Adverse Childhood Experiences

Cheshire East is committed to supporting and helping ACEeveryone in our community to be happy and stay safe, which is why we want you to know about Adverse Childhood Experiences.

The experiences we have during our lives, and particularly in our childhoods, can have a massive impact on how we grow and develop, impacting on our physical and mental health as well as our thoughts, feelings, and our behaviour. 

Research tells us that our early experiences, whether they are stressful and traumatic or positive, can have an effect on how our brain develops. To understand how this can happen you can watch a Brain Builder YouTube video.

The term Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACE is the term used to describe various traumatic and stressful experiences that can have negative, lasting effects on health and wellbeing, into and throughout adulthood.  

Examples of ACE could include:

  • Being physically abused
  • Being sexually abused
  • Being emotionally abused
  • Living with someone who abused alcohol
  • Living with someone who abused drugs
  • Being exposed to domestic violence
  • Living with someone who has then gone to prison
  • Living with someone who has had serious mental illness
  • Losing a parent either through divorce, abandonment or death

The more ACE someone experiences, and the longer they experience the ACE for, can affect how big the impact is on a person’s development and their health.   

Some of the effects of experiencing ACE on a person can be:

  • An increased risk of some health problems in adulthood, for example heart disease and cancer
  • An increased risk of smoking, having alcohol problems and taking illegal drugs
  • More likely to have sexual partners from an early age and have unplanned pregnancies
  • An increased risk of experiencing mental health problems
  • An increased risk of becoming violent with other people
  • An increased risk of becoming a victim of violent behaviour

Experiencing ACE can also mean that:

  • People can feel isolated and lonely
  • People can feel sad
  • People can struggle to manage their emotions and behaviour. This could mean that people may struggle when they interact with other people in everyday situations, for example, appearing angry or hostile
  • People can struggle to make and keep positive friendships and relationships 

You can read the original 1998 Adverse Childhood Experiences Study by Vincent Felitti, Robert Anda and their colleagues, or watch a YouTube video that also looks at this research. 

Sadly, many people have experienced ACE during their life

By building resilience and with the right kind of understanding, help and support, we can heal trauma and the negative impact that ACE could have on a person’s wellbeing.

Healing trauma starts by looking after ourselves, looking after the people we love, and looking out for people who live around us in our community. 

What can you do to help people who live around you in your community?

We want everybody to live in a strong supportive community where people care about each other, whether they know them or not. When people feel socially connected within their community to people who live around them, it can make them feel stronger and help build their resilience.

As you go about your day, there are lots of situations where you are likely to come into contact with people who you do not know. For example, you may work in a shop and serve customers, or work as a receptionist and deal with the public daily. You may be out in the supermarket or in town doing some shopping or catching up with friends. You could also just be collecting your children from school or a club.

As you may not know many of the people you have contact with throughout your day, it also means you do not know what is going on in their life or what has happened to them during their life. So, if a person seems angry or difficult, they may be having a bad day, having a difficult time in their life at that time, or they may have experienced ACE . Just being aware of this can change how we interact and respond to people around us. To be supportive you can:

  • Smile at people as this can brighten their day
  • If you are waiting in a queue or waiting for an appointment, take the opportunity to chat to those around you
  • When you are talking to people use kind words and a gentle voice
  • If you see people are struggling, ask if they need any help
  • If people seem upset, ask them if they are OK

What can you do to help people you know?

If you think you know someone who has been affected by ACE and needs support, you can encourage them to speak to their GP in the first instance or go online to try and find local support groups/services for the ACE they experienced. The Cheshire East Council Live Well site has details of over 3,000 health, well-being and support services across Cheshire East.

What can you do to help yourself?

If you think you may have been affected by ACE and need support, you can also get help by speaking to your GP or by visiting the Cheshire East Council Live Well site to find local support services/groups for the ACE you have experienced.

Page last reviewed: 05 June 2024

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