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Do Gay People Have More Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)? – Childhood Trauma Recovery

Do Gay People Have More Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)?

A study conducted by Anderson and Blosnich (2013) was carried out in order to investigate whether or not gay and bisexual individuals had, on average, experienced more adverse childhood experiences than their heterosexual counterparts. Before we look at the study, it is worth very briefly reminding ourselves of the most well-known study on the effects of adverse childhood experiences, The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study (1995-1997), found that all else being equal, the more ACEs an individual had experienced, the more health, social and behavioral problems s/he experienced in later life (this type of statistical relationship is sometimes referred to a ‘dose-response relationship’). The ACEs considered in the CDC-Kaiser Permanente study were as follows:

– physical abuse

– emotional abuse

– sexual abuse

– witnessing the mother being abused by the father

– loss/abandonment/rejection by a parent (including due to separation and divorce)

– living with a parent suffering from a pathological addiction

– living with a clinically depressed mother

– living with a mother who suffers from another significant mental illness

Anderson and Blosnich carried out their study to determine if gay and bisexual individuals experienced a ‘disproportionately higher prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (such as those listed above) in comparison with heterosexuals.

They surveyed a sample of 22,071 individuals from 3 U.S. states (Maine, Washington, and Wisconsin). The survey collected information using the ACE scale (which measures childhood exposure to ACEs) and questions about sexual identity.

Once the collected data had been statistically analyzed it was found that:

  • gay/lesbian individuals obtained ACE scores, on average, 1.66 times higher than heterosexuals
  • bisexual individuals obtained ACE scores, on average, 1.58 times higher than heterosexuals

These are highly statistically significant results. However, they do not provide us with a reason as to why the childhoods of gay/lesbian individuals are, according to these figures, involve more ACEs, on average, than the childhoods of heterosexuals. 

LGBTIQ+ And Menta Health:

Other research does show that LGBTIQ+ individuals are more likely to suffer from mental health issues than heterosexual individuals. including self-harm, depression, suicidal ideation, and addiction to alcohol and narcotics, and this is thought to be linked to the fact that LGBTIQ+ people e are more likely to experience stressors such as prejudice, discrimination (including from healthcare professionals), rejection, social isolation, being the victim of ‘hate crime and the internalized negative views of some sectors of society (e.g. so-called ‘conversion therapists who have used, in the past techniques, such as aversion therapy, chemical castration, and ice-pick lobotomies) towards the LGBTIQ+ community leading to self-hatred and self-disgust.

Stonewall recently conducted a study which found that :

  • 60% of LGBTIQ+ individuals had suffered from anxiety
  • 50% of LGBTIQ+ individuals had suffered from depression
  • 12.5% of LGBTIQ+ individuals (aged 18-24) had attempted suicide
  • almost 50% of trans people had experienced suicidal ideation


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LGBTIQ+ Adolescents: Effects Of Stigma, Prejudice, And Discrimination:

Emotional Isolation:

Due to the stigma that can still attach itself to being LGBTIQ+, even though things, at least in the U.K. are better than they were, say, 30 years ago, LGBTIQ+ individuals may still feel very emotionally isolated and may believe that nobody else feels as they do or that there is nobody with whom they can confide in or share their intimate feelings with. Such feelings of social isolation and the sense of loneliness that goes with it may give rise to symptoms of clinical depression.


Again, whilst things have improved in recent decades, many LGBTIQ+ individuals feel alienated from their families which can be exacerbated by a perceived (real or imagined) necessity to keep their sexuality a secret for fear of rejection, being thrown out of the family home, and/or meeting with a physically violent reaction.

What psychologists refer to as cognitive dissonance may also occur whereby there exists a conflict in the LGBTIQ+ individual’s mind between his/her parents’ expectations of him/her and how his/her sexuality may prevent these expectations from ever being met. Such cognitive dissonance is liable to give rise to feelings of guilt and shame.


According to statistics provided by Stonewall:

  • 20% of LGBTIQ+ individuals have experienced a hate crime or incident due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last year.
  • 40% of trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident due to their gender identity in the last year.
  • 80% of anti-LGBTIQ+ hate crimes and incidents are never reported (younger LGBTIQ+ individuals were found to be particularly unlikely to report anti-LGBTIQ+ hate crimes and incidents to the police).




Andersen JP, Blosnich J (2013) Disparities in Adverse Childhood Experiences among Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Adults: Results from a Multi-State Probability-Based Sample. PLoS ONE 8(1): e54691. is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission.