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Adverse Childhood Experiences 

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Adverse Childhood Experiences 

The term Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) is used to encompass stressful events occurring in childhood, including abuse (physical, emotional and sexual); neglect (physical and emotional); and household dysfunction (mental illness, imprisoned relative, domestic abuse, substance abuse and divorce).

ACE’s can create dangerous levels of stress and can physically impact on the body and impair healthy brain development.

‘Toxic Stress’ can occur when the stress response is extreme and long-lasting and where supportive relationships are unavailable to the child.

ACEs should not be seen as someone’s destiny. There is much that can be done to offer hope and build resilience in children, young people and adults who have experienced adversity in early life.

NHS Health Scotland research says you can help reduce ACEs by:

  • preventing household adversity
  • supporting parents and families
  • building resilience in children and wider communities
  • encouraging wider awareness and understanding about ACEs and their impact on health and behaviour
  • using encounters with adults in services such as homelessness services, addiction, prison or maternity services, to also consider the impacts on their children or future children.

Talking to a trusted, supportive adult is good for everyone’s wellbeing, and can reduce the impact of ACEs on a young person’s life.