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from Solutions Counseling & EAP
by Keri Forbess-McCorquodale, MS, LPC, LMFT, CEAP
The ACE Factor
Ever wonder how much your childhood affects your present life? Actually, quite a bit. The way we are raised colors our world view and the way we approach life. Those who are nurtured, protected, encouraged and guided tend to have a much different experience from those who are abused, neglected or ignored, and had to “raise themselves.”
The Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE, quiz is something you may have heard of. It is a series of questions about common traumatic experiences occurring early in life. I have been hearing, “What’s your ACE score?” on some of the mainstream podcasts I listen to, so I thought I would share it with you.
The ACE was developed initially to help calculate a person’s risk for chronic diseases, such as heart issues, cancer, diabetes, etc. Through years of research, we know we can also connect higher ACE scores to non-physical issues such as alcoholism, chronic depression, and even job/money problems. As you read the ACE questions, I’m sure you will be able to understand the connection between trauma in childhood and issues in adulthood. Below are the ACE questions:
Prior to 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?
2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often . . . Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? Or ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
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? Or attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
4. Did you often or very often feel that . . . No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? Or your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
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? Or 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 or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? Or sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? Or 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?
Each “Yes” is one point. The total is your ACE Score.
So, now you have an ACE score. What does it mean? Well, it might be a good starting point for you to better understand how you have been navigating the world. It might help explain some of the choices you have been making in relationships, job situations, and general emotion management. An ACE score of four or more is considered “high” and would indicate you probably need some help dealing with the trauma you survived.
But hold up a minute. Saying “yes” to any of the questions above does not sentence you to a life of pain and misery. It only means you are going to have to work hard to overcome your childhood experiences. Next month, we will talk more about how to do that.