Child Trends released a new report this week, which explores the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), as well as their effect on early childhood development.

What are ACEs? And what effect do they have on children?

ACEs are characterized as traumatic childhood events, such as abuse, neglect, witnessing a crime, or living with a parent with mental illness and have a profound effect on children who experience them.

During the first five years, a child’s brain is at its most flexible, making this a critical period for learning and growth. Science tells us that children who face adversity in the first years of life, especially those in low-income households, are more at risk for experiencing damage to their brain architecture, which can lead to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.

How prevalent are ACEs?

Child Trend’s report found that, despite increasing attention and resources, ACEs remain common in the U.S., with nearly half of all children nationally experiencing at least one ACE. Other key findings from the report include:

  • Almost one in nine children nationally has experienced three or more ACEs, placing them in a category of especially high risk. In five states—Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, New Mexico, and Ohio—as many as one in seven children had experienced three or more ACEs.
  • Children of different races and ethnicities do not experience ACEs equally. Nationally, 61 percent of black non-Hispanic children and 51 percent of Hispanic children have experienced at least one ACE, compared with 40 percent of white non-Hispanic children and only 23 percent of Asian non-Hispanic children. In every region, the prevalence of ACEs is lowest among Asian non-Hispanic children and, in most regions, is highest among black non-Hispanic children.

How do we address ACEs?

Prevention and intervention through high-quality early learning and care is just one of the many ways policymakers and practioners can address ACEs. Early childhood education provides the support children need to build a foundation for a healthy and productive future.

Read Child Trend’s new report here.