A growing body of research has made it increasingly apparent that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a critical public health issue. ACEs are potentially traumatic experiences and events, ranging from abuse and neglect to living with an adult with a mental illness. They can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being in childhood or later in life.1 However, more important than exposure to any specific event of this type is the accumulation of multiple adversities during childhood, which is associated with especially deleterious effects on development.2
There is growing interest in understanding the prevalence of these experiences across different communities in the United States, and how to prevent and respond to them. One mechanism responsible for these effects—toxic levels of stress—can be substantially buffered by a stable and supportive relationship with a caregiver.
This brief uses data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) to describe the prevalence of one or more ACEs among children from birth through age 17, as reported by a parent or guardian. The data are representative at national and state levels. The study team estimated the national prevalence of eight specific ACEs and compared the prevalence of these ACEs across states. To examine prevalence differences by race/ethnicity and geography, we used the nine geographic divisions used by the U.S. Census Bureau.3