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Adverse Childhood Experiences

The “ACE” quiz asks a series of 10 questions (see below) about common traumatic experiences that occur in early development. It has been found that the higher the numbers of ACEs before 18 years of age, the tendency leans towards increased challenges later on in adulthood. This includes social, relational and emotional difficulties as well as a higher risk of certain health problems.

The quiz was designed to serve only as an indicator to how likely a person might be to face these challenges in later life.

However, it is important to recognise that everyone is different, and adverse experiences in childhood affect each child differently. It is NOT inevitable that just because a person has experienced a high level of ACEs that they will go on to experience social, emotional, or health problems. This is because some children develop resilience – the ability to overcome serious hardship – while others do not. Genetic factors certainly play a role, whereby some children are predisposed to be more sensitive to adversity than others. But the most common factor among children who show resilience is at least one stable and responsive relationship with a supportive adult to mitigate their stress.

There are also certain things the quiz does not take in to consideration. For instance, there are many experiences that could be traumatic for children that are not included in the the quiz – community violence, racism, other forms of discrimination, natural disasters, housing insecurity. This means that answering all the questions in the ACE quiz will not give a full picture of the adversity a child has faced, and as such, cannot be used as a true indicator of potential risk— neither deliver a full picture of the possible solutions communities could consider.

Remember, ACE scores don’t tally the positive experiences in early life that can help build resilience and protect a child from the effects of trauma. Having a grandparent who loves you, a teacher who understands and believes in you, or a trusted friend you can confide in may mitigate the long-term effects of early trauma.

Take the ACE Quiz

For each “yes” answer, add 1. The total number at the end is your cumulative number of ACEs.

Before your 18th birthday:

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


Publication: NPR
Featured Expert: Jack P. Shonkoff