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Adverse Childhood Experiences


Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events that occur in the first 18 years of a person’s life. The more someone is exposed to ACEs, the greater the individual’s risk of developing numerous health, social and behavioral problems throughout life. ACEs can lead to multiple, simultaneous health outcomes. For example, childhood maltreatment can lead to poor self-esteem, which can result in early initiation of tobacco and alcohol use and other detrimental health problems later on in life.

Risk and Protective Factors

Risk factors are events or experiences that potentially lead to children experiencing ACEs. Risk factors for ACEs include:

  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse and neglect
  • Mental illnesses
  • Incarceration
  • Domestic abuse
  • Substance abuse
  • Divorce
  • Poverty
  • Homelessness
  • Violence

Protective factors are events or experiences that help people more effectively deal with a stressful event. These can help mitigate the development of ACEs. Protective factors include:

  • Healthy relationship between parents
  • Supporting and safe social environment
  • Resilience among individuals, families, and communities with whom individuals live and interact
  • Help in identifying and cultivating a sense of purpose
  • Stable housing environment
  • Investment in educational opportunities
  • Socioeconomic advantages

Learn more: CDC Adverse Childhood Experiences