Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Studies have shown a link between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and risky behaviors in later life that cause disease and disability in adulthood. Adverse Childhood Experiences, or “ACEs” are incidents that harm social, cognitive and emotional functioning and dramatically upset the safe, nurturing environments children need to thrive. The United Way of Clinton County provides funding to local agencies in the Trauma Informed Alliance that address prevention and intervention for childhood trauma.

Research has shown that child development is adversely affected by excessive or prolonged toxic stress, in an environment where there is a lack of supportive adult relationships. Examples of stressful events include physical, sexual or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship. The prolonged activation of stress response systems disrupts the development of brain architecture and increases the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment. The more adverse experiences in childhood, the greater the likelihood of developmental delays and later health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse and depression. 

In Iowa, childhood emotional abuse was the most common ACE, reported by 28% of adults, followed by adult substance abuse (26%) and parent separation or divorce (22%). 


36% of Clinton County residents have ACE scores of two or more. That's one in three.

The experiences children have early in life, and the environments in which they have them, shape their developing brain architecture and strongly affect whether they grow up to be healthy, productive members of society. Evidence shows that the more ACEs a person experiences, the more likely poor health outcomes become. Ongoing research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that, worse case; trauma in childhood could take as many as 20 years off life expectancy.

For more information about ACEs, contact the Trauma Informed Community at Gateway Impact Coalition or Iowa ACEs 360.

United Way of Clinton County, Iowa fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. Join the Fight. LIVE UNITED.