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You may find your child’s pediatrician or your own doctor asking you to complete an ACEs checklist at a routine visit. ACEs, or Adverse Childhood Experiences checklists, are quickly becoming an important part of a general health and wellness exam and for good reason. Adverse Childhood Experience have been found to impact your physical health as you age. People with high ACE scores are at increased risk of many major illnesses, including diabetes, depression, substance misuse, strokes, cancer, and even heart attacks.

ACE scores were developed based on the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, which was performed in the late 1990s and included over 17,000 people. The study organizers asked people to complete confidential surveys of childhood experiences and then compared them to their current adult state of health. Study scientists were shocked by how dramatically a rough childhood was linked to poor health outcomes in adults. They started to realize that to properly identify people at risk for certain illnesses, they had to go back to their childhood experiences.

Your ACE score is determined by answering a series of questions, available here, that focus on childhood experiences such as abuse, divorce, incarceration of a parent, traumatic experiences that happened to you as a child. The higher your score, the higher your risk for adult problems with health and wellness. When identified, parents with high ACEs can be helped to overcome some of these issues. Identifying parents with high ACEs also helps children by making sure the parents have resources such as trauma-informed therapy that can help strengthen the family.

ACE scores are also useful across communities to help identify where resources should be allocated. For example, communities where ACEs are high can be provided with high quality childcare, early parenting support, nurse visits to the home, or drug treatment. Adverse Childhood Experiences are not limited to certain zip codes. Anyone, in any family can experience trauma, so it’s important that we look at all parents when asking about ACE scores.

Takeaways

  • ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experience and includes abuse, neglect, and traumatic experiences
  • ACE scores are calculated through a very brief series of questions
  • Knowing your own ACE score can help you work with healthcare providers to lower your risk of long term negative effects AND can positively impact your parenting.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. About Adverse Childhood Experiences.
  2. National Public Radio. Take the ACE Quiz.
  3. TED. How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime.

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