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What is Your ACE Score?

An older man wearing glasses embraces a younger man with red hair

Trauma in childhood can come from many sources: familial abuse or neglect, witnessing violence, experiencing a natural disaster, or severe illness of oneself or a loved one. While the causes of childhood trauma vary widely, they share an ability to affect your coping skills, relationships, and mental and physical health far into adulthood. 

Researchers developed a tool to determine how much childhood trauma may impact you today. This tool is the Adverse Childhood Experiences Quiz. The result is your ACE “score.” So what is your ACE score? This post will help you understand more. 

About the ACE Study

The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences study took place in 1995-97. It was one of the most extensive investigations of childhood abuse, neglect, and environmental challenges. This study, and others that built off the original findings, demonstrated how childhood trauma had long-term effects on adults. 

ACEs are so common that 61% of adults have at least one type, and 16% or more have more than four types of ACEs. Women and marginalized populations are at a higher risk of experiencing childhood trauma. 

Through the years, other researchers added more information to the study, allowing a greater understanding of many areas of childhood trauma and how they might extend into adulthood. 

What is Your ACE Score? 

The ACE quiz asks 10 questions related to traumatic events experienced in childhood. As you answer “yes” to more questions, your risk of having related mental or physical health problems later in life increases. 

The questions are in two groups: trauma occurring to you and the experience of trauma related to another family member or a person close to you. 

The questions cover the following areas: 

  • Abuse. This category includes physical, verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse.
  • Neglect. Not providing for a child’s physical or emotional needs.
  • Household Challenges. Experiences in this category include divorce, death or abandonment of guardians, serious illness, substance use disorder, or mental illness in the home. 
  • Community Incidents. These include natural disasters, terrorism, or violence in the community.

The questions do not cover all possible types of trauma you might experience in childhood. But they cover the most common types of abuse. You can take the ACE quiz here

An older man embraces a young child. He has a loving look on his face and the child rests his head on the older man's shoulder

What Does Your Score Mean to You?

A higher ACE score means you experienced more adverse experiences in your childhood. It correlates to a higher chance of physical and psychological problems later in life. 

A higher ACE score puts you at risk for: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance use
  • Risky behaviors like smoking and reckless sexual activity
  • Asthma 
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity 
  • Socioeconomic challenges (unemployment, less education, etc.) 

These adverse experiences take a toll. They make it challenging to build relationships, find success at work, and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. 

It’s important to remember, though, that everyone has different levels of “resiliency,” or the ability to adapt in times of trauma or other significant sources of stress. Two people could experience the same form of trauma or even the same traumatic event differently. While their ACE score might be the same, their ability to cope with the aftereffects of trauma may be different. 

Additionally, you may have resiliency to different types of trauma. One traumatic childhood event could have little effect on your adult life. Another event or situation could leave you with major psychological scars. 

Ultimately, your ACE score is a tool. It provides one way for your therapeutic care team to understand your childhood trauma, the risk factors it might affect in your adult life, and potential treatment options that could help. But it is not a guaranteed indicator of mental health concerns later in life. 

How ILC Can Help

Every person experiences trauma differently. It is important to develop a unique, personal therapeutic approach that works for you. Integrative Life Center offers trauma-informed therapy to help you deal with childhood trauma’s lingering effects. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you in recovering from adverse childhood events. 


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