What is YOUR ACE Score? (Adverse Childhood Experiences)

An ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other hallmarks of a rough childhood.  According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study done by CDC (Center for Disease Control-Kaiser Permanente San Diego.  The  rougher your childhood, the higher your score is likely to be and the higher your risk for later (mental and physical) health problems. The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guidelineIf you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of physical and mental health consequences.

Before your 18th birthday…

1)  did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often…

swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

YES     NO

2)  did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often…

push, grab, slap, or throw something at you?


ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

YES     NO

3)  did an adult or person at least five years older than you ever…

touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way?


attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?

YES     NO

4) did you often or very often 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?

YES     NO 

5) did you often or very often 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?

YES     NO

6)  was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment, or other reason?

YES     NO

7)  was your mother or stepmother:

often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her?


sometimes, often, or very 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?

YES     NO

8)  did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?

YES     NO

9)  was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?

YES     NO

10)  did a household member go to prison?

YES     NO

Give one point for every yes and total them up.  That is your ACE Score.

Now that you’ve got your ACE score, what does it mean?

As you’ve read over the past few weeks in my blog post, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) uncovered a stunning link between childhood trauma and the chronic diseases people develop as adults, as well as social and emotional problems. This includes heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and many autoimmune diseases, as well as depression, violence, being a victim of violence, and suicide.

The first research results were published in 1998, followed by 57 other publications through 2011. They showed that:

–childhood trauma was very common, even in employed white middle-class, college-educated people with great health insurance;

–there was a direct link between childhood trauma and adult onset of chronic disease, as well as depression, suicide, being violent and a victim of violence;

–more types of trauma increased the risk of health, social and emotional problems.

people usually experience more than one type of trauma – rarely is it only sex abuse or only verbal abuse.

A whopping two thirds of the 17,000 people in the ACE Study had an ACE score of at least one — 87 % of those had more than one. Eighteen states have done their own ACE surveys; their results are similar to the CDC’s ACE Study.

The study’s researchers came up with an ACE score to explain a person’s risk for chronic disease. 

Think of it as a cholesterol score for childhood toxic stress. 

You get one point for each type of trauma. The higher your ACE score, the higher your risk of health and social problems. (Of course, other types of trauma exist that could contribute to an ACE score, so it is conceivable that people could have ACE scores higher than 10; however, the ACE Study measured only 10 types.)

As your ACE score increases, so does the risk of disease, social and emotional problems. With an ACE score of 4 or more, things start getting serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 %; hepatitis, 240 %; depression 460 %; suicide, 1,220 %.

 (The original study’s participants in 1998  were over 17,000 mostly white, middle and uppermiddle class collegeeducated San Diegans with good jobs and great health care – they all belonged to the Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization.)

ACEs and Minorities – Kerry Jamieson 

ACEs can affect anybody, anywhere. Children experiencing adverse situations, and adults who experienced adversity when they were children, come from all walks of life. ACEs are not confined to any particular race, religion, socio-economic background, or nationality. Any child can experience the sustained toxic stress associated with untreated trauma and suffer negative mental and physical health effects.

At-Risk Minority Groups 

Children of different races and ethnicities across the country do not experience the same exposure to ACEs. In the United States, 61% of black children and 51% of Hispanic children have experienced at least one ACE, compared to 40% of white children. In every part of the country, the lowest rate of ACEs was among Asian children. In most areas, the population most at risk was black children.

Geographic regions also showed different results. Compared to the national average of 1 in 10 children experiencing and ACE score of 3 or more, in 5 states—Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, New Mexico, and Ohio—1 in 7 children had experienced the same.

In Florida, 49% of children between birth and 17 reported no ACEs. 26% reported 1 ACE, 14% reported 2 ACEs and 10% reported 3 or more ACEs. This is generally in line with national averages.

The high occurrence of ACEs among minorities can likely be attributed to the uneven provision of services and opportunities in minority neighborhoods. This inequity is caused by social determinants of health.  The World Health Organization describes the social determinants of health as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power, and resources.” These result in the unfair differences in health status seen between different neighborhoods, zip codes, and even states. The social determinants of health are responsible for most health and other social disparities.

