What are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)?
ACEs are stressful or traumatic negative experiences before age 18 that have long-lasting effects on physical, mental and social well-being.
Evidence shows that early experiences, both positive and negative, are critical in building and shaping how the brain develops.
Positive experiences support healthy development and give the brain a strong foundation for all future learning, development and health.
Negative experiences disrupt healthy brain development and cause changes to the chemicals and structure of the growing brain.
Negative (ACE) experiences can include:
- Physical, verbal or sexual abuse
- Physical or emotional neglect
- Exposure to domestic violence
- Loss of a parent to death, divorce or abandonment
- Imprisonment of a loved one
- Family members who are mentally ill, suicidal or have drug/alcohol problems.
Why is understanding ACEs important? The more ACEs a child has, he or she is at greater risk of the following:
- Problems at school (due to an inability to learn, respond or process effectively)
- Problems with aggressive or defiant behavior
- Sexual encounters beginning at a young age
- Multiple sexual partners
- Teen pregnancy
- Future exposure to domestic abuse either as a victim or offender
- Drug and alcohol misuse or abuse
- Difficulty making or keeping friends
- Learning or memory problems
- Low stress tolerance
- Lower ability to fight infection
- Heart, liver or lung disease
- Bone fractures
- Depression, mental illness and suicide attempts
- Death at a premature age
Click the link below to find your ACE score.
Finding Your ACE Score
What is resilience?
Resiliency is the ability to adjust or “bounce back” after something bad has happened. Five core elements have proven to increase resilience and protect adults and children from the effects of ACEs:
- Nurturing and competent relationships
- Environments that foster individual abilities
- Connection to a supportive group
- A sense of hope
- Healthy coping skills
How to develop resiliency
Parents can raise resilient children by:
- Paying attention and responding to a child’s physical and emotional needs.
- Having a strong support system – family, friends and neighbors.
- Providing basic needs, such as shelter.
- Being aware of typical child development.
- Having realistic expectations for behavior.
- Helping the child learn to positively interact with others.
- Teaching the child how to talk about and manage their emotions.