Psychological trauma and adversity including ACES (adverse childhood experiences)

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


Psychological trauma, including adverse and traumatic experiences in childhood and adulthood, is more common than we often assume.

Many of us will recover without the need for professional therapy or treatment, but if we are not supported, it can have a wide range of negative impacts, including on our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

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

This is why the Scottish Government is committed to preventing psychological trauma and adversity and supporting those of us who have been negatively affected throughout our lives, whether as children, young people or adults.

We are working in partnership with a wide range of sectors and services to help prevent psychological trauma and adversity and mitigate their impacts, focusing on:

  • providing intergenerational support to children, parents/carers, families and adults to better prevent psychological trauma and adversity
  • providing effective support to children, young people or adults affected by psychological trauma and adversity
  • developing trauma-informed and trauma-responsive workforce and services
  • raising societal awareness about psychological trauma and adversity, and supporting local actions across communities

We are also working to address the social and economic circumstances in which people live. Social inequalities, like poverty or gender inequality, can influence levels of psychological trauma and adversity. They can also affect how we respond to these experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have deepened social inequality and, in some cases, also increased psychological trauma and adversity.

Individual experience of psychological trauma and adversity

Without the right support, psychological trauma and adversity can have a significant negative impact on our lives. However, such experiences should not be seen as placing limits on our aspirations and achievements.

Our experience of and response to psychological trauma and adversity depends on a range of factors, including supportive relationships, positive community experiences, access to financial resources and other forms of support. This means we can’t determine longer-term impacts (on our health or education, for example) based solely on the psychological trauma and adversity we have experienced.

This is why we do not support ‘scoring’ the number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that someone has in healthcare, education or other services. However, ACEs surveys of the population as a whole can help us understand how prevalent ACEs are across Scotland and shape how we respond to this. More specific research also helps us see how ACEs can impact our access to and experience of services, including healthcare and the criminal justice system.



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

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