The ACE Study and Its Significance

The CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study revealed a strong connection between childhood trauma and long-term health and social issues. Published in 1998, the study found that experiences of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction were common across various demographics.

How Resilience Factors Can Mitigate the Negative Effects of a High ACE Score

What I have learned is that having an ACE score of 6 significantly increases the risk of serious health, behavioral, and social issues, and what is more important, having a high ACE score alone wasn’t the best predictor of health risks. A more accurate assessment includes your resilience score and the number of positive childhood experiences

What’s Your Resilience Score?

Research shows that both resilience and positive childhood experiences can counteract the negative effects of high ACE scores.

Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs)

In September 2019, Dr. Christina Bethell, the principal investigator, published a study at Johns Hopkins University examining Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) in a sample of 6,188 adults. This research aimed to identify PCEs that could mitigate the adverse health effects of traumatic experiences. The study observed that a subset of children with high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) scores nonetheless achieve normal development and maintain good emotional health in adulthood. The researchers sought to pinpoint the factors fostering resilience in these children, enabling them to thrive despite challenging upbringings.

The study identified seven PCEs that are statistically associated with positive emotional and mental health outcomes in adults. Prior to the establishment of the ACE framework, which linked high ACE scores to lower high school graduation rates, increased mental health issues, higher incarceration rates, and other negative outcomes, significant efforts were already underway to reduce adverse childhood experiences.

The findings of the PCEs study suggest a complementary research direction: enhancing positive childhood experiences to build resilience in children who have faced trauma and those who may encounter it in the future. The relationship between PCEs in childhood and positive mental health in adulthood is dose-responsive; an increase in the number of PCEs a child experiences correlates with better adult mental health.

Adults who had PCEs during their childhood are more likely to seek social and emotional support. The seven identified PCEs are:

The ability to discuss feelings with family members. The perception of family support during difficult times. The enjoyment derived from participating in community traditions. A sense of belonging during high school. Feeling supported by friends. Having at least two non-parent adults who genuinely cared about them. Feeling safe and protected by an adult in the home.

Practical Steps for Healing

If you have a high ACE score, it’s important to focus on healing strategies such as stress reduction, healthy lifestyle choices, and regular medical checkups. Recognizing and addressing negative health or social outcomes early can significantly improve your quality of life.


TAKE the ACE Score Test: What is your ACE score?

TAKE the RESILIENCE Score test: Resiliency Test

ng>BUILD Resilience: Focus on practices that enhance your resilience and incorporate positive experiences.

SEEK Support: Reach out if you want to find out more about therapy to overcome trauma and build resiliency

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