Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are negative occurrences in childhood, including abuse, neglect or household dysfunction, which are linked to compromised health and well-being in adulthood. The Wisconsin Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board has been investing in collecting Wisconsin specific adverse childhood data because of the prevalence and impact that these experiences have on Wisconsin children, communities, and society. The ACE data has provided a great deal of information regarding the importance of childhood experiences to lifelong well-being. Early experiences have a broader and more profound impact than most of us would ever guess. Daily interactions and experiences in infancy and childhood greatly influence the architecture of our developing brains and our subsequent emotional, cognitive, social and neurobiological functioning.

Prevalence: Recurrent physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse are Adverse Childhood Experiences. 57% of Wisconsin adults reported growing up experiencing one or more ACEs. Among those Wisconsin adults who reported having at least one ACE, almost one quarter reported having 4 or more.  pie chart of distribution of ACE scores among WI residents

Impact: The research shows significant correlations between the number of ACEs a person experienced as a child and his or her adult health and well-being. As the number of reported ACEs increased, the likelihood of depression, cancer,  diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, alcoholism, drug use, smoking, ischemic heart disease, chronic bronchitis or emphysema, skeletal fractures, suicidality, and homelessness significantly increased as well. Individuals with 4 or more ACEs have a higher likelihood of health risk behaviors and poor health outcomes.

Prevention: Child maltreatment not only exacts a high price from its victims, it is also extremely costly to the average tax payer, both in terms of lost human potential and real dollars. The total lifetime expense for just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment is estimated at $121.6 billion. Prevention works. The presence of protective factors can strengthen families and build safe, stable, and nurturing relationships, often mitigating the consequences of early childhood adversity. Implementing prevention programming that recognizes parental strengths and increases knowledge of parenting and child development can help communities to prevent abuse and neglect from occurring.

To learn more about ACEs visit the Effects of Child Maltreatment webpage. 

The original ACE study was conducted in San Diego the 1990's by Dr. Robert Anda from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Vincent Felitti of Kaiser Permanente. In 2010, the Wisconsin Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board was instrumental in supporting the addition of the ACE module to the Wisconsin Behavioral Risk Survey.

The report, Adverse Childhood Experiences in Wisconsin: 2011 - 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Survey Findings focuses on the cumulative results from the data collected between 2011 to 2015 using the Wisconsin BRFS. During the five year period, 25,518 individuals answered the ACE module questions.