About Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years) such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home; and having a family member attempt or die by suicide. Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with substance misuse, mental health problems, or instability due to parental separation or incarceration of a parent, sibling, or other member of the household.

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 presence of ACEs does not mean that a child will experience poor outcomes. However, children’s positive experiences or protective factors can prevent children from experiencing adversity and can protect against many of the negative health and life outcomes even after adversity has occurred.

It is important to address the conditions that put children and families at risk of ACEs so that we can prevent ACEs before they happen. CDC promotes lifelong health and well-being through Essentials for Childhood. Essentials for Childhood offers strategies to assure safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children.

CDC has also developed a resource, Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): Leveraging the Best Available Evidence pdf icon[4 MB, 40 Pages, 508] to help states and communities leverage the best available evidence to prevent ACEs from happening in the first place as well as lessen harms when ACEs do occur. It features six strategies drawn from the CDC Technical Packages to Prevent Violence.

preventing ACEs strategy approach
Page last reviewed: April 9, 2019