The Adverse Childhood Experience study (CDC)

Under my post Adult Poverty and Scapegoat-hood: A Connection?,  one of my commenters (katiesdream2004) mentioned a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the mid-late 90’s that researched the connection between adverse childhood experiences (which includes emotional abuse by parents and early caregivers) and ill health and general low quality of life in adulthood.  I decided to Google it and here’s what I found.

From their webpage:


The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study is one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being. The study is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente’s Health Appraisal Clinic in San Diego.

More than 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) members undergoing a comprehensive physical examination chose to provide detailed information about their childhood experience of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. To date, more than 50 scientific articles have been published and more than100 conference and workshop presentations have been made.

The ACE Study findings suggest that certain experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. It is critical to understand how some of the worst health and social problems in our nation can arise as a consequence of adverse childhood experiences. Realizing these connections is likely to improve efforts towards prevention and recovery.

A correlation was found:

Childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to other traumatic stressors which we term adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are common. Almost two-thirds of our study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one of five reported three or more ACE. The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems.

The ACE Study uses the ACE Score, which is a total count of the number of ACEs reported by respondents. The ACE Score is used to assess the total amount of stress during childhood and has demonstrated that as the number of ACE increase, the risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Fetal death
Health-related quality of life
Illicit drug use
Ischemic heart disease (IHD)
Liver disease
Risk for intimate partner violence
Multiple sexual partners
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Suicide attempts
Unintended pregnancies
Early initiation of smoking
Early initiation of sexual activity
Adolescent pregnancy

None of this should be surprising. Abuse early in life, whether emotional or physical, takes a huge toll on a person’s sense of self-worth and these people tend to enter adulthood lacking the emotional, financial and practical tools others have to create a healthy and successful life. They also lack the support systems others do, and I would guess the enormous stress of facing challenges that others get help with also has ill effects on health and wellbeing.

I did notice the list mainly includes unhealthy life “choices” such as smoking, illicit drug taking, and early pregnancy. However, I also see depression and general health problems on the list too. I’d include other mental illnesses such as PTSD, Complex PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and Social Anxiety, all which interfere with a person’s ability to function well in the working world and in interpersonal relationships. These mental disorders could also cause a person to make “bad choices” such as smoking or sexual promiscuity.  Some, like Social Anxiety or Avoidant Personality Disorder, could cause a person who doesn’t engage in unhealthy behaviors, to be afraid to take any risks in life, limiting their opportunities and setting them up for failure.

More research needs to be done, particularly on the connection between emotional/narcissistic abuse during childhood and poverty later in life.

You can read more on their website:

13 thoughts on “The Adverse Childhood Experience study (CDC)

  1. I think I can add something to this based on my own life experience. It begins with a family who isn’t so well off for whatever reason. One or more members, usually a young woman, somehow manages to marry into greater wealth(and therefore usually a more evolved family). So the ones who came from less, dont entirely understand how generations grow and accumulate education and wealth, and even life skills. They are narcissistic in comparison. Eventually the wealthier part of the family becomes ill(mentally and/or physically), loses power over their resources, and then somewhere in adulthood is institutionalized or dies off, and then the family who married into the advantages takes their place. One family essentially becomes the other. I know this doesn’t sound so nice, but, I’ve seen it happen. It’s happened to me. Ive been in treatment but not institutionalized, I’ve had multiple serious physical illnesses for the past 5 or more years and I’m here on my own now, but older and poor. A scapegoat. See?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was scapegoat and as the only daughter with 4 brothers. I married into wealth.. and my brothers expressed JEALOUSY. and said “she always gets what she wants” when I never wanted wealth! I married for love and didn’t even know the guy was rich,but to be constantly seen through the eyes of UNloving thoughts took its toll on me. all I wanted was to stay HOME and have my family’s love and NOT TO marry. I married to get AWAY from a highly abusive family (brothers and mother,father but at that point he has passed) and all they could see was I got wealth!! still shocks me now when I think about it
      what low self esteem I had due to all this
      I have been almost systematically “self imposed poor” my whole life (only now realizing it) due to wanting “love”
      that marriage to that rich man I left in 4 months to come back “home” to more abuse.. and it got worse than ever.that rich man anyway was HIGHLY ABUSIVE (big surprise) and the point I wanted to make here is that I wouldn’t even let him buy me anything! my self esteem was either so low OR I wanted to PROVE TO HIM that I REALLY LOVED him and didn’t have any need or want for anything material… and so I proved it
      but still was left loveless by him and my family
      you brought up some very interesting and important points…. makes you think…
      my narc ex is stalking me now
      telling me he makes $37 an hour after all he put me through its like he said he took a dump in the woods without toilet paper (oh wait he did that)
      I wonder when people who have hurt us will wake up to THEIR reality and it comes crashing in on them that it never even remotely resembled us or what they thought of us etc…
      seems we are now doing a GOOD job of “telling them”
      by our actions/lack of actions/responses to them and awareness now.. we are finally telling them…
      just as uncomfortable as the “first place”
      still a burden and still not our job or place… still not life.. anything in reaction or a non reaction to a narc is the antithesis of life itself

      Liked by 1 person

      • The narcs who abused us will not change. But we are educating others that this really does go on! I’m over feeling guilty and scared. It’s time to speak up. There is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed of. We’re just not used to speaking up and asserting ourselves. Some won’t like it, too bad. It isn’t about them, it’s about ME.


  2. I see too that in the end, the younger daughter becomes old before her narc mother. Yes it is possible to age someone and mess up their femininity. And then if you complain about the damage done to you, no one believes you and it ends up sounding like you are jealous of your mother. You can end up looking like a train wreck in a few years time if the abuse is consistent. Usually it involves living under the same roof.


  3. I wanted to add, especially after reading Susan’s comment above…The difference being the young woman DOESNT marry for love but rather for money. She gets into the wealthy family through paternity fraud and then the second born, the real child of the wealthy father is often scapegoated because they are the true heir.


  4. Oh yeah, almost forgot, if the second-born is a girl, look-out, big trouble. Narc mother will be contemptuous. Anger and jealousy combined.


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