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Early adversity has lasting impact…

Dec 20, 2019

Aces 2

This week I attended an ACE’s awareness workshop hosted by Hertfordshire County Council.  I’d come across ACE’s before when a new animated video was published to raise awareness (view below) 

ACE’s is an acronym for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE's).  These are essentially what is written on the tin.  The World Health Organisation identifies and recognises the following as ACE’s:


  • physical
  • sexual
  • verbal


  • emotional
  • physical

Growing up in a household where:

  • there are adults with alcohol and drug use problems
  • there are adults with mental health problems
  • there is domestic violence
  • there are adults who have spent time in prison
  • parents have separated

The key message here is that any child or young person who experiences any of the above, not only suffers at the time from the initial experience, but as a result is more likely to suffer as they grow into adulthood. 

Studies have been completed and research has shown that if children and young people experience multiple ACE’s, the effects are incredibly harmful and their outcomes in life become increasingly bleak.

Children and young people are more likely to make poor life choices, which lead to increasing likelihood of disease in later life such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory problems, decreased life expectancy and ultimately early death.


The results make for quite stark reading and these are some of the statistics from UK study that really impacted me:

Children with 4 ACEs + are:

  • 3x more likely to smoke
  • 5x more likely to have had sex under 16 years
  • 6x more likely to have been pregnant or got someone accidently pregnant Under 18
  • 7x more likely to be involved in recent violence
  • 11x more likely to use heroin/crack in later life
  • 11x more likely to have been incarcerated

One of the key things that has come out of research is that these risky behaviours are often coping strategies for those who have experienced ACE’s.  What needs to then be addressed is finding suitable coping mechanisms that are not harmful.  I asked the question, what could these be?  If we had the answer, maybe all would be right with the world?

The other key message I felt was that building resilience in children and young people is what helps them the most.  This resilience will enable them to understand their choices and perhaps steer them towards making the right choices for a better life for themselves.  Resilience building for us practitioners working with children and young people, is offering them support.  You can simply ask the question ‘What’s going on?’. 

Often those that suffer from trauma do not disclose without prompting.  Research has also shown that it only takes someone genuinely asking, for those suffering to be able to share their experiences and then receive much needed help.  This help is vital in making a change in the life outcomes of ACE sufferers.

Adverse Childhood Experiences
Short animated video to raise ACE's awareness

Hertfordshire is adopting the Trauma Informed Practice (TIC) to help support working with people that may have suffered from ACE’s.  You can read more about this on the following link:

Please also share the ACE’s animated video to raise awareness of this with your partners, practitioners and peers:

Statistics that I shared can be found here:

Lots of further reading can be found by simply googling ACE’s.