Do You Know Your ACE Score?

By Ginger Kadlec — get free updates of new posts here.

baby-469280_1920Research continues to validate that trauma experienced in childhood can have long-term effects on people throughout their lives.

People who endure Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can suffer a variety of detrimental life outcomes, including:

  • Engaging in activity or behavior that can negatively impact health (e.g., smoking, addiction to alcohol or drugs, self-injurious behavior, etc.)
  • Encountering physical health issues such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and more
  • Experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, Post-Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD) or even attempted suicide
  • Enduring other negative life situations such as being at higher risk for domestic violence, poor performance at work or school, unintended pregnancies, financial stress and more

The higher a person’s ACE Score, the more likely that person is to experience one or more detrimental life outcomes.

The ground-breaking ACE Study was initially conducted from 1995 to 1997 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente surveying and conducting physical exams of over 17,000 health maintenance organization members from Southern California. This study found that ACEs are incredibly common with nearly 2/3 of the study participants reporting they had experienced at least one ACE (and among those, 87% experienced more than one ACE) and more than 1 in 5 reported experiencing 3 or more ACEs.

The ACE “Score” is a sum total of the different categories of ACE and is used to assess an individual’s level of childhood stress or trauma. Study findings repeatedly reveal that the higher a person’s ACE Score, the more likely that person is to experience one or more detrimental life outcomes (see examples noted above).

“The painful symptoms of PTS (post-traumatic stress) can take on a life of their own if not treated effectively,” notes author and PTSD survivor Steve Sparks. “More importantly, the symptoms will have a consequential secondary effect on loved ones and children in particular.”

Three Types of ACE

The CDC shares an infographic that explains the three (3) different types of ACEs: 1) Abuse; 2) Household Challenges; and 3) Neglect.

ACE infographic CDC.png v1

Sparks adds, “Parents are solely responsible for protecting their children and will be highly motivated to do so once understanding the terrible consequences of exposing children to a home culture affected by life after trauma.”

Take the ACE quiz.

To understand your ACE score, answer the “yes”/”no” questions below then tally your score… the higher the ACE score, the greater the likelihood of encountering detrimental life outcomes.

So, before you turned 18 years old…

  1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… swear at you, insult you, put you down or humiliate you? Or, did that adult act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
    • Yes = 1
    • No = 0
  2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… push, grab, slap or throw something at you? Or, did that adult ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
    • Yes = 1
    • No = 0
  3. Did an adult person at least 5 years older than you ever… touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? Or, did that person attempt or actually have oral, anal or vaginal intercourse with you?
    • Yes = 1
    • No = 0
  4. Did you often or very often feel that… no one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? Or, did your family NOT look out for each other, feel close to each other or support each other?
    • Yes = 1
    • No = 0
  5. Did you often or very often feel that… you didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes and had no one to protect you? Or, were your parents too drunk or too high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
    • Yes = 1
    • No = 0
  6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
    • Yes = 1
    • No = 0
  7. Was your mother or stepmother: often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped or had something thrown at her? Or, was she sometimes, often or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist or hit with something hard? Or, was she ever repeatedly hit at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
    • Yes = 1
    • No = 0
  8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker, an alcoholic or who used street drugs?
    • Yes = 1
    • No = 0
  9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill? Or, did a household member attempt suicide?
    • Yes = 1
    • No = 0
  10. Did a household member go to prison?
    • Yes = 1
    • No = 0

Visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to find more extensive ACE questionnaires for men and women that specifically address family health history and a personal health appraisal (see “Study Questionnaires”). Also, visit the CDC’s ACE Infographic to learn more.

It’s never too late to seek help.

People come to terms with childhood trauma at different rates and at different times in their lives. Some survivors of childhood trauma are connected with counseling and support soon after trauma occurs… others aren’t able to begin their journeys of healing until much later in life. Regardless of when a trauma survivor begins this journey, it is important to connect with the proper professionals who can best help and counsel the survivor. In addition to a host of local resources available in communities around the world, here are a few other organizations that may be able to help:

MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving)

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Center on Elder Abuse

National Child Abuse Hotline: ChildHelp

National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs,
National Advocacy for Local LGBT Communities

[links to local programs]

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)  [24/7 hotline]
1-888-628-9454 (Spanish)
1-800-799-4889 (TTY)

National Runaway Safeline
1-800-RUN-AWAY (786-2929)

National Sexual Assault Hotline: RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)
1-800-656-4673 [24/7 hotline]
[hosts an online hotline]

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 (TTY)

Teen Line
1-310-855-4673 or text 839863

National Hotline for Crime Victims
1-855-4-VICTIM (1-855-484-2846) 

About Ginger

Chance and GK 2013-04-26Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and trained child forensic interviewer, Ginger regularly blogs about child protection issues. Along with her husband John and pets Lexi and Chase, Ginger enjoys traveling, skiing, hiking, brisk mornings, colorful sunsets and just hangin’ at home with “the Pack”.


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4 thoughts on “Do You Know Your ACE Score?

  1. My ACE score is 9. Just taking the test was extremely hard. Yes, I am in out patient care. Thank you for advocating for children.

    1. Thank YOU, Carlie, for sharing your score… I’m so very sorry and can only imagine how difficult this questionnaire must have been to complete. Sending BIG hugs your way!!!! Glad to know you are taking care of YOU! <3

      All my best,

    1. Thank YOU for the work you are doing to stop trafficking! You are not alone in having a high ACE score… sending major credit your way for turning negative experiences into helping others. Sending hugs your way, along with my gratitude and thanks.


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