Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)

 

While not every troubled teen has a troubled history, traumatic events that happened during childhood do affect a child’s developing brain and contribute to the type of teen that the child will become. Because Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) significantly affect the way that people grow and develop, exposure to ACE can contribute to physical and mental health problems later in life. If you or your teen have experienced childhood adversity, continue reading to learn more about ACE and how they may be overcome.
 

The Dangers of ACE

People exposed to ACE are at high risk for health issues, including:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse,
  • Depression,
  • Illicit drug use,
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs),
  • Smoking,
  • Suicide attempts, and
  • Unintended pregnancies.

Research about ACE represents a significant breakthrough. Until recently these health issues have been treated in isolation. Essentially, doctors have been treating the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. Many of these health issues result from poorly adapted neural connections in the brain. According to research, ACE significantly contribute to maladaptive neural connections. When infants or children are exposed to extreme and repetitive stress, then it can affect the ways their brains develop. Therefore, ACE could be an underlying cause of many of these conditions. [1]

 

Finding Your ACE

Researchers created a brief questionnaire to help you find your ACE score for yourself your teen. The questionnaire measures negative childhood experiences related to abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. A higher ACE score suggests a childhood with greater levels of adversity, which puts individuals at greater risk for mental and physical health problems.

However, you should not give a high ACE score too much weight. While there are experiences which put mental and physical health at risk, there are also positive experiences which help to build resilience and help to insulate people from negative health outcomes. One of the most significant factors that help to promote resilience is healthy relationships. [2]
 

Overcoming ACE

Generally, the presence of healthy relationships can help to insulate people from the effects of ACE. The presence of even one healthy, stable relationship can make a significant difference in a young person’s life. However, if your teen is experiencing greater instability than you are capable of addressing in your community, consider asking for help.  

Discovery Ranch is a residential treatment center for troubled teens which can help your son learn how to build healthy relationships. Relationship-based experiential therapy is the cornerstone of the program. Moreover, by participating in the program, your son will learn to find strength in his ACE by overcoming them. For more information about our program, please call (855) 662-9318.