The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Childhood experiences, are what molds an individual’s personality and habits. A study was done on the correlation between Adverse Childhood Experiences and the impact they might have on future violence, victimization, suicide, depression, health, drug abuse, and early death to name a few. These experiences have a negative impact on the child’s entire lifespan. This study was originally conducted by Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997. The study is referred to as ACEs. ACEs addresses the childhood issues that are in dire need to be brought to the surface.

These issues effect not just the individual child, but the state of the world. The ACE study is one of the largest investigations of how childhood abuse and neglect effects an adult’s health and well-being later in life.

The frame work for the study is based on a pyramid with six layers which represents the life span of a person from conception to death, with adverse childhood experiences being the foundation, next is disrupted neurodevelopment is 2nd, 3rd is social, emotional, and cognitive impairment.

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The 4th layer up is adoption of health risk behaviors, the 5th being disease disability and social problems, and early death being the top. All questions in this frame work is directed towards an individual’s first 18 years of life. These questions are about exposure to emotional, sexual, physical abuse, as well as emotional and physical neglect, a mentally ill family member, divorce, or incarceration of a family member in their household. The questionnaire grants a certain amount of points for each adverse exposure.

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Results have suggested a strong correlation between ACEs and unhealthy, risky behaviors that can result in an unhealthy way of life that may even result in the premature death of the effected child during life. An ACE follow up study was done on the adult participants. The findings were documented in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, stating; “Overall, 1539 people died during follow-up; the crude death rate was 91.0 per 1000; the age-adjusted rate was 54.7 per 1000. People with six or more ACEs died nearly 20 years earlier on average than those without ACEs” (4). From different causes, but they are believed to be somehow related to ACEs. There has also been research done on how ACEs Affect Neurological Functioning. Long term stress especially in children have been known to cause permanent changes such as long-term impairments in learning and new memory formation, and long-term effects on both physiology and behavior. For instance it has been documented in an article written on Pediatric Research that states that Children who are victims of chronic abuse may experience remodeling in the amygdala as well.

The amygdala, part of the limbic system, is activated in response to stress and has been shown to generate impulsive behaviors. In the context of TTS, dendritic growth and proliferation in the amygdala lead to an increase in impulsive behavior. Conversely, TTS causes the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is dedicated to planning and impulse control, to be underdeveloped and have fewer synaptic connections leading to poor impulse control. (10) It is suggested that adults that have experienced ACEs have risky, unhealthy behaviors that seem to cycle from one generation to the next. In my opinion I think there should be as much funding as possible set up for research and treatment for neurological issues and any new findings during research. ACEs has a negative effect a child’s mental, emotional and physical health across a lifespan. It results in depression, suicide, violence, eating disorders, addiction, risky behaviors etc. which wreak havoc on the victim’s life, and their loved ones for a life time. It has recently been addressed that the ACEs may have a lot to do with the opioid crisis. I agree, the two issues seem to go hand in hand. The victimization or perpatration cycles to the next generation. Not to mention lives that are being lost prematurely as well. The best way to treat this dysfunctional cycle is through preventative measures. To try to be able to identify abuse, neglect, and trauma in general in children and help stabilize the situation through proper services and agencies that are equipped to handle such situations.

It is also important to identify adult patients that may be suffering from ACEs and try to involve them in counseling or support groups this may also help to end the cycle of child hood trauma. Health is something that is treated holistically. When a patient is treated the healthcare professionals do not only look at just the physicality of the situation. They look at the ailment of the patient from every point of view. What is assessed is the patient’s physical wellbeing, emotional support, financial capabilities, and mental stability. The patient’s ability to handle the medical situation on every level. This is why ACEs is such a monumental revelation. A lot of information about a patient can be uncovered with the ACEs study. Having this information will help to guide the health care professional in the right direction when they are trying how to figure out how to help a patient in a holistic manner. This will also contribute to putting an end to the cycle of abuse and neglect in homes. If a person grew up a certain way they may not know anything else, such as right from wrong. Some victims may not know they are victims or that they may have now become perpetrators.

The first step to recovery in some cases is finding out if a person was exposed to early childhood trauma, and then try to help them find ways to overcome their past trauma, or even recognize the damage that it may be causing their present day health and life expectancy. There is a whole array of problems that ACEs can inflict on a person, their life, and their health. It is a very complex, but necessary issue to address. ACEs has a tremendous negative impact on an exposed child’s future health, opportunity, as well as the general state of the world.

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The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences. (2021, Jul 23). Retrieved from

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