Adverse Childhood Experiences Test

ACE Test

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Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences

Did you know that over 60% of Americans have experienced childhood trauma of some sort? Yes, trauma faced while growing up is more common than you might think.

So common that you may have experienced trauma of some sort too. Perhaps you’ve repressed the memory, forgotten it, or even processed it – but it is essential to know where you’re at so you can move on in adulthood.

You may be wondering, how exactly can you measure trauma? Well, that’s where the childhood trauma test comes in. Below, we share the essential guide to the ACE childhood trauma test and everything you can learn from it.

Take The ACE Test

The ACE childhood trauma test for adults is a score summing up the extent of difficult childhood experiences. The ACE test questions for childhood trauma include a series of 10 questions about various incidents that occur during the earlier stages of life.

According to the test, the rougher your childhood, the higher you’ll score on the quiz. This, in turn, has implications for experiences well into adulthood. For example, this may manifest in symptoms that range from headaches and heart disease to depression and substance abuse.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Test

When prompted, select the answer that corresponds with your experiences.

Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often:

a) Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or

b) Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

Structure of the Test

The ACE early childhood trauma test measures ten types of childhood trauma experienced at a young age.  The first five are related to personal circumstances, which could be verbal, sexual, and physical abuse or different kinds of neglect.

The other five questions relate to conditions within the family. Trauma can be caused by the separation of parents, family members who are imprisoned or diagnosed with a mental illness, or by parents who are alcoholics or victims of domestic abuse.

As you answer your questions, you get a point for every kind of trauma you face. As your score increases, so does your risk of various types of social, physical, emotional, and mental problems. 

Understanding Your ACE Score

As we know, there is a direct link between higher ACE scores and the risk of various kinds of conditions and problems. Your ACE score should thus indicate the likelihood of risk, as well as alert you to the statistical possibility of these risks.

Let’s look at the variety of scores and what we can understand from them.

Ace Score of 0

A score of zero indicates a very low likelihood of facing adverse health conditions in adulthood. Those with such a low score have a lower chance of taking up smoking, attempting suicide, experiencing depression, and participating in substance abuse. 

However, other health conditions such as the likelihood of suffering from depression, financial problems, and obesity are high as with other ACE scores.

Ace Score of 1-3

Individuals with a score of one to three have an intermediate risk for various associated health conditions. For example, their likelihood of using illicit drugs increases from 11.3-21.5%. The associations with alcoholism, depression, and suicidal tendencies also go up correspondingly.

Social, emotional, and cognitive impairment is familiar with such individuals, as is the possibility of disrupted neurodevelopment.

However, other health conditions such as the likelihood of suffering from depression, financial problems, and obesity are high as with other ACE scores.

Ace Score of 4+

Wellbeing can be significantly hampered for those with ACE scores of four and up. The possibility of disease, disability, and social problems also substantially increases, and early death is also a likelihood.

It is also important to note here that there are a lot of scientific gaps when it comes to such high ACE scores. However, the general consensus is that likelihood of becoming an alcoholic increases fourfold, while the possibility of suffering from chronic depression triples.

Individuals in this position will also see their chance of heart disease and stroke double, while the likelihood of severe financial issues and problems while working will triple.

Effects Of Adverse Childhood Experiences In Adults

With high ACE (adverse childhood experiences) scores, adults are likely to develop poor coping mechanisms in the face of stress. If you grew up with a family member who struggled with alcoholism or some form of substance abuse, you might have experienced the following scenarios:


In families where alcoholism is present, communication doesn’t take place very often due to secrets, which breed a lot of shame. Shut-down in communication leads to disconnection with family members, oneself, and the outside world. One of the most important skills in any successful relationship is communication, so when that skill is not developed throughout childhood and adolescence, it’s no wonder why the adult will experience a lack of success in relationships, personally or professionally.


Adjusting to the changing sails of life proves extremely difficult because, for many people, consistency and routine are a “safe place” in the midst of chaos and turmoil. Unpredictable events can rattle one’s emotional foundation, triggering one’s anxiety and plunging one into depression, especially when solutions seem unobtainable (i.e., no family support in time of need). As a result of clinging to routine and predictability, one’s personality may appear rigid and lack spontaneity.


