Childhood trauma affects adults

We all agree that an unhappy childhood is associated with problems  later in life. But what exactly are the conditions in childhood that are most likely to cause problems later on? The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study is perhaps the largest ongoing scientific research collaboration of its kind (between Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

9 adverse childhood experiences

Analyzing the relationship between multiple categories of childhood trauma and health outcomes later in life, researchers defined 9 Adverse Childhood Experiences that can occur in the household prior to age 18.
  • Recurrent physical abuse
  • Recurrent emotional abuse
  • Contact sexual abuse
  • An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
  • An incarcerated household member
  • Someone who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
  • Mother is treated violently
  • One or no parents
  • Emotional or physical neglect
The ACE Study used a simple scoring method to determine the extent of each participant's exposure to childhood trauma. Exposure to one category (not a single incident of trauma), qualifies as one point. Points are then added up to derive an ACE Score.

An ACE Score of 0 (zero) would mean that the person reported no exposure to any of the listed categories of trauma. An ACE Score of 9 would mean that all these categories of trauma were reported.

Some of the areas of investigation that researchers found may be related to childhood trauma are a shortened lifespan, high incidence of coping mechanisms such as smoking and drinking, and increased likelihood of obesity.

Do you have questions only an expert can answer? Ask Health24's teen expert.

How much do you think childhood trauma affects later life?

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