Definition: What is an ACE?
An adverse childhood experience (ACE) describes a traumatic experience in a person’s life occurring before the age of 18 that the person remembers as an adult.
In a 2011 Minnesota telephone survey, individuals were asked if they had experienced any of nine types of ACEs. The nine ACEs are:
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse
- emotional abuse
- mental illness of a household member
- problematic drinking or alcoholism of a household member
- illegal street or prescription drug use by a household member
- divorce or separation of a parent
- domestic violence towards a parent
- incarceration of a household member
The ACE score is a measure of cumulative exposure to adverse childhood conditions. Exposure to any single ACE condition is counted as one point. If a person experienced none of the conditions in childhood, the ACE score is zero. Points are then totaled for a final ACE score. It is important to note that the ACE score does not capture the frequency or severity of any given ACE in a person’s life, focusing instead on the number of ACE conditions experienced. In addition, the ACE conditions used in the ACE survey reflect only a select list of experiences.