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childhood trauma

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs): What are they and why are they important?

For children living in poverty, their risk of experiencing trauma in their childhood is much greater than other children. They may be born into families that are dysfunctional, neglectful or abusive or alternatively face dangers on the streets. When we seek to measure Adverse Childhood Experiences, we can use them to understand how a child has suffered from trauma and what we can do about it.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)?

ACEs are a tool used to indicate the level of childhood trauma an individual has experienced. They are measured by asking respondents ten questions which each relate to a particular category of childhood trauma, such as abuse, neglect and household dysfunction. Each answer confirming the occurrence of a type of trauma is added up to give a score out of ten. As a person’s ACE score increases, they become more and more at-risk.

Why are they important?

It is important to look at the degree to which the children have experienced trauma in their childhood to understand the resulting negative impact on their mental and physical health. Research has found that those with an ACE score of four or more have a two to four times greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions, and an attempted suicide rate 12 times higher than individuals experiencing no childhood trauma. For those with ACE score of 6 or above, the attempted suicide rate increases to 46 times higher, and their life expectancy is reduced by up to 20 years.

How do they affect our work?

Our programme partner Fairplay is using risk of depression as a key indicator to measure progress of the work we’re co-funding. If you would like to find out more about our partnership project ‘Helping 100 Children At-Risk in Payatas, The Philippines’, please check out our work. As we continue to work with children living in poverty across the world, we hope to support those who have experienced trauma and create environments where these dangers are eliminated.


  1. Fairplay For All Foundation (2018) Helping 100 Children At-Risk: How Much does Regular Sport, Nutrition, and Social Groups Improve the Well-being of Children in Payatas? Unpublished.
  2. TEDMED: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime. Sep 2014.