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About Adverse Childhood Experiences

Photo of a man carrying a child on his back through a park.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. Much of the foundational research in this area has been referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Adverse Childhood Experiences have been linked to

  • risky health behaviors,
  • chronic health conditions,
  • low life potential, and
  • early death.

As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for these outcomes.

The wide-ranging health and social consequences of ACEs underscore the importance of preventing them before they happen. CDC promotes lifelong health and well-being through Essentials for Childhood - Assuring safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children. Essentials for Childhood can have a positive impact on a broad range of health problems and on the development of skills that will help children reach their full potential.

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Association Between ACEs and Negative Outcomes

Bar graph shows the relationship between ACEs and negative outcomes, as ACEs have been found to have a graded dose-response relationship with 40+ outcomes to date. The number of adverse childhood experiences from zero to five or more appear along the x-axis, and the risk for negative health and well-being outcomes is shown on the y-axis. Risk for negative outcomes increases greatly as number of ACEs increase. The pattern holds for the 40+ outcomes, but the risk values vary depending on the outcome.

ACEs can be Prevented

Infographic shows strategies and systems to create safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments important in preventing adverse childhood experiences. The first image is of a house. Above it reads “voluntary home visiting programs can help families by strengthening maternal parenting practices, the quality of the child’s home environment, and children’s development. Example: Nurse-Family Partnership.” Beside the image are the words, “home visiting to pregnant women and families with newborns.” Other images represent the following systems and strategies: Parent training programs, intimate partner violence prevention, social support for parents, parent support for teens and teen pregnancy prevention programs, mental illness and substance abuse treatment, high quality child care, and sufficient income support for lower income families.