ACEs Clusters

ACEs are the result of not only situations children face within their own homes or families but the general circumstances in which they live. Because the impact of ACEs is cumulative, we see high rates in areas where several detrimental situations are occurring simultaneously. For example, a neighborhood where there is a high rate of unemployment, few educational opportunities, a strong gang presence, and high rates of domestic violence is likely to produce children who are suffering from clusters of ACEs. Because of this, ACE studies now look at the cumulative effects of ACEs rather than the individual effects of any one specific ACE.

ACEs caused by the community environments where a child is raised go hand-in-hand with the ACEs occurring in individual homes and within families.

So, ACEs aren’t a racial issue; they’re a societal one. People with low incomes and limited education are also more likely to experience ACEs, as are people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or are questioning their gender or sexuality (the LGBTQ community). According to numerous research papers, including one published by the US National Library of medicine/National Institutes of Health, this group has a dramatically higher chance of experiencing childhood trauma, probably the result of lack of understanding among family members, the taboo of discussing these issues in some communities, and the stigma often imposed by society at large.

Helping children in these particular minority groups involves cultural sensitivity and the kind of community education that takes a long time to penetrate established ways of thinking. For many children confronting overwhelming adversity and inequity, buffering relationships are needed. It is essential to address the rejection and hardships they are statistically likely to experience in their lives – with a mental health professional or caring mentor or teacher who understands the impact of these experiences. Success among marginalized groups involves developing strong internal fortitude in children and encouraging them to eventually find accepting, supportive friends, if these relationships are not available at home or school.

It’s clear that minorities, children living in economically challenged neighborhoods, and members of traditionally marginalized groups are in particular need of support in the fight against ACEs.


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“EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or more commonly called tapping is a low-risk acupressure technique that calms the limbic system of the brain, enabling people to regulate their over-aroused nervous systems, eliminating the flashbacks, nightmares and terror that plague traumatized adults and children.

EFT is a trauma-focused practice grounded in neuroscience research and Eastern preventive medicine that engages neuroplasticity to restore development.”   

~School of Social Welfare  University of Albany

When danger threatens – or when traumatic memories surface which make our current situation “feel” dangerous — the amygdala (threat control center in the brain) sends out signals that stimulate cortisol production, putting us into fight, flight or freeze.  When we are emotionally “triggered” in this way, when an event in the present reminds our subconscious of (say) a childhood trauma, we often go into a painful fight or flight “freak out,” even though we’re not in danger right now.  

Dr. David Feinstein, clinical psychologist, say’s that ancient acupuncture, and tapping on acupressure points (EFT Tapping) biologically calms the brain.  Dr. Feinstein and his Harvard colleagues who have done lab studies believe EFT tapping stimulates the production of hormones which message the amygdala that our situation is actually safe, so the amygdala stops the cortisol flood and turns down or off the threat response.

If you are interested in seeing if EFT Tapping would be beneficial for you please email me at yourstrongestlife@gmail.com or text 253-441-9963 and let’s set up an Introductory session with a Happiness Guarantee.  If you do a one-hour Zoom session and it’s not a good fit for you, you can ask for your money back.  No questions asked.  No risk.  

Perhaps those painful emotional buttons that were installed in childhood and have gotten pushed over and over and over since you were a young child protected you when you needed protecting but perhaps aren’t serving you at all anymore.  As an Inner Child Advocate, I look forward to hearing from you!  I understand, I’ve been there and EFT has been a life saver for me and it continues to be.  

You never know when those internal triggers, or buttons, will get pushed.  It’s wonderful to have a tool to help you calm your nervous system, often in moments, instead of hours, days or weeks or much longer.

Fear is expensive…  Emotional Freedom is priceless!



PS   Please note: if you have overwhelming trauma, do NOT tap alone! Use a trained practitioner, or don’t tap

Mammals are not built to be alone, period; it’s just not safe to feel really extreme feelings alone.  Your results may vary because every person is different, however, people with others to support them tend to get better results.

Gwen Orwiler
Gwen Orwiler

Gwen Orwiler is an Emotional Freedom Coach & Inner Child Advocate. Through tapping, Gwen helps her clients release emotional wounds from their past, at a core level, so they can live their strongest life today.

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