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This 45-minute video interview presentation created by Mountain Plains Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC), representing HHS Region VIII, is a professional learning tool to explore how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) affect the human population.

Director of Mountain Plains MHTTC, Professor Thomasine Heitkamp, interviews a national expert on Adverse Childhood Experiences, Dr. Donald Warne, who offers insight to providers and educators interested in gaining a deeper understanding of ACEs, including content on historical trauma and addressing stigma.


WHAT ARE ACEs?
Adverse Childhood Experiences

ACEs are experiences in childhood that are unhappy, unpleasant, and/or hurtful. They are sometimes referred to as toxic stress or childhood trauma.

ACEs are categorized into three groups: abuse, neglect, and household challenges. Each category is further divided into multiple subcategories. The prevalence of ACEs is organized by category. All ACE questions refer to the respondent’s first 18 years of life.

Abuse

  • Emotional abuse: A parent, stepparent, or adult living in your home swore at you, insulted you, put you down, or acted in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt.
  • Physical abuse: A parent, stepparent, or adult living in your home pushed, grabbed, slapped, threw something at you, or hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured.
  • Sexual abuse: An adult, relative, family friend, or stranger who was at least 5 years older than you ever touched or fondled your body in a sexual way, made you touch his/her body in a sexual way, attempted to have any type of sexual intercourse with you.

 

Household Challenges

  • Mother is treated violently: Your mother or stepmother was pushed, grabbed, slapped, had something thrown at her, kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, hit with something hard, repeatedly hit for over at least a few minutes, or ever threatened or hurt by a knife or gun by your father (or stepfather) or mother’s boyfriend.
  • Substance abuse in the household: A household member was a problem drinker or alcoholic or a household member used street drugs.
  • Mental illness in the household: A household member was depressed or mentally ill or a household member attempted suicide.
  • Parental separation or divorce: Your parents were ever separated or divorced.
  • Incarcerated household member: A household member went to prison.

 

Neglect

  • Emotional neglect: Someone in your family helped you feel important or special, you felt loved, people in your family looked out for each other and felt close to each other, and your family was a source of strength and support.
  • Physical neglect: There was someone to take care of you, protect you, and take you to the doctor if you needed it, you didn’t have enough to eat, your parents were too drunk or too high to take care of you, and you had to wear dirty clothes.

 

Research Findings

The Center for Disease Control-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and household challenges and later-life health and well-being. The original ACE Study was conducted at Kaiser Permanente from 1995 to 1997 with two waves of data collection. More than 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members from Southern California receiving physical exams completed confidential surveys regarding their childhood experiences and current health status and behaviors.

The CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study uncovered how ACEs are strongly related to development of risk factors for disease, and well-being throughout the life course. More detailed information about the study can be found in this article, “Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults External.”