Research continues to confirm that trauma experienced in childhood can affect people throughout their lives.
People who endure adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can suffer a variety of detrimental life outcomes1 including:
- Activities or behaviors that can negatively impact health—smoking, addiction to alcohol or drugs, or self-injurious behavior, for example.
- Physical health issues, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD), and even attempted suicide.
- Negative life situations such as being at higher risk for domestic violence, poor performance at work or school, unintended pregnancies, and financial stress.
The groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences Study was initially conducted from1995 to 1997 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente. The study surveyed and conducted physical exams of over 17,000 health maintenance organization members from Southern California.2 Results found that ACEs are incredibly common, with nearly two-thirds of the study participants reporting they had experienced at least one ACE. Among those, 87 percent experienced more than one ACE3. More than one in five participants reported experiencing three or more ACEs.
To help assess an individual’s level of childhood stress or trauma, an Ace score—the sum total of the different categories of ACE—is used. Study findings repeatedly reveal that the higher a person’s ACE score, the more likely that person is to experience one or more detrimental life outcomes, such as those noted above.
“The painful symptoms of PTS (post-traumatic stress) can take on a life of their own if not treated effectively,” notes author and PTSD survivor Steve Sparks.4 “More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.”
Three Types of ACE
The CDC shares an info-graphic that explains the three different types of ACEs: abuse, household challenges, and neglect. Sparks adds, “Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma.”
It’s never too late to seek help. People come to terms with childhood trauma at different rates and at different times in their lives. Some survivors of childhood trauma are connected with counseling and support soon after the trauma occurs. Others aren’t able to begin their journeys of healing until much later in life. Regardless of when a trauma survivor begins this journey, it is important to connect with the proper professionals—those who can best help and counsel the survivor.
To access ACE questionnaires for men and women that specifically address family health history and a personal health appraisal, click here. (See “Study Questionnaires.”)
To learn more about the topic, click here.