What Are ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ (Aces)?

() is a term most commonly associated with the ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES STUDY.

These adverse childhood experiences have been split into three categories :

  • ABUSE
  • NEGLECT
  • FAMILY DYSFUNCTION

In the original ACE study, these three categories were further broken down into :

ABUSE : Emotional; physical and sexual

NEGLECT : Physical; emotional

FAMILY DYSFUNCTION : Witnessing domestic violence; person/s with depression / mental illness in the home; substance abuse in home ; loss of a parent (divorce / separation / death).

NB : Of course, the child may suffer trauma in many other ways, but the above categories were focused upon in the original ACE study.

THE EFFECTS OF ACEs ON THE BRAIN :

ACEs that take place during the critical and sensitive developmental period of the person’s childhood (especially during the first three years of life and during puberty and early adolescence), coupled with their effects upon the person’s genetic expression (how our genes express themselves depends upon how they interact with our experiences / environment – this is known as epigenetics) can adversely affect brain development on a number of levels (see below):

ACEs Can Adversely Affect Brain Development On A Number Of Levels :

  • ELECTRICAL
  • CHEMICAL
  • CELLULAR MASS

In turn, these adverse effects, taken together, can damage the brain upon both a STRUCTURAL and FUNCTIONAL level.

BRAIN CHANGES BECOME ‘HARDWIRED’ FOR SURVIVAL :

These brain changes then become hardwired in the brain’s biology as the behaviors that these brain changes are associated with are, on a fundamental level, ADAPTIVE AND ‘INTENDED’ TO HELP THE CHILD SURVIVE HIS/HER TRAUMATIC ENVIRONMENT. 

For example, certain brain changes caused by the child’s traumatic experiences may predispose the child to hypervigilance and explosive outbursts of rage and anger, both of which are adaptations which enhance survival chances in a dangerous, threatening and hostile environment. Indeed, children who grow up in traumatically threatening environments are at significantly increased risk of developing OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANCE DISORDER (ODD).

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES (ACEs) AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF PSYCHIATRIC, PHYSICAL AND ‘LIFE’ PROBLEMS :

The original ACE study found that, overall and on average, the greater the number of ACEs an individual had experienced during childhood, the more likely s/he was to suffer from the following problems later in life :

PSYCHIATRIC PROBLEMS :

PHYSICAL PROBLEMS :

‘LIFE’ PROBLEMS :

NB : The above list is NOT exhaustive.

RESOURCES :

Link :

To read more about the original ACE study, you may wish to visit this site

eBook :

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click on above image or here for further information.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Copyright 2017 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

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