What are ACEs?
ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences; these include potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood.
Some examples of potential ACEs include:
- Experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
- Witnessing violence in the home or community
- Having a family member attempt or die from suicide
- Substance use within the home
- Parental mental health problems
- Instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison
This is not an exhaustive list as there are many more experiences that can cause trauma.
How common are ACEs?
- About 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported they had experien
- ced at least one ACE before they turned 18.
- 1 in 6 reported that they had experienced four or more ACEs
What are the long term effects of ACEs?
ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance use problems in adolescence and adulthood.
What effect could the prevention of ACEs have?
- Up to 1.9 million heart disease cases and 21 million depression cases could potentially have been avoided.
- A 10% reduction in ACEs in North America would equate to an annual savings of $56 billion.
ACEs can have long-term negative effects on the health and well-being of people who have experienced them. They can lead to an increase in the risks of injury, sexually transmitted infections, maternal and child health problems, involvement in sex trafficking, and chronic diseases and suicide.
One of the potential effects of experiencing ACEs is toxic stress. Toxic stress is a biological reaction to trauma that can negatively affect a child’s brain development, immune systems, and stress-response systems. When a child experiences multiple ACEs over time, the experiences will trigger an excessive and long-lasting stress response.
Growing up in these conditions could lead children to have difficulty forming healthy relationships and to struggle with having a stable work life. These effects are often passed to their own children.
Strategies for Prevention
Some specific strategies to prevent ACEs are (CDC, 2022):
- More economic supports to families
- Strengthening household financial security
- Family-friendly work policies
- Promoting social norms that protect against violence and adversity
- Public education campaigns
- Legislative approaches to reduce corporal punishment
- Bystander approaches
- Strong start for children
- Early childhood home visitation
- High-quality child care
- Preschool enrichment with family engagement
- Teach skills
- Social-emotional learning
- Safe dating and healthy relationship skill programs
- Parenting skills and family relationship approaches
- Connect youth to caring adults and activities
- Mentoring programs
- After-school programs
- Intervening to lessen immediate and long-term harms
- Enhanced primary care
- Victim-centered services
- Treatment to lessen the harms of ACEs
- Treatment to prevent problem behavior and future involvement in violence
- Family-Centered treatment for substance use disorders
Raising awareness can be effective in changing how people think about the causes of ACEs and who could help prevent them. The focus could change from individual responsibility to community solutions and reduce stigma around seeking help with parenting challenges or substance misuse, depression, or suicidal thoughts.
To learn more about how to prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences, visit this link Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (cdc.gov).
To learn more about how you can have a positive impact on a child’s life as a CASA volunteer, click HERE.
Written by: Bella Lohmeyer