Perfectionism and harsh self-criticism seem to go hand in hand. While perfectionism might work academically and professionally, it does not bode well for interpersonal skills. The harsh criticisms that a child grows up with continue to play like a broken record throughout adulthood. Without cognitive-behavioral intervention, it would be extremely hard for adults to be aware of what is going on subconsciously. Perfectionists are hard on themselves when they make a mistake; they feel like utter failures because they are not able to have compassion for themselves. These self-deprecating thoughts and voices could lead to a life of self-destruction through substance abuse and the destruction of important relationships with significant others because they are unable to have compassion for others when they fall short of expectations.

What's Missing From the ACE Test?

According to many experts, the ACE test doesn’t consider the full breadth of experiences in childhood. For example, it doesn’t include all the positive experiences one may have had, which help reduce the effects of trauma.

Having loving grandparents, a teacher who believes in you, or a soulmate from a young age helps protect children and build strength and resilience. Why? Research implies that close relationships are vital to navigating trauma and coming out without heavy psychological and mental burdens.

It also does not consider opportunities, skill-building curriculars, and community involvement that may have a positive effect on young minds.

The childhood trauma ACE test also misses several negative stressors outside the house. This could be discrimination, racism, poverty, and isolation. It also doesn’t take into account bullying at school, chaotic environments, and the effects of not having opportunities and services easily accessible.

Understanding The Symptoms of Trauma

Most children choose not to talk about their trauma. It is also challenging to persuade them to get the help and support they need.  However, trauma symptoms are exhibited in various behaviors, particularly with children of a younger age. These carry over into adulthood too, as trauma can be a self-perpetuating cycle.

Following are the main symptoms of trauma to watch out for.


Preschool Aged Children

Children of this age may exhibit traumatic behavior through:

These behaviors can persist into later ages as well.

going to school

Elementary-Aged Children

With elementary-aged children, symptoms may include:

With children of this age, the experience of trauma is most formative, and it can have significant ramifications well into adulthood.

college student

Middle and High School-Aged Children

With children of this age, common trauma-induced symptoms are:

If you know of any children experiencing these symptoms, it is essential to get them help. These same symptoms manifest in adults too, so if you see yourself experiencing such symptoms, be sure to reach out for the support you need.

Risk Indication

Many individuals taking the test tend to look at it as a binary. However, no research indicates that individuals who experience many ACEs will have adverse outcomes in adulthood. Nor does research suggest that children who experience no ACEs will have a stress-free and happy adult life.

Many people with highly high ACE scores achieve success in many facets of life and vice versa.

Instead, it is essential to understand that ACE scores are simply an indication of risk. A score is not tied to outcomes as much as related to the potential for hazards such as physical and behavioral health conditions.

Later Effects of Early Trauma

Childhood trauma is surprisingly common. But what are the implications it has for adult life experiences? Abuse and neglect in childhood have significant impacts on your quality of life at all stages.

Let’s look at the impact of childhood trauma that can be felt in later life.

behavioral health

Emotional Health

In later years, emotional well-being is one of the most affected facets of life. Those who have experienced abuse, neglect, and other traumas may share the following feelings:

Often, their emotions can run the whole gamut of feelings for survivors of childhood trauma. It is standard for them to experience many of these feelings in a short period.

behavioral health

Behavioral Health

If you score high on an adverse childhood trauma test, you may be at higher risk for various behavioral health conditions as well. Depression and substance abuse are widespread among survivors.

In addition, many adults who experienced trauma struggle with PTSD, self-harm, anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies.

physical exam

Physical Health

Young children exposed to difficulties often develop a ‘heightened stress response.’ This is the body’s reaction to challenges, resulting in the body shutting down to manage feelings and emotions.
The stress response leads to difficulties in sleep, immune system functioning, heart health, and liver functioning. Thus, the risk of childhood illnesses transcends well into adulthood as well.

The Main Takeaways from the Ace Test

Feel like you’ve learned a lot about the ACE quiz? That’s good, because there is so much this simple test can teach us about life, childhood, and adulthood.

Below, let’s take a look at the main takeaways from the ACE test.

Most People Experience Trauma

Most people suffer from childhood trauma of some sort, even if they don’t look or seem like it. Thus, the need for empathy in everyday interactions and events needs to be extremely high.

