Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

What Are Adverse Childhood Experiences? 

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are childhood events that have adverse effects on children. They can traumatize children or make them feel unsafe or both. The following events do not make a complete list, but they are some of the most common ACEs. 


Children may witness family members struggling with jail time, substance abuse, and/or mental health issues. These issues may lead to children experiencing abuse, violence, and neglect. In addition, children may witness a family member attempt or die from suicide. 


ACEs are not limited to the home environment. Children can also live through traumatic experiences in their local community. For example, they can witness and/or become a victim of violent actions that a neighbor commits.  

What Causes ACEs? 

Researchers have studied ACEs for some time. They have discovered several factors that cause these traumatic experiences. 

Generational Trauma 

Parents may have had poor family relationships in their childhoods. This can cause these parents to treat their children poorly in turn. This cycle often continues through several generations. 

Economic Hardships 

Parents who have less money may struggle to care for their children. Poverty can also worsen mental health. Further, it can cause substance abuse and jail time. 

Drug- and Alcohol-Laden Communities

People in communities with drugs or alcohol or both may not develop substance abuse. However, there's a high chance they will.

Substance abuse can make it harder for parents to take care of their children. These parents are also more likely to abuse their children. 

Corporal Punishment 

Corporal punishmentis physical punishment. Parents may harm their children by, say, pinching, slapping, and/or spanking them. Many parents believe this helps the child behave. 

But many studies have proven otherwise. Physical punishment makes children more aggressive and mentally ill. Furthermore, it harms family relationships. 

What Are the Effects of ACEs? 

Experts associate ACEs with a wide variety of health, social, and behavioral outcomes. When they studiedpeople who experienced ACEs, experts found high rates of the following: 

  1. Asthma 
  2. Obesity
  3. Infections 
  4. Sleep issues 
  5. Learning issues
  6. Heart diseases
  7. Illegal drug abuse 
  8. Alcohol abuse 
  9. Social issues 
  10. Sexual risk-taking 
  11. Psychopathy 
  12. Lower earnings potential
  13. Physical inactivity 
  14. Domestic violence 
  15. Depression 
  16. Bipolar disorder 
  17. Teen pregnancy 
  18. Suicidality 
  19. Lower self-esteem 
  20. Pregnancy complications 

How to Prevent ACEs 

The Centers for Disease Control has released information on possible ACE reduction programs. Here are some of the programs they believe can help. 

Strengthened Financial Security 

Families that have access to financial help will have fewer struggles with stress and related conditions. Thus, they'll be able to give children the love and nourishment they need. 

Family-Friendly Work Policies 

Many jobs keep parents away from their children. Workplaces should allow parents to spend more time with their children. Doing so will improve family relationships and make children feel more secure. 

Reduce Corporal Punishment 

Public education groups need to spread the word about how corporal punishment can harm children. State governments should also consider passing legislation that bans corporal punishment. 

Bystander Approaches 

Humanity's typical response to violence is to ignore it. Public education groups should encourage the public to set aside this instinct and help. That way, the whole community can take a stand against violence. 

Men and Boys Allies Programs 

"Men and Boys as Allies in Prevention" programs help male individuals prevent violence and support victims. They create positive norms about gender, violence, and masculinity. They help men and boys reduce the amount of violence they may cause. 

Early Childhood Home Visitation 

During these programs, families are paired with trained professionals. These professionals support new families in bettering child development. This results in lower rates of ACEs and better rates of school readiness. 

High-Quality Childcare 

Unfortunately, childcare facilities can often be places where ACEs occur. The government should better the quality of these facilities. If they do, fewer ACEs will occur. 

Social Emotional Learning 

Classes in this area help one develop self-control, self-awareness, and interpersonal skills. These are vital for life, work, and school success. Both children and parents can benefit when they learn these skills. 

Parenting Skills Approaches 

Classes that help parents discipline and care for their children should result in better outcomes for children. In addition, parents should feel proud that they did the best they could for their children. 

Dating Skill Programs 

Plenty of ACEs take place in dating situations. Certain classes can teach children how to stay safe while dating and foster healthier relationships. 

Mentoring Programs 

These programs can give children the care and security they need via adults who can give them to the children. These programs can also give children positive adult role models to look up to. 

ACE Victim Treatment 

Psychological treatment can lessen the negative consequences of ACEs. ACE victims who go through this treatment can become better human beings. 

Family-Centered Substance Treatment 

Family can act as a support system for substance abuse. However, family members often have to repair their relationships before they can give adequate support. A therapist can help with this healing. 

Spread Awareness of ACEs 

Governments should also create public education programs that can spread awareness of ACEs. This can get the whole community involved in helping keep children safe. Community awareness can also make it more socially acceptable for people who need help to seek help. 

Navigate the Healthcare System 

When there are fewer adverse childhood experiences, there will be healthier citizens. Healthier citizens create a healthier society. A healthier society will benefit us all. 

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