What are ACEs?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)—such as abuse and neglect, parental substance abuse, family violence, and incarceration— are stressful or traumatic experiences that have profound impacts on children’s developing brains and bodies. ACEs can cause toxic stress that reduces a person’s ability to respond to stressful events with resiliency and increases the risk for chronic and costly health, economic, and social problems throughout life. If this toxic stress is left unaddressed, ACEs harm children, families, and communities—including the organizations and systems that are meant to support them. 


Adverse Childhood Experiences are often rooted in Adverse Community Environments that lack equity, as measured by the presence of racism and discrimination, concentrated poverty, poor housing conditions, higher risk of violence, homelessness, and other barriers to opportunity. Many families live in adverse community environments not by choice, but rather by design. Adverse community environments are the cumulative result of policies and practices across multiple systems that were perfectly designed for the place-based inequities they produce. Thus, Adverse Childhood Experiences occur in the context of Adverse Community Environments—coined The Pair of ACEs by the Center for Community Resilience (CCR).