ACE test on childhood trauma
“ACE” in ACE Test stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. This was the name of a study to assess childhood trauma among more than 17,000 adults in the USA. The study clearly showed the connection between childhood trauma and the mental and physical health of those affected in later life. A video on the findings of the ACE study in English can be found here:
ACE test questions
Here are the 10 questions that study participants were asked in the ACE test:
1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often …
Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you?
Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
2. Did a parent or other adult in the household frequently … Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you?
Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever…
Touch or fondle you, or have you touch their body in a sexual way?
Try to or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal sex with you?
4. Did you frequently feel that …
No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special?
Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
5. Did you frequently feel that …
You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you?
Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?
6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
7. Was your mother or stepmother:
Often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her?
Sometimes or often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard?
Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?
8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
10. Did a household member go to prison?
ACE test score
All ten questions of the ACE test should be answered by the study participants. One point is awarded for each confirmation. The total score of all ten questions gives the ACE score and describes the personal burden of childhood trauma.
ACE test other forms of childhood trauma
There are many other forms of childhood trauma (https://www.praxis-psychologie-berlin.de/en/the-many-ugly-secrets-of-childhood-trauma/). However, the ACE test is limited to the ten most common forms of childhood trauma.
ACE test interpretation
The higher your ACE test score, the higher your risk of health, social and emotional problems. The score sums up the types of toxic stress caused by childhood trauma. It indicates statistical health risks: An ACE test score of 4 or higher increases the likelihood of chronic lung disease 390-fold, hepatitis 240-fold, depression 460-fold, and suicide attempt 1220-fold, each compared to the corresponding risks in the general population.
But even low scores on the ACE test have serious consequences. An ACE test score of only 1 doubles the risk of becoming an alcoholic, an ACE score of 2 means a fourfold increased risk of alcohol dependence, and an ACE score of 3 can result in chronic depression.
The results of the ACE study
The results of the ACE test in the study can be summarized as follows:
Childhood trauma is common in all segments of the population and significantly impacts later health. Almost two-thirds of the respondents had experienced at least one childhood trauma (ACE test score > 0). For 12.5 per cent of the people (one in eight), the ACE test even showed four or more childhood trauma experiences in childhood.
The more frequent and intense the experiences of childhood trauma were, the more negative the influence on later health. If there are six or more childhood traumas (ACE test score >6), life expectancy is reduced by an average of 20 years. Possible causes are:
- – Smoking,
- – Alcohol or drug abuse,
- – liver, heart or lung disease,
- – Depression and other mental disorders, including being underweight or overweight,
- – suicide and suicide attempts,
- – stillbirths,
- – various types of cancer,
- – sexually transmitted diseases, and
- – bone fractures.
Understanding one’s own childhood, however, not only enables one to seek help in order to know possible risks and avoid their consequences. Above all, it is about growing out of suffering and regaining the full richness of feelings. (https://www.praxis-psychologie-berlin.de/en/hope-and-resilience-after-childhood-trauma/ and https://www.praxis-psychologie-berlin.de/en/dealing-with-fears-or-loss-of-control/)