Do you know your ACE score?
Here’s what the CDC says about ACEs:
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and later-life health and well-being.
The original ACE Study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection. Over 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California receiving physical exams completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors.
Find out more about ACEs here.
The short of it: Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, harm children’s developing brains and lead to changes in how they respond to stress and damages their immune systems so profoundly that the effects show up decades later. In our field, we believe that ACEs cause much of our burden of chronic disease, most mental illness, and are at the root of violence.
ACEs Connection adds:
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.
But there are many other types of childhood trauma — watching a sibling being abused, losing a caregiver (grandmother, mother, grandfather, etc.), homelessness, surviving and recovering from a severe accident, witnessing a father being abused by a mother, witnessing a grandmother abusing a father, etc. The ACE Study included only those 10 childhood traumas because those were mentioned as most common by a group of about 300 Kaiser members; those traumas were also well studied individually in the research literature.
The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guideline: If you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of health consequences.
People are talking more about it, and even some doctors are beginning to consider the ACEs score of their patients…but I think it’s important that we’re all familiar with it and know the scores for ourselves and our loved ones.
Look at one of the questionnaires here.
Journal prompt: What did you learn as you determined your ACE score? Next, sketch out a family tree or genogram. Based on what you know from your family, what do you think the ACE score is for your parents, grandparents, significant others in your life?