What is Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)?

 compiled by Rev’d Hieromonk Symeon of Syracuse
Novi Kloštar Orthodox Kellion


The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states, “Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. As such, early experiences are an important public health issue.[1]

According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Association (SAMHSA)[2], Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) “…are a significant risk factor for substance use disorders and can impact prevention efforts.” Reportedly, “Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic events, including abuse and neglect. They may also include household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence or growing up with family members who have substance use disorders. ACEs are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan, including those associated with substance misuse.

ACEs include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Mother treated violently
  • Substance misuse within household
  • Household mental illness
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Incarcerated household member”.[3]

Laura Starecheski, of NPR, reported on 2nd March in 2015 of a self-administered test one could take (here) that scores one’s ratio of childhood trauma to adverse health problems in later life. [4]

How do we know this to be true or just more “dyscredible” news? “The original Adverse Childhood Experience study (conducted from 1995 to 1997) examined the link between childhood trauma and the likelihood of developing medical conditions as an adult. A collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego, the study canvassed 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization patients willing to offer extensive information about childhood experiences of neglect, family dysfunction, and abuse. More than half the study respondents reported at least one category of childhood trauma, and a quarter of them reported more than two.

The study results, released in 1998, were staggering. [. . .] In the 15 years since the original ACE results were published, a slew of supporting studies have been conducted with similar conclusions. . .showing that childhood trauma rewires the mind and body, we must ask: Can it be rewired again—after trauma, before illness—to improve outcomes? Advancements in the field of neuroscience have taught us the vast opportunities found in rewiring entire mind and body systems, which opens the door for envisioning how we might reverse the ACE research in future generations.” Read more here in Spirituality & Health Magazine website.[5]


For further information about the ACE Test read here.

[3] ibid