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What are the 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences

A female child lying on the floor and crying while holding her stuffed toy

Many children experience abuse and neglect when growing up. These experiences can have a lasting impact on a person’s health and well-being. Therefore, it’s essential to consider how their upbringing can affect them throughout their lifespan. 

What are 10 adverse childhood experiences with the most significant impact on children and adults? This post identifies and explains them.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Children can experience physical and emotional health issues from abuse or neglect. In addition, they can experience these same issues from growing up in a dysfunctional household. These are Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE’s. 

ACEs are traumatic experiences that happen before the age of 18 but last through adulthood. They can cause lasting mental and physical issues.

What are the 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences?

Experts define many things as adverse childhood experiences. But 10 things can happen during childhood that harms physical and mental health. 

The 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences are as follows.

1. Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is non-accidental harm. It includes injuries like bruises, lesions, or fractures. People cause these injuries by hitting, punching, kicking, shaking, beating, burning, throwing, or stabbing.

2. Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is sexual behavior with a child or sexual exploitation of a child. This abuse also includes indecent exposure and using a child in prostitution or pornography.

3. Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is behavior that interferes with a child’s mental health. This type of abuse includes verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological maltreatment. 

Emotional abuse can be many things, including:

  • Belittling
  • Rejecting
  • Ridiculing
  • Blaming
  • Threatening
  • Isolating
  • Restricting social interactions
  • Denying the child an emotional response
  • Purposely not talking to the child for extended periods 

4. Physical Neglect

Physical neglect is failing to provide for the child’s basic needs. This neglect includes not providing food, clothing, shelter, or medical attention. It also includes a lack of supervision. 

5. Emotional Neglect

Emotional neglect is the failure to meet a child’s emotional needs. Emotional neglect includes failing to provide social support or needed mental health treatment. This includes when a child’s needs are ignored. An example would be if a baby cried and no one tended to the child.

6. Mental Illness

Living with a relative with a mental health issue can have a significant impact on a child. Depending on their disorder, a parent may not take adequate care of the child. They also may fail to model appropriate behaviors for the child. 

7. Incarcerated Relative

Children with an incarcerated parent may grow up primarily in a single-parent household. Having an incarcerated parent is challenging for the parent who is home and the child. The child also may have trauma or feelings of abandonment. The absent parent also may have modeled inappropriate behaviors before imprisonment. 

8. Mother Treated Violently

Any violence in the home is traumatic. Witnessing violence toward the primary caregiver affects a child. This impact is because the mother typically is the primary caregiver. A child forms an attachment to her that tends to be stronger than with other family members. They rely on their mother to take care of them. Seeing her hurt, especially by another loved one, is traumatic.

9. Substance Use 

Substance use in the home can lead to a variety of unsafe conditions for the child. Parents may not take care of the child properly. There also may be other abuse and domestic violence associated with substance use.

10. Divorce

Divorce can impact children negatively. Some divorcing parents expose children to verbal or physical fighting. They also may ignore the child while working through their relationship issues. Some children feel they are to blame for the divorce.

Custody fights may make the child feel unloved or pulled in different directions. In addition, the child could learn unhealthy communication and coping skills.

A boy with his legs crossed while sitting on the floor with his head bowed in his arms

How Adverse Childhood Experiences Negatively Affect Adults

The 10 ACEs can impact your health in adulthood, creating physical and emotional challenges. 

Sometimes stress can be toxic, resulting in prolonged activation of the body’s stress response. Staying in this fight-or-flight mode can lead to long-term physical and mental health issues.

Adults who don’t properly cope with ACEs are at greater risk for chronic health problems like diabetes and heart disease. They are also at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and impaired memory.

Toxic stress can lead to difficulty regulating emotions, including experiencing joy. It also can leave a person unable to understand how to respond to situations. There is also an increased likelihood that they will use substances, including alcohol, drugs, and nicotine.

Consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences

There are many consequences of ACEs for adults. In addition to increased risk for mental and physical issues, some other effects are common.

False Self

Wounds from childhood trauma often result in the creation of a false self. For example, a child may alter their personality to try to get their parents’ love. To become their authentic self as an adult, they must get in touch with their true feelings.

Victimhood Thinking

A victimized child may feel they have no choice but to be a victim in their adult life. It’s not true. You have a choice in who you are as an adult. So instead, think of yourself as a survivor and use positive self-talk to combat negative thinking.


Children who grow up around unhealthy expressions of anger may feel they should never express anger. Anger is a healthy emotion. If you don’t express it, you will stay angry. You must acknowledge anger so you can resolve its trigger. If you don’t acknowledge anger, you will express these feelings as passive-aggressiveness.


Neglected or abandoned children tend to hold themselves back. As a result, they end up passive, which does not allow them to live up to their potential. Adults need feelings to guide them toward becoming who they want to be.

Preventing Consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences

ACEs can be detrimental to health throughout a person’s life. Therefore, it’s critical to prevent exposure to adverse childhood experiences. But ACEs are common, and people can’t always avoid them.

It’s best to provide a nurturing, safe, and stable environment for the child. It is also essential to teach children healthy ways to cope with adversity.

To help children cope with adversity, you can foster resilience in the child. In addition, you can help them understand their skills and have confidence in their abilities. 

Connection with others and learning to contribute to others’ well-being also can make a child more resilient. 

Teaching them right from wrong can develop their character, and making their own decisions can give them a sense of control. Teaching the child various healthy coping skills will help them handle stress in their lives as they grow into healthy adults.

How ILC Can Help With Childhood Trauma

Integrative Life Center is here to help those struggling with childhood trauma. We offer various trauma treatments to help heal the root of your trauma. Please contact us so we can design a treatment plan that meets your individual needs.

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