Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Trauma

Our work to prevent and reduce the negative impact of childhood adversity and trauma.

ACEs and trauma overview

Psychological trauma, including adverse and traumatic experiences in childhood and adulthood, is more common than is often assumed. Many people will recover without the need for professional therapy or treatment, but if those affected are not supported, it can have a range of negative consequences.

In particular, growing up with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – such as abuse, neglect, community violence, homelessness or growing up in a household where adults are experiencing mental health issues or harmful alcohol or drug use – can have a long-lasting effect on people's lives.

This is why the Scottish Government is committed to preventing ACEs and trauma and supporting negatively affected children, young people and adults.

We are working in partnership with a wide range of sectors and services to help reduce the incidence and impact of all types of childhood adversity and trauma, focusing on:

  • support for children, parents and families to prevent ACEs and trauma
  • mitigating ACEs and trauma for children and young people
  • developing trauma-informed workforce and services
  • raising societal awareness about ACEs and trauma, and supporting local actions across communities

We are also working to address the social and economic circumstances in which people live. Social inequalities, such as poverty or gender inequality, can influence levels of childhood adversity and trauma along with people's ability to overcome such experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated social inequalities and in some cases, led to an increase in childhood adversity and trauma.

Individual experience of adversity and trauma

ACEs and trauma can have a significant negative impact on people’s lives. However, such experiences should not be seen as placing limits on someone’s aspirations and achievements. Individuals’ experience of and response to adversity and trauma depends on a range of factors, including the existence of supportive relationships, positive community experiences, access to financial resources and other forms of support. It’s therefore not possible to determine an individual’s longer-term outcomes (like their health or education) based on the number of ACEs they have experienced.

This is why we do not support ‘scoring’ the number of ACEs an individual has within healthcare, education or other settings. However, by increasing our understanding of ACEs at a population level through surveys, we can gauge how prevalent ACEs are across society. Further research also contributes to our understanding of how this impacts health, the criminal justice system and other services and outcomes.




Trauma, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Resilience Unit
Mental Health Directorate
Scottish Government
3ER - St. Andrew's House
Regent Road

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