Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)- at a glance

The ACE study is considered the most influential epidemiological study of our time.

The study was conducted in America by Kaiser Permanente San Diego and the Centre for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study was one of the largest investigations of childhood abuse and neglect and household challenges and later life health and wellbeing.

They examined 10 categories (that are given a score of 1 for each item marked as `yes’) to determine a person’s risk for future health and mental health disorders.

ACE the cumulative nature of which, is now becoming widely acknowledged as the underlying causes for all manner of `whole life problems’, in EMDR therapy terms, this highlights the role of problem development as espoused in the Adaptive Information Processing Theory (AIP) (the model that underpins EMDR therapy).

The ACE test is often used in phase 1 of EMDR therapy to determine targets and it enables clinicians to rapidly determine the contributors to dysfunction and identify the memories to be targeted for processing through direct questioning.


3 Categories of ACEs

Abuse, neglect and household dysfunction- each type of maltreatment you have suffered counts for 1 ACE score. If you have suffered that ACE more than once it still counts for a score of 1.


Understanding ACEs

10 forms of childhood trauma drastically increase the risk of 7 out of 10 of the leading causes of death.

High doses of these traumas unhelpfully impact on our brain, immune system and the hormonal system.

People exposed to very high doses of ACEs have a reduced life expectancy of 20 years.

 Having ACEs is common

2 in every 10 kids are sexually abused. 3 out of 10 kids are physically abused. 1 in every 10 kids are emotionally abused. Many victims suffer multiple forms of abuse and neglect.


What does your ACE Score mean?

Almost two thirds of people surveyed scored at least 1 adverse childhood experience.

More than 1 in 10 people have a score of 4 or more.

The higher your ACE score the higher your statistical possibility of suffering from a whole range of psychological and Medical problems like depression, cancer or coronary heart disease.

This isn’t to say you definitely will though.

But it is good to understand your risks, so that you can take action to reduce them.


My advice

I invite you to take the ACE test (if you haven’t already and be aware of your score to share with your therapist and/or relevant person who you trust).

The ACE questionnaire is available for free download from (htpps:// score) in English, French, German Icelandic, Norwegian, Spanish and Swedish.

I also invite you to look at Ted Talks on YouTube on the subject of Adverse Childhood Experiences from medical and psychological clinicians.



Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019. Violence Prevention: Adverse Childhood Experiences.