Adverse Childhood Experiences in the United States

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that happen before a child turns 18 years old. Research shows that exposure to an ACE can lead to a higher risk of lifelong health problems like cancer, substance use, and obesity.

Below, data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health show the percentage of children nationwide who have experienced none, one, or multiple adverse experiences.

Percent of children who have experienced

  • No ACEs: 53.7 percent
  • One ACE: 24.6 percent
  • Two or more ACEs: 21.7 percent

Survey results show ACEs fall under three categories: abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. They are determined by children’s experiences with the following factors:

  • Economic hardship, such as difficulty affording food and housing: 25.4 percent
  • Divorce or separation of a parent/guardian: 25 percent
  • An alcohol or drug problem in the household: 9 percent
  • A parent/guardian serving time in jail: 8.2 percent
  • Living with a mentally ill, suicidal, or severely depressed individual: 7.8 percent
  • Domestic violence among parents: 5.7 percent
  • Neighborhood violence: 3.9 percent
  • Unfair treatment based on race or ethnicity: 3.7 percent
  • Death of a parent/guardian: 3.3 percent

Created by: Counseling@NYU, which offers an online masters in school counseling from NYU Steinhardt

Source: 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: