Fast Facts

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being.

The ACE Study findings have confirmed the negative impact of ACEs, such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse and household dysfunction, on health behaviors and health outcomes in adulthood. Progress in preventing and recovering from the nation’s worst health and social problems is likely to benefit from understanding that many of these problems arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences.

Adverse Childhood Experiences included in the study are as follows:

  • Emotional Abuse
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Neglect
  • Physical Neglect
  • Violence in Household
  • Household Substance Abuse
  • Household Mental Illness
  • Parental Separation or Divorce
  • Incarcerated Household Member

As the number of stressors (ACEs) experienced during childhood increases, the risk for health problems later in life increases proportionally for the following health problems:

  • alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • depression
  • fetal death
  • health-related quality of life
  • illicit drug use
  • ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • liver disease
  • risk for intimate partner violence
  • multiple sexual partners
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • smoking
  • suicide attempts
  • unintended pregnancies

Learn more about ACE here.


  • Nearly one in eight children (12 percent) have had three or more negative life experiences associated with levels of stress that can harm their health and development.
  • In 2011, nearly 60 percent of children (ages 17 and younger) were exposed to violence within the past year, either directly (as victims) or indirectly (as witnesses)
  • 21 percent of children in the United States suffer from mild behavioral health problems, and an additional 11 percent struggle to overcome significant behavioral health issues.  This estimate translates into a total of 4 million youth who suffer from major mental illness, resulting in significant impairments at home, at school, and with peers (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1999, 123-124).
  • In the United States, children who are members of minority racial and ethnic groups are about one-third as likely to receive behavioral health treatment as other youth.  Much of this disparity relates to poverty levels, as a greater percentage of minorities lack medical insurance and live in areas with little access to health care and other related services (Schlosberg and Levons 2010).
  • An estimated 26 percent of Americans ages 18 and older–about one in four (or over 57.7 million) adults–suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year (Schlosberg and Levons 2010).

In Philadelphia:

  • In 2011, over one-quarter (29 percent) of students in grades nine through 12 reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for an extended period (two or more weeks in a row) in the last year.
  • Public Citizens for Children & Youth (PCCY) projects that of the 950,000 in the region under the age of 18, at least 200,000 suffer from mild behavioral problems.  Another 100,000 struggle to overcome significant behavioral health issues and most, if not all, of these children need mental/behavioral health services and/or care (PCCY 2008).  Despite this direct need, in 2007, only about 39,000 children in Southeastern Pennsylvania accessed behavioral health services through the public system (PCCY 2008).
  • Up to 44 percent of high school students suffering from behavioral health issues drop out of school (Schlosberg and Levons 2010).
  • Up to 70 percent of children and teenagers in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health disorder (Cooper and Masi 2006).