family bonding

What are ACEs and Can We Prevent Them?

Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are negative experiences that happen during childhood. They are split into three categories: abuse, household challenges and neglect. Even though children are resilient, ACEs can disrupt a child’s development and increase the risk for social, emotional and cognitive impairment in adulthood. 

Largest Study of its Kind: Kaiser ACE Study 

The idea of ACEs came from the 1995-1997 CDC-Kaiser ACE Study that analyzed childhood experiences from over 17,000 people. A physical assessment was also done on these individuals. The data found that ACEs are common across all populations. However, the more ACEs a child is exposed to, the more likely they are to suffer from alcoholism, drug abuse, obesity, depression and other chronic health conditions. 

Here is a breakdown of the various ACEs, categorized by abuse, household challenges and neglect.

  • Abuse
    • Emotional abuse
    • Physical abuse 
    • Sexual abuse
  • Household Challenges 
    • Mother treated violently 
    • Substance abuse in the household
    • Mental illness in the household
    • Parental separation or divorce
    • Incarcerated household member 
  • Neglect
    • Emotional neglect
    • Physical neglect 

Sadly, the study found that people with six or more ACEs died 20 years earlier on average than individuals without ACEs. Knowing how influential ACEs are to a person’s life, it’s important to understand how they can be prevented. 

Can We Prevent ACEs?

ACEs can affect people from all walks of life. The key is to minimize ACEs and provide safe, stable and loving homes to young children. This could be as simple as getting help for someone in the family who has a drug addiction or mental illness. However, it could be much more difficult and require recognizing the signs of abuse and intervening with professional services. 

Here are some of the ways that we can prevent ACEs

  • Mental illness and substance abuse treatment 
  • Home visiting programs for women who are pregnant or have newborns
  • Social support for parents and low income families 
  • Parenting training programs
  • Intimate partner violence prevention
  • Parent support programs for teens
  • Teen pregnancy prevention programs 
  • Child care services 

Healing from ACEs in Adulthood 

It’s clear that there is a connection between childhood trauma and later-life health and well-being. When people start treatment at Awakenings Treatment Center, our goal is to uncover the underlying reasons for the substance abuse, eating disorder or mental illness. Through therapy, many of our clients are able to identify previous ACEs that affect them in adulthood. 

Our goal is to process these ACEs and work through them in a healthy manner so that healing can begin. We can also help clients get their lives on track through treatment and alternative therapies so that the cycle does not continue for their own children. To learn more about the treatment services offered at Awakenings, contact us today.