Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have become ubiquitous within a variety of disciplines, including the public health, social work, medicine, law, and criminal justice fields. The pivotal 1998 Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente ACEs study (CDC-Kaiser ACEs study) highlighted the prevalence of childhood adversity and the lifelong, intergenerational effects of early exposure to toxic stress. Since then, literature on ACEs has developed significantly, yet two decades later, the field is in need of robust, cohesive strategies to reduce or prevent ACEs. The editors, Drs. Asmundson and Afifi (2020), and contributors of this book seek to close this gap by providing historical information on ACEs and childhood trauma, overviewing the current research related to ACEs impact and outcomes, discussing recent controversies and developments of ACEs instruments, and guiding next steps for policy, prevention, and continued research. Central to this book, as noted by the authors, is its relevance to diverse audiences with the shared
mission to understand, treat, and prevent ACEs. Sections I and II examine ACEs through a historical context and highlight current efforts in the field.
As mentioned, the CDC-Kaiser ACEs study found that child adversity is common and associated with physical, psychological, and social problems in adulthood. The adverse experiences examined in this initial study include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, violence against a mother, parental divorce, household member with substance use/abuse issues, household member with mental illness, and incarcerated household member. Research indicates that childhood exposure to one or more ACEs increases the risk of physical health (e.g., cardiovascular conditions or chronic metabolic disorders), mental health (e.g., depression, substance abuse), and behavioral issues. Moreover, children who experience ACEs are more prone to participating in risky behaviors and violence, including sexual violence, perpetration, or victimization. The pervasiveness of ACEs and their impact on various aspects of an individual’s life initiated a public health response to address this problem.
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