July 11, 2023

The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Prevention Tactics

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have a lasting impact on a child’s life.

Fortunately, agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide strategies and resources to help define ACEs and to help caregivers and child care providers prevent traumatic experiences as much as possible before they happen, identify children whom have experienced ACEs, and respond to these experiences using trauma-informed approaches.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)?

ACEs are traumatic events or circumstances that occur during childhood. These experiences can range from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, household substance abuse, domestic violence, and parental separation or divorce, among others.

Through research conducted by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente, it has been revealed that traumatic experiences have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity.

ACEs can vary depending on the child and environment in which the child grows and learns. Some experiences can be witnessed directly, such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect or witnessing violence in the home or community. These experiences can also include aspects of the child’s environment that take away from a child’s sense of safety, stability, and bonding.

ACEs and associated social determinants of health, such as living in under-resourced or racially segregated neighborhoods, can cause toxic stress (extended or prolonged stress). Toxic stress from ACEs can negatively affect children’s brain development, immune systems, and stress-response systems.

Recognizing and addressing ACEs is important for promoting individual and societal well-being. Creating safe and nurturing environments for children, ensuring access to quality healthcare and mental health services, and implementing trauma-informed approaches in various settings are vital steps in preventing and addressing ACEs.

Risk Protective Factors

Risk factors are defined as things that increase the likelihood of experiencing ACEs. Protective factors are defined as things that protect people and decrease the possibility of experiencing ACEs. Individual, family, and community factors can affect the likelihood of these experiences, but they may or may not be direct causes of ACEs. Because ACEs include many different types of experiences and traumatic events, there are many risk and protective factors that apply to the range of different ACEs.

Learn more about Individual, Family, Community Risk and Protective Factors from the CDC.

Prevention Strategies for Children

CDC has developed a resource to help states and communities take advantage of the best available evidence to prevent ACEs. It features six strategies from the CDC Technical Packages to Prevent Violence.

  • Strengthen Economic Supports to Families: Community organizations such as faith-based and youth-serving organizations can promote policies that support families facing financial problems or help parents balance work and family responsibilities, which reduce stress and allow parents to meet children’s basic needs.
  • Promote Social Norms That Protect Against Violence and Adversity: Encourage community organizations such as youth-serving and faith-based organizations, coaches, and caregivers to promote non-violent attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • Ensure a Strong Start for Children: Involved parents, strong preschool programs, and good quality childcare get children started on the right foot and help them succeed later in life. Youth-serving and faith-based organizations can contribute to this as well.
  • Teach Healthy Relationship Skills: Children and caregivers can both learn how to create healthy relationships and manage their emotions.
  • Connect Children to Caring Adults and Activities: Community organizations connect young people with positive role models and provide activities for young people to learn leadership and other new skills. Communities can help young people grow and succeed at school and in life, such as getting children involved in after-school activities.
  • Intervene to Lessen Immediate and Long-Term Harms: When ACEs occur, community organizations, can offer services and support to reduce harms and help break the cycle of adversity, including providing therapy to reduce symptoms of depression, fear or anxiety, and behavior problems.

By recognizing and addressing ACEs, parents and child care providers can create a bright future for children and promote resilience, healing, and well-being.

Visit the CDC website for more information about childhood trauma prevention and ACEs Resources.


September 2, 2020

COVID-19’s Impact on Early Childhood and ACEs

Are you interested in hearing guidance from experts on early childhood development, adverse childhood experiences, and the impact of COVID-19 on children? Join the NIHCM Foundation on September 10 for their webinar, “Protecting Our Children: COVID-19’s Impact on Early Childhood and ACEs.”


Although most children are not at high risk for contracting COVID-19, the pandemic has disrupted their lives and exacerbated challenges to children’s health and well-being. This webinar will convene experts to provide information and guidance on early childhood development, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and the impact of COVID-19 on children.

Speakers will discuss the following topics:

    • the importance of early childhood experiences in lifelong health and how adversity affects both the developing brain and other physiological systems;
    • what ACEs initiatives are doing to respond to COVID-19 and the opportunities and challenges the pandemic has produced for professionals in the field; and
    • lessons from a health plan’s investment in programming that addresses ACEs, including education on ACEs for teachers, policymakers, and health care professionals.


To learn more and register, visit the event webpage.