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ACEs Screening May Be Useless

A very important study has flown under the radar in the past few years, indicating that much current public policy may be a waste of resources. Modern child welfare policy is awash in discussion of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), based on the 30-year-old Kaiser Permanent study finding that people who had experienced certain problems in childhood faced increased medical problems as adults. Policy makers have taken that study and decided that screening children and adults for ACEs is an important protocol.

This study, published in 2020, however, indicates that ACEs do not predict individual risk of health problems. People can develop resilience, both emotionally and physically, and ACEs screening does not capture that possibility. Using ACEs, then, to try to ward off individual problems may be, at best, a waste of time and resources. At worst, focusing on negative experiences can encourage negative ways of thinking and resulting mental health challenges. ACEs research on large populations doesn’t provide evidence-based techniques for individual screening.

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This study suggests that, although ACE scores can forecast mean group differences in health, they have poor accuracy in predicting an individual's risk of later health problems. Therefore, targeting interventions based on ACE screening is likely to be ineffective in preventing poor health outcomes.


adverse childhood experiences, mental health research, youth services law, ausburn_deborah, insights