The ACE Study is one of the largest scientific research studies of its kind, with over 17,000 mostly middle income Americans participating. The focus was to analyze the relationship between childhood trauma and the risk for physical and mental illness in adulthood.
Over the course of a decade, the results demonstrated a strong, graded relationship between the level of traumatic stress in childhood and poor physical, mental and behavioral outcomes later in life.
The ACE Study is an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente.
What is an Adverse Childhood Experience / ACE?
Growing up experiencing any of the following conditions in the household prior to 18:
1. Recurrent physical abuse
2. Recurrent emotional abuse
3. Contact sexual abuse
4. An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
5. An incarcerated household member
6. Family member who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
7. Mother is treated violently
8. One or no parents
9. Physical neglect
10. Emotional neglect
The ACE Score
The ACE Study used a simple scoring method to determine the extent of each study participant’s exposure to childhood trauma. Exposure to one category (not incident) of ACE, qualifies as one point.
When the points are added up, the ACE Score is determined.
An ACE Score of 0 (zero) would mean that the person reported no exposure to any of the categories of trauma listed as ACEs above.
An ACE Score of 10 would mean that the person reported exposure to all of the categories of trauma listed above.
To calculate your ACE score
The key concept underlying the ACE Study is that stressful or traumatic childhood experiences can result in social, emotional, and cognitive impairments. Examples: Increased risk of unhealthy behaviors, risk of violence or re-victimization, disease, disability and “early death.”
Breakthroughs in neurobiology demonstrate that fear-based childhoods disrupt neurodevelopment, and can actually alter normal brain structure and function. Fear during infancy and early childhood has a cumulative impact on childhood development.
What increased health risks are associated with an ACE?
The young brain is especially vulnerable to stress. When prolonged stress occurs during infancy and childhood, the stress hormone cortisol is released throughout the young brain and body. These stress hormones compromise normal brain development and the immature immune and nervous systems. The ACE Study demonstrates that early stress is a strong factor for developing the following national health problems.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart attacks
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain(especially abdominal fat)
- Reduced Growth Hormone Levels
- Compromised immune function
- Bone loss
A decade of rigorous research demonstrates that sustained stress in childhood results in overproduction of cortisol, with profound, lifelong impacts on the brain and body.
Where can I find more information on the ACE Study?
For further information on behavioral health information and resources, go to csifdl.org.