mental health and physical health.

Supporting the attachment needs of young children in whatever ways we can is imperative in our areas of work. 

Information about ACEs

There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the ACE Study. Five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment. Each type of trauma counts as one. (Taken from ACEs too high website - see link below)

Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. An impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on explains Burke Harris in her now viral TedTalk video, "How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime," which has reached over 1.6 million views.

ACEs are stressful events occurring during childhood that directly affect a child (e.g. child maltreatment) or affect the environment in which they live (e.g. growing up in a house where there is domestic violence)

Other helpful links for support and further information