Many studies show significant long-term health impacts arising from experiencing Toxic Stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) during childhood.

Toxic Stress is defined as “strong or prolonged adversity that occurs in childhood without the buffer of stable relationships and caring adults.” According to the Academy of Pediatrics, this stress results from many factors including exposure to violence, abuse or neglect, the caregiver’s incapacity due to physical or mental illness, substance abuse, economic hardship or adversity.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic experiences, including abuse, neglect and a range of household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence, or growing up with substance abuse, mental illness, parental discord, or crime in the home. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, ACEs are strongly related to development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems, including substance abuse, throughout the lifespan.

According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kaiser Health Plans Department of Preventive Medicine in San Diego, CA, ACEs increase the likelihood of the following during adulthood:

  • Two or more adverse childhood experiences:
    • Autoimmune disease increases by two times
  • Four or more adverse childhood experiences:
    • Relative risk of chronic constructive pulmonary 
disease increases by 260%
    • Hepatitis increases by 200%
    • Depression increases by 460%
    • Suicidality increases by 1220%
    • Teen pregnancy increases
    • High risk behavior increases
    • Early paternity increases
  • Six or more adverse childhood experiences:
    • Lung cancer increases by three times
  • Seven or more adverse childhood experiences:
    • Ischemic heart disease increases by 360%

In light of these findings, Kempe is integrating ACES and Toxic Stress in our work.

Recent Information About ACES & Toxic Stress

  • Nadine Burke-Harris MD, MPH, FAAP
    Why, when We Know So Much, Do We Do So Little? Overcoming Early Childhood Adversity.  Learn More


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