Adverse Childhood Conditions (ACE)

What are ACEs?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that affect children while growing up, such as suffering child maltreatment or living in a household affected by domestic violence, substance misuse or mental illness.

“It is, therefore, vital that we understand the impact that adversity and trauma can have on the mental health and wellbeing of young people, and how we can strengthen resilience and support recovery.

It is the experiences we find hardest to talk about in our society that have a lasting impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. Be it bereavement, domestic violence, caring for a parent, or sexual abuse, we must ensure that all services are better able to identify childhood adversity and help to resolve the trauma related to it.”

Experience of adversity and trauma in childhood can significantly increase the risk of mental and physical ill health in adolescence and adulthood and result in these young people dying earlier than their peers later in life.” (source: Young Minds Addressing Adversity)

Click on the image to watch a short animated film developed to raise awareness of ACEs, their potential to damage health across the life course and the roles that different agencies can play in preventing ACEs and supporting those affected by them

The film has been produced for Public Health Wales and Blackburn with Darwen Local Authority.



Click on the image to watch Paediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explain that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. An impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on.


The ten widely recognised ACEs, as identified in a US study from the 1990s, are:


  • 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

As well as these 10 ACEs there is a range of other types of childhood adversity that can have similar negative long-term effects. These include bereavement, bullying, poverty and community adversities such as living in a deprived area, neighbourhood violence etc.


Further reading (click links to view):

The Adverse Childhood Experiences evidence base–a wake-up call to radically redesign Children’s Mental Health Services.

ACEs and Toxic Stress: Frequently Asked Questions







A Crying Shame – A report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner into vulnerable babies in England.

Nearly 16,000 babies are growing up in households where they are at risk of severe harm, a report by England’s Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, warns.

The report says that of 19,640 under-ones identified as being “in need”, 15,820 were still living at home.

It also estimates that 8,300 babies are growing up amid the “toxic trio” of drug or alcohol addiction, domestic violence and severe mental ill-health.

The government says its Domestic Abuse Bill will tackle these sorts of issues.



Addressing Adversity

Prioritising adversity and trauma-informed care for children and young people in England.

YoungMinds compiled this collection to raise awareness about the impact of adversity and trauma on the mental health of children and young people.






Additional websites (click to view)

Violence Prevention

Learning from Oklahoma’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Story

Adverse Childhood Experiences Presentation Graphics

Learning from Wisconsin’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Story

Learning from Washington’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Story