The term adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is defined as potentially traumatic events that occur before the age of 18. Such experiences can interfere with a person’s health and opportunities throughout his or her lifetime—and can even affect future generations.
Researchers have identified connections between ACEs and a greater likelihood of developing risky behaviors, chronic health conditions and poor workforce performance, among other outcomes. Moreover, ACEs can be cyclical. Research suggests that children who experience physical abuse, for example, may be more likely to commit violence, including abusing or neglecting their own children, as well as to be revictimized in the future.
From 2011 to 2014, over half of all U.S. adults (62 percent) from 23 states reported having at least one adverse childhood experience and 25 percent of adults reported three or more.
As such, some state policymakers are interested in preventing such experiences, mitigating their effects, and reducing the associated costs to state health care, education, child welfare and correctional systems. This brief presents research on adverse childhood experiences and highlights state strategies to prevent and reduce their occurrence and negative effects. Such policies include strategies to build resilience in children and families, help parents reduce stress, and increase screening and treatment for ACEs.
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