ACEs Adverse Childhood Experiences

I have made no secret of the fact that I grew up with an alcoholic father. This means that the entire family, yes, including the extended family, was a maze of enabling behaviors. My childhood was almost entirely lost to this phenomena – which makes me very attentive when someone mentions ACEs.

Angi on Twitter spoke on ACEs severally and after a while, I had to stop and pay attention.

  • WHO have I become because my father was an alcoholic?
  • WHAT do I do or feel that is a direct effect of the family’s dynamics?
  • WHY did I react different compared to my siblings and other relatives?
  • WHERE in me does it hurt the most?
  • HOW am I growing and healing as I work on myself in awareness?

I work hard at not pinning my identity on the ACEs I experienced, while at the same time taking stock of what happened and how it has affected me.

Have ever heard about ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences? Below, can you identify the ACEs I may have experienced in relation to dad’s alcoholism and the dysfunction surrounding that?

In 1998, CDC-Kaiser Permanente published a groundbreaking study that investigated the impact of ACEs on physical and mental health problems in over 17,000 adults. During the study, the adults were given a survey asking about 10 different types of ACEs and if they had experienced them prior to the age of 18. The study showed a direct correlation between ACEs and future health complications.

10 ACEs as identified by the CDC-Kaiser study:
Joining Forces for Children

In 2017, Ellis and Dietz developed the “Pair of ACEs” to illustrate that ACEs occur within the context of adverse community environments such as poverty, poor housing, and violence outside of the home. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity.

How big is the problem?

ACEs are common. In the US, about 61% of adults surveyed across 25 states reported that they had experienced at least one type of ACE, and nearly 1 in 6 reported they had experienced four or more types of ACEs.

  • 28% were physically abused
  • 27% grew up with substance abuse
  • 13% saw their mothers abused
  • 15% were sexually abused

The higher the number of ACEs a person experienced, the more the health problems, the shorter the life span and the higher the likelihood of learning & behavioral problems in children.

Preventing ACEs could potentially reduce a large number of health conditions. For example, up to 1.9 million cases of heart disease and 21 million cases of depression could have been potentially avoided by preventing ACEs.

Some children are at greater risk than others. Women and several racial/ethnic minority groups were at greater risk for having experienced 4 or more types of ACEs.

ACEs are costly. The economic and social costs to families, communities, and society totals hundreds of billions of dollars each year. What are the consequences?

Long Lasting effects on health

ACEs can have lasting, negative effects on health, well-being, and opportunity. These experiences can increase the risks of injury, sexually transmitted infections, maternal and child health problems, teen pregnancy, involvement in sex trafficking, and a wide range of chronic diseases and leading causes of death such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and suicide.

ACEs and associated conditions, such as living in under-resourced or racially segregated neighborhoods, frequently moving, and experiencing food insecurity, can cause toxic stress (extended or prolonged stress). Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect such things as attention, decision-making, learning, and response to stress.

Children growing up with toxic stress may have difficulty forming healthy and stable relationships. They may also have unstable work histories as adults and struggle with finances, jobs, and depression throughout life. These effects can also be passed on to their own children. Some children may face further exposure to toxic stress from historical and ongoing traumas due to systemic racism or the impacts of poverty resulting from limited educational and economic opportunities.

How about you? What ACEs have you experienced and how does that manifest in your adulthood?

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