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ACE: What is ACE and how can this Tool be Useful

Nichole Clarke

It’s catastrophic how unaware we are of the effects of trauma until something tragic happens. Often after someone passes away by suicide, I’ve heard people say “I had no idea that they were in so much pain or else I would have helped them.” What if I told you that you could save yourself or someone else's life just by becoming more educated on ACEs? The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Questionnaire is a 10-item self-report tool measuring childhood trauma related to experienced and/or witnessed abuse, neglect and/or household dysfunction (2018). The ACE Questionnaire suggests that childhood trauma and stress early in life creates a higher risk for developing health risks in adulthood (2018). The research suggests that as the number of ACEs increase, the risk factors increase (2018). 

In a recent study, 9,508 adults completed the ACE Questionnaire and those results were compared with measures of adult risk behavior, health status, and disease (Felitti, et al., 2019). The researchers found a relationship between the number of ACE exposures and health risk factors in adulthood (Felitti, et al., 2019). Those who reported experiencing four or more ACEs compared to those who had experienced none had increased health risks including alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide attempt(s), increase in smoking, poor self-rated health, increased sexual partners and sexually transmitted diseases, increased physical inactivity and/or severe obesity (Felitti, et al., 2019). Also, there was a relationship with ACE exposure and diseases including ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures and liver disease (Felitti, et al., 2019). The findings conclude a strong relationship between exposure to abuse, neglect and/or household dysfunction during childhood and multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death in adults (Felitti, et al., 2019). 

Although the ACE Questionnaire is a great tool, keep in mind that it doesn’t account for the positive experiences that assist individuals with building resilience and protective mechanisms from the adverse effects of childhood trauma. Resiliency factors play a role in the effects of ACEs as well as resources for prevention. As someone who has an ACE score of nine, I can attest to the difficulty of overcoming the challenges of childhood trauma. Having compassion for yourself and others who have similar experiences can provide a sense of hope and solidarity.

The ACE Questionnaire could be a useful tool for individuals who have experienced childhood trauma. This tool could help individuals affected by childhood trauma by providing clarity regarding health concerns and motivate individuals to seek a mental health professional if needed. If you or someone you know has experienced childhood trauma, take the ACE Questionnaire at https://www.ncjfcj.org/sites/default/files/Finding%20Your%20ACE%20Score.pdf and seek a mental health professional for assistance.


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Retrieved 2019, from https://www.ncjfcj.org/sites/default/files/Finding%20Your%20ACE%20Score.pdf

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