ACEs is a questionnaire about the number of traumatic events that happened to a child before they turned 18. The higher the ACEs score, the higher the number of traumatic experiences experienced by the child. ACEs is short for adverse childhood experiences, and is a measure of emotional abuse, neglect, parental substance abuse, caregiver mental illness and household violence. Recent research has shown, however, that children may face many other adverse experiences, like discrimination, poverty and racism.
So, what is the importance of this questionnaire and its score?
The score, also known as the ACE Number is an indicator of suffering, which is statistically associated with psychological and medical problems, like chronic depression, cancer, or coronary heart disease. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the score is not a prediction of what is going to happen, but a guideline for interventions and prevention. While children with a high ACEs score might be introduced to indescribable pain early in their lives, they may also have an important attachment figure in their background or a trusted friend they can confide in to mitigate the long-term effects of early trauma, psychologists say.
By understanding and calculating these scores, professionals have a base to start from in helping children confront these experiences. There are tools available to help children thrive in the face of adversity and go on to meet their full potential, including resilience. Some children seem to be born with more resilience, but outside influences, like a loving family, a strong community and a support system, can act as protective factors that help ensure that children and youth function well at home, in school, at work, and in society.
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