Not to mention, there must be widespread resources available for those who have undergone trauma. The conversation about childhood neglect and abuse is essential, as it may help individuals if they know that they are not alone in this experience.

In addition, there needs to be further education on childhood trauma and healthy coping skills to help overcome the experience.

Childhood Is Formative

Childhood experiences are formative and create the foundation for experiences well into old age. The ages between two to 14 are particularly critical in shaping our outlook, behavior, habits, and mental makeup.

Those who have suffered from childhood trauma will find the consequences of certain events affect them, even if they don’t realize it.

Trauma Has Severe Consequences

Many individuals tend to dismiss adverse experiences that have occurred many years prior. They may think they have overcome the trauma or that the events aren’t relevant to their existence today.

However, trauma can creep up on individuals well into late adulthood or earlier. The ACE childhood trauma test demonstrates effectively that trauma can increase the risk for severe mental and physical health conditions. Thus, it isn’t something to be dismissed or diminished.

Individuals who have undergone childhood trauma need to get the help and support needed to overcome their battles. When trauma manifests in substance abuse and anxiety specifically, it can have consequences on the victim’s families and close ones as well. This can then perpetuate childhood trauma for their offspring, which feeds the generational trauma cycle.

Trauma and Addiction

Dealing with trauma at a young age can be highly challenging. Many children do not receive the support and help they need. Other children may be reluctant to share events that may occur, such as parental neglect or sexual abuse.

The lack of having a support system through these difficult experiences can have a heavy toll on individuals. That’s why many trauma survivors turn to substances as a coping mechanism.

Drugs and alcohol offer a way to self-medicate and deal with pains from the past and present. Thus, there is a powerful correlation between trauma and various types of addiction.

In addition to dealing with substance abuse issues, many adults also deal with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. These symptoms are then exacerbated by substance abuse disorder. Overall, this can result in a lot of suffering and difficulty.

Childhood trauma is significantly linked with high risks for alcohol and drug abuse in adulthood, according to a research study. “ACE” is an acronym for “Adverse Childhood Experiences,” a concept that was developed by the CDC Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study originally conducted from 1995 to 1997.  In this study, about 9,000 adults took a survey to determine their ACE score, and the findings revealed that children who were raised in alcoholic households were significantly more likely to have higher ACE scores.

Trauma-Informed Care

Treating substance abuse addiction is not the only goal here at New Method Wellness. Digging beneath the surface and providing trauma-informed care for clients with moderate to high ACE (adverse childhood experiences) scores helps people get to the root of the problem so that clients don’t relapse into drug and alcohol abuse. Because many working adults are responsibly carrying on with their lives, they may not even be aware that they have a problem with alcohol abuse.

However, they might feel off-kilter about something internally, which drives them to consume alcohol heavily on a regular basis. Nonetheless, many individuals might be in denial of their problem because it’s not interfering with their work.

Getting Help

The childhood trauma test can be beneficial in learning more about yourself. You may see behaviors, reactions, habits, and patterns that are more easily explained as a result of your past.

For many individuals, childhood trauma results in depression and substance abuse habits. If you’ve been looking to overcome these challenges and move on to a happier you, our team at New Method Wellness is here to help.

Our beautiful Southern California treatment facility and qualified and compassionate staff offer individual attention and catered therapy so you can optimize healing and minimize relapse.

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Clinically Reviewed By:

Deanna J. Crosby, M.A., LMFT, LAADC, Psy.D. (C)

Deanna Crosby is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) with over 20 years of experience working with clients in recovery. Her expertise has catapulted her into the spotlight. Featured on several episodes of the Dr. Phil Show as a behavioral health expert, DeAnna is a routine contributor for NBC News, The Huffington Post, Elle Magazine, MSN, Fox News, Yahoo, Glamour, Today, and several other prominent media outlets. 

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of California in Irvine, Crosby did postgraduate work at Centaur University where she graduated at the top of her class with a CAADAC certification in Centaur’s chemical dependency program. Following her time at Centaur, Crosby received her Master of Counseling Psychology degree from Pacifica Graduate Institute, where she also attained a Doctoral Degree in Depth Psychology.

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From all of us at New Method Wellness co-occurring treatment center, we wish you peace and serenity in knowing that you or your loved one will get the necessary help.


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