In 1992 Dr. Vincent Felitti, head of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego and Dr. Robert Anda, researcher with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began to collaborate on a large scale study of the incidence and effects of childhood trauma, known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.
The ACE Study is a decade-long and ongoing study designed to examine the childhood origins of many of our Nation’s leading health and social problems.
ACE- Adverse Childhood Experiences
The concept of the ACE Study is that stressful or traumatic childhood experiences increase the risk of cognitive damage, re-victimization, disease and have a negative impact on behavior, health, and even longevity.
Abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence, or growing up with alcohol or other substance abuse, mental illness, parental discord, or crime in the home are common pathways to social, emotional, and cognitive impairments.
We now know from breakthroughs in neurobiology that ACEs disrupt neurodevelopment and can have lasting effects on brain structure and function.
ACEs have a strong influence on:
-illicit drug abuse
-risk of revictimization
-stability of relationships
-performance in the workforce
ACEs increase the risk of:
-Chronic Lung disease
-HIV and STDs
-and other risks for the leading
causes of death
The effects of ACEs are long-term, powerful, cumulative, and likely to be invisible to health care
providers, educators, social service organizations, and policy makers because the linkage between
cause and effect is concealed by time. The original traumatic insults may not become manifest until much later in life.
When a child is wounded, the pain and negative long-term effects reverberate, thereby sustaining the cycle of abuse, neglect, violence and substance abuse, and mental illness. For example, ACEs greatly increase the risk of adult alcohol abuse or marriage to an alcoholic, perpetuating the adversities and their consequences. Thus, growing up with alcohol abuse contributes to many of the leading chronic health and social
problems in the United States.
The ACE Study suggests that stressful and traumatic childhood and adolescent experiences
literally become “biology” affecting brain structure and function (as well as endocrine, immune,
and other biologic functions) leading to persistent effects. Until now, these persistent effects
were “hidden” from the view of both neuroscientists and public health researchers.
We found that adults who reported any single category of adverse childhood experience were likely to have suffered multiple other categories during childhood. Children experiencing alcohol abuse in the home should be screened for other types of maltreatment and traumatic stressors—and vice versa!
Many of our nation’s leading health and social problems are directly tied to enduring neurodevelopmental consequences of growing up with alcohol abuse and related adverse experiences during childhood.
Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County ACOA Meeting