Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences

Key points

  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and their associated harms are preventable.
  • Creating and sustaining safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children and families can prevent ACEs and help all children reach their full health and life potential.


Adverse childhood experiences can have lasting, negative effects on health, well-being, and opportunity. ACEs are connected to other forms of violence through shared risk and protective factors. To prevent ACEs, we must understand and address these risk and protective factors.

CDC developed the, Adverse Childhood Experiences Prevention Resource for Action to help states and communities take advantage of the best available evidence to prevent ACEs.


Prevention strategies and their corresponding approaches are listed in the table below.

  • Approach
Strengthen economic supports to families.
  • Social-emotional learning programs for youth.
  • Healthy relationship programs for couples.
Promote social norms that protect against violence and adversity.
  • Public education campaigns.
  • Legislative approaches to reduce corporal punishment.
  • Bystander approaches.
  • Men and boys as allies in prevention.
Ensure a strong start for children.
  • Early childhood home visitation.
  • High-quality childcare.
  • Preschool enrichment with family engagement.
Teach skills
  • Social-emotional learning.
  • Safe dating and healthy relationship skill programs.
  • Parenting skills and family relationship approaches.
Connect youth to caring adults and activities.
  • Mentoring programs.
  • After-school programs.
Intervene to lessen immediate and long-term harms.
  • Enhanced primary care.
  • Victim-centered services.
  • Treatment to lessen the harms of ACEs.
  • Treatment to prevent problem behavior and future involvement in violence.
  • Family-centered treatment for substance use disorders.

Why prevention is important

Every child has immense potential for health, wellbeing, and contribution. When we prevent ACEs, we also prevent later involvement in violence, substance use, depression and suicidal behavior, along with other health challenges like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. All children deserve the best chance at lifelong health and wellbeing, and preventing, identifying, and responding to ACEs is the most powerful tool to achieve this.

What CDC is doing

CDC is committed to building systems and communities that nurture development, and to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive. By investing in the potential of all children and supporting their families and their communities, we can prevent ACEs before they happen, and buffer the risk of harm when they do happen.

CDC is committed to preventing, identifying, and responding to ACEs at the community, state, and national level so that all people can achieve lifelong health and wellbeing. Our goal is to create the conditions for strong, thriving families and communities where children and youth are free from harm.

CDC's four strategic goals for ACEs prevention and response include:

  1. Support ACEs surveillance and data innovation.
  2. Expand what we know about evidence-based ACEs prevention and positive childhood experiences promotion.
  3. Build local, state, tribal, and key partner capacity.
  4. Increase awareness and understanding among key partners.

CDC's ACEs Prevention Strategy expands upon these goals and outlines specific objectives for ACEs prevention and response.