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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful events occurring in childhood including


  • domestic violence
  • parental abandonment through separation or divorce
  • a parent with a mental health condition
  • being the victim of abuse (physical, sexual and/or emotional)
  • being the victim of neglect (physical and emotional)
  • a member of the household being in prison
  • growing up in a household in which there are adults experiencing alcohol and drug use problems.


Childhood adversity can create harmful levels of stress which impact healthy brain development. This can result in long-term effects on learning, behaviour and health.


Evidence from ACE surveys in the US, UK and elsewhere demonstrates that ACEs can exert a significant influence throughout people's life.


ACEs have been found to be associated with a range of poorer health and social outcomes in adulthood and that these risks increase as the number of ACEs increase.


Research from Wales found that people who reported experiencing four or more ACES are:

  • 4x more likely to be a high-risk drinker
  • 16x more likely to have used crack cocaine or heroin
  • 6x increased risk of never or rarely feeling optimistic
  • 3x increased risk of heart disease, respiratory disease and type 2 diabetes
  • 15x more likely to have committed violence
  • 14x more likely to have been victim of violence in the last 12 months
  • 20x more likely to have been in prison at any point in their life


Consideration of ACEs is therefore crucial to thinking about how to improve the lives of children and young people, to support better transitions into adulthood, and achieve good outcomes for all adults.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that affect children while growing up, such as suffering child maltreatment or living in a household affected by domestic violence, substance misuse or mental illness.