Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. (1)

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years). You may be familiar with these 10 ACES from the 1998 CDC - Kaiser Permanente study.

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Sexual abuse
  3. Verbal abuse
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect
  6. A family member who is depressed or diagnosed with other mental illness
  7. A family member who is addicted to alcohol or another substance
  8. A family member who is in prison
  9. Witnessing a mother being abused
  10. Losing a parent to separation, divorce or death

Subsequent to the ACE Study, other ACE surveys have expanded the types of ACEs to include racism, gender discrimination, witnessing a sibling being abused, witnessing violence outside the home, witnessing a father being abused by a mother, being bullied by a peer or adult, involvement with the foster care system, living in a war zone, living in an unsafe neighborhood, losing a family member to deportation, etc. (2)

The toxic stress response can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity—such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship—without adequate adult support. (3)

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