The frequencies and disparities of adverse childhood experiences in the U.S.

Zachary Giano, Denna L. Wheeler, Randolph D. Hubach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Scopus citations


Background: Adversity experienced during childhood manifests deleteriously across the lifespan. This study provides updated frequency estimates of ACEs using the most comprehensive and geographically diverse sample to date. Methods: ACEs data were collected via BRFSS (Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System). Data from a total of 211, 376 adults across 34 states were analyzed. The ACEs survey is comprised of 8 domains: physical/emotional/sexual abuse, household mental illness, household substance use, household domestic violence, incarcerated household member, and parental separation/divorce. Frequencies were calculated for each domain and summed to derive mean ACE scores. Findings were weighted and stratified by demographic variables. Group differences were assessed by post-estimation F-tests. Results: Most individuals experienced at least one ACE (57.8%) with 21.5% experiencing 3+ ACEs. F-tests showed females had significantly higher ACEs than males (1.64 to 1.46). Multiracial individuals had a significantly higher ACEs (2.39) than all other races/ethnicities, while White individuals had significantly lower mean ACE scores (1.53) than Black (1.66) or Hispanic (1.63) individuals. The 25-to-34 age group had a significantly higher mean ACE score than any other group (1.98). Generally, those with higher income/educational attainment had lower mean ACE scores than those with lower income/educational attainment. Sexual minority individuals had higher ACEs than straight individuals, with significantly higher ACEs in bisexual individuals (3.01). Conclusion: Findings highlight that childhood adversity is common across sociodemographic, yet higher in certain categories. Identifying at-risk populations for higher ACEs is essential to improving the health outcomes and attainment across the lifespan.

Original languageEnglish
Article number:1327
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Sep 2020


  • Adverse childhood experiences, BRFSS


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