Adverse Childhood Experiences Reported by Almost 60% of Adults


Federal health officials report almost 60% of American adults say they experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) at least once in their youth.

The report is included in December 17th issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

ACEs include verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, as well as family dysfunction (e.g., an incarcerated, mentally ill, or substance-abusing family member; domestic violence; or absence of a parent because of divorce or separation).

Valerie J. Edwards, Ph.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Lee M. Sanders, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of pediatrics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine analyzed information from 26,229 adults in five states using the 2009 ACE module of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for the report.

The BRFSS is a surveillance system operated by state health departments in collaboration with CDC which uses trained interviewers to do monthly surveys. This report included data from Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington.

With few exceptions, men and women reported similar prevalences for each ACE. The exceptions included sexual abuse which was reported nearly three times more by woman than men(17.2% versus 6.7% for men). Women were also more likely to report ACE if living with a mentally ill household member (22.0% versus 16.7% for men) or living with a substance-abusing family member (30.6% versus 27.5% for men).


The most common ACE reported was verbal abuse (25.9%), followed by physical abuse (14.8%) and sexual abuse(12.2%).

According to the report, 29.1% grew up in a home where someone abused alcohol or drugs, 16.3% had witnessed domestic violence, and 7.2% had had a family member in prison during their childhood. Almost one in five respondents (19.4%) had lived as a child with someone who was depressed, mentally ill or suicidal, the report noted.

"These cases occur across all racial groups and ethnicities," Edwards noted. Non-Hispanic blacks were less likely to report five or more ACEs (4.9%) compared with non-Hispanic whites (8.9%), Hispanics (9.1%), and other non-Hispanics (11.7%).

Respondents with the lowest educational attainment were significantly more likely to report five or more ACEs compared with those with higher education levels (14.9% versus 8.7% among high school graduates and 7.7% in those with more than a high school education).

Overall, little state-by-state variation was observed in the number of ACEs reported by each respondent.

It's crucial to work harder to prevent abuse and household stress as well as finding better ways to identify and treat children at risk.

Adverse Childhood Experiences Reported by Adults --- Five States, 2009; Valerie J. Edwards, Ph.D., Lee M. Sanders, M.D., M.P.H.; Dec. 17, 2010, CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report