ACE is an acronym for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Doctors tell us that our most formative years are from age 0 to 7 years. Actually, (according to me), there is no age 0, because research now shows that we are the sum total of what our parents ate, how they lived and where they originated (lineage). There are Mind-Body Studies that show that stress and trauma can be inherited for up to four generations, thanks to epigenetics. We can talk about epigenetics at a later date. So actually, we are what has been handed down to us over generations.
ACE affects nearly each one of us in one way or another. If you are like most parents, the paramount thing will be to provide for the basic needs of our children. Parents who are slightly older (baby boomers….), hardly considered the emotional wellbeing of children. I wonder how earlier generations than that handled emotional wellbeing. This has been a more recent phenomenon, with the education/enlightenment of more and more young parents, (especially mothers). Emotional wellbeing has become a fundamental pillar of holistic health and even though it is taking long for everyone to grasp the importance of it, the good thing is that at least, there are active awareness campaigns, drawing people’s attention to the dire need to feed the right things to our minds, spirits as well as bodies.
I came across ACE during my Integrative Nutrition training. These studies show that all traumatic experiences that happen in a child’s life from birth to age 18, affect the child in one of many ways, and they continue for the entire life of the child.
According to the CDC, the following are the main risk factors for ACE:
Emotional abuse: A parent or other adult in the home that ever swore at the child, insulted the child, or put the child down.
Physical abuse: A parent or other adult in the home that ever hit, beat, kicked or physically hurt the child.
Sexual abuse: An adult or person at least 5 years older ever touched the child in a sexual way or tried to make the child touch their body in a sexual way, or attempted to have sex with the child.
Intimate partner violence:
Where parents or adults in the home ever slapped, hit, kicked, punched or beat each other up.
Substance abuse in the household:
Where a household member was a problem drinker or alcoholic or used street drugs or abused prescription medications.
Mental illness in the household:
Where a household member was depressed or mentally ill or a household member attempted suicide.
Parental separation or divorce:
Where parents in the home were ever separated or divorced.
Incarcerated household member:
Where a household member went to prison.
Above adapted from a CDC-Kaiser ACE Study.
Other unrelated studies show that emotional abuse among parents, abandonment of children including parents leaving children for long periods without seeing them even though they stay in the same home with the parents, is a risk factor for ACE.
Dr. Christiane Northrup says: “The truth about our childhood is stored in our bodies; we can mask it, but someday our bodies will present the bill of all the torments it has gone through”. She further says that these are the largest ongoing studies to have been carried out and to have included more than 17,000 patients of all classes of life.
ACE effects are said to be cumulative: The more one experiences the adverse effects in childhood, the more the chances of negative experiences in adulthood. Meaning; ACE victims will be more likely to visit the Emergency Room more, or have a greater chance of premature death, just as an example.
According to Dr. Joan Borysenko, ACE studies bridge the gap between childhood trauma and negative consequences later in life. She further quotes the following statistics regarding ACE related incidences:
“A male child with an ACE score of 6 is 4600 times more likely to become an IV drug abuser. An ACE score of 4 has the probability of OCPD by 390%; An ACE score of 4 or more raises the probability of depression by about 500% and suicide by over 1200%”.
“It is good to know the facts because people tell themselves stories about their childhood victimizations, and they are stories that can eventually be changed”.
Lasting Impacts of ACE include:-
Injuries that include: traumatic brain injury, fractures, burns; Mental Health Issues that include: depression, anxiety, suicide, PSTD; Maternal Health that includes: unintended pregnancy, pregnancy complications, fetal death; Infectious diseases that include: HIV, STDs; Chronic disease that includes: cancer, diabetes, obesity; Risky behaviors that include: Alcohol & drug abuse, unsafe sex. There is also a positive outcome that includes opportunities like education leading to occupations that generate incomes, where people beat all odds and beat ACE.
I was astonished at the above statistics.
I hope we can all go back to the drawing board and see how we can help our young children not to experience ACE, now that we know how gravely adverse ACE is. Maybe before calling it quits, hitting or saying a negative word to that child, we can remember the effects that our children will suffer for life, and maybe, just maybe we can try to be more considerate.
Finally, let us continue taking care of one another as we take care of the universe because we are all one.