The awareness of how Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) impact mental health in children and sustain the impact into adulthood has come a long way since the original landmark study, conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente in the 1990s, which used a sample population in California. What we’ve come to understand is that ACEs do not discriminate. They break through all barriers – race, nationality, socioeconomics, or religion. 

With the use of diverse population samplings and a greater awareness and understanding of ACEs, new studies can hone into more specific target populations, thus focusing more on specific types of barriers. Newer data has also shown that minority groups, of any barrier mentioned above, are more at risk than white children of developing  them, and the risk level is significantly higher for black children – according to The Center for Child Counseling, it is nearly 20% higher than for other minority groups.  


The social determinants of health may be a primary reason – these are the 5 conditions anyone lives in: where you are born, grow, live, work and age. Or more specifically outlined by the CDC: Healthcare access, Education Access, Social and Community Context, Economic Stability, and Neighborhood and Built Environment. ACEs will likely negatively impact a whole community when it shares, within these areas of life, common inequitable situations such as lack of social or health services, lack of employment, lack of educational choice or growth. In these communities, adversities such as childhood domestic violence (CDV), incarceration, divorce, substance abuse, and the rest, all increase.  


The first step is to spread awareness that minority groups need more support fighting multiple ACEs. New findings need to be highlighted and shared in the professional community that serves these higher-risk populations. Many reputable nonprofits are already taking actions to move location into specific neighborhoods that have a higher number of children exposed to multiple ACEs. 

The rest of us can also be a bulwark against ACEs in minority communities – by understanding more about what ACEs are, their higher negative impact on minorities, and how cultivating resilience is the key to helping an individual stem the long-term impact of ACEs in their life. The solution ultimately should be two-fold:as a one-on basis for many, and as a societal shift in attitude and awareness about and within these communities at large – so that the once inequitable level of services and opportunities within these communities that fuel the multiple ACEs can become obsolete.  

The full article, “ACEs and Minorities”, on the Center for Child Counseling website, can be viewed here: