We Can Prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood and can include:

  • Experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
  • Witnessing violence in the home or community
  • Having a family member attempt or die by suicide

ACEs can also include growing up in a household with:

  • Substance misuse
  • Mental health problems
  • Instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison
ACEs are Linked to Health Problems Later in Life

ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood as well as decreased education and employment opportunities.

ACEs are a widespread problem in the United States. And the effects can add up over time. A recent CDC study showed:

  • 61% of adults had at least one ACE and 16% had 4 or more types of ACEs.
  • Females and several racial/ethnic minority groups were at greater risk for experiencing 4 or more ACEs.
  • Toxic stress from ACEs can change how a child’s brain develops and affect how the body responds to stress.
Prevention Is Possible

However, ACEs can be prevented. Not everyone who experiences ACEs will go on to have poor health outcomes. Preventing ACEs can help children and adults thrive and possibly:

  • Lower risk for health conditions like depression, asthma, cancer, and diabetes in adulthood.
  • Reduce risky behaviors like smoking and heavy drinking.
  • Improve education and employment potential.
  • Stop ACEs from being passed from one generation to the next.

Promoting awareness of ACEs is key. Helping others learn about ACEs can:

  • Change how people think about the causes of ACEs and who could help prevent them.
  • Shift the focus from individual responsibility to community solutions.
  • Reduce shame around getting help with parenting challenges or for substance misuse, depression, or suicidal thoughts.
  • Promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments where children live, learn, and play.
ACEs Resources
  • ACEs Overview Training helps participants understand, recognize, and prevent ACEs from occurring in the first place.
  • Making the Case: Engaging Businesses explains how communities can work with businesses to help create safe, stable, nurturing relationships, and environments for all children and families.
Preventing ACEs Could Reduce a Large Number of Health Conditions
Image of a depressed woman

Up to

21 Million

Cases of Depression

Image of a man clutching his heart

Up to

1.9 Million

Cases of Heart Disease

Closeup image of an overweight couple

Up to


Cases of Overweight/Obesity

Everyone Can Help Prevent ACEs

Working together, we can prevent ACEs:

  • Create and maintain safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments
  • Recognize challenges that families face
  • Offer support and encouragement to reduce stress
  • Support community programs and policies that provide safe and healthy conditions for all children and families

Let’s help all children reach their full potential and create neighborhoods, communities, and a world in which every child can thrive.

Page last reviewed: November 20, 2019