About ACEs and a trauma-informed approach

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful experiences occurring during childhood that directly harm a child (e.g sexual or physical abuse) or affect the environment in which they live (e.g growing up in a household with domestic violence). (Bellis et al 2016)

Research from Public Health Wales focuses on ten ACEs that occur in the household or family environment and show the link between ACEs and risk of  poor health and social outcomes across the life-course where there are no protective factors, or accessible support.

There are many more adversities that children and young people can experience; some of which are traumatic. We could all experience traumatic events at any point our their lives. This includes broader adversity from experiences of racism, discrimination, structural inequalities and wider socio economic factors.

We all need to understand and talk about ACEs and trauma, because the more we know, the more we can think about how we can ensure that we respond in a way that is trauma-informed.

The Wales Trauma Framework provides a Wales definition of trauma informed approach, five principles and four practice levels to help all individuals, communities, organisations and systems in Welsh society to understand behaviour as communication, recognise and understand the impact of cultural, gender and historic inequalities, and social injustice and their causal link with experiences of trauma.

If we are trauma-informed we are non-judgemental, kind and compassionate, promoting resilience and strength as collective rather than individual resources. We understand the importance of safety and trust in addressing adversity, trauma and distress.

ACEs are everyone's business

For every 100 people in Wales:

  • 50

    have experienced one ACE,

  • 14

    have experienced 4 or more.

Resilience is described as the ability to overcome serious hardships such as those presented by ACEs. Factors that support resilience include personal skills, positive relationships, community support and cultural connections.

The Welsh Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and Resilience Survey was published in 2018 which examined individual and community factors that may offer protection from the harmful impacts of ACEs on health, well-being and prosperity across the life course.

Findings showed that access to a trusted adult in childhood, supportive friends and being engaged in community activities, such as sports, reduced the risks of developing mental ill health; even in those who experienced high levels of ACEs. Accessing these protective factors more than halved risks of current mental illness in those with 4+ ACEs.

Access to support and protective factors can moderate the increased risks to mental health from ACEs. Personal, relationship and community resilience resources such as social and emotional skills, childhood role models, peer support, connections with school, understanding how to access community support, and a sense that your community is fair to you are strongly linked to reduced risks of mental illness across the life course. High positive factors that support childhood resilience is related to substantial reductions in lifetime mental illness and potentially offers protections even in those with no ACEs.

However, resilience is a mechanism to overcome adversity; our focus remains on preventing adversity from happening in the first place an tackling the underpinning structural causes of it.

What does being Trauma and ACE (TrACE) Informed mean?

Being TrACE Informed means recognising that trauma experiences are a possibility for anyone we meet in our personal and professional lives. This isn’t about more referrals or counting ACEs. It’s about taking the time to understand what’s happened to people, rather than blaming or stereotyping.

In order to turn knowledge about ACEs into practice, we want to help people, organisations and systems to prevent adversity and trauma and their associated negative effects.

It means creating a society and workforce that’s more compassionate towards people. We seek to bring consistency and coherence to support that effort and ensure that it meets the needs of those affected by trauma.

To find out more about our TrACE ambitions click here

TrACE Toolkit

Find out more

To learn more about trauma-informed approaches and what we can all do differently in practice to become trauma-informed, you can access our short guide to understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and a Trauma and ACE (TrACE) Informed Approach

A short guide to understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences and a Trauma and ACE (TrACE) informed approach