Commonly used to describe stressful or traumatic events that occur in childhood, research into preventing and recovering from ACEs has become central to Scotland’s approach to improving the lives of its children.
At last Thursday's Full Council meeting, officers from the Council's Children's Services explained the background to the topic and current work in the local authority area.
The hope is that by better understanding the potential impact of childhood adversity and negative experiences in youth, governments and communities can work together to both prevent these from occurring and create a better future for people with severe ACEs by working to reduce their effects.
Early intervention and prevention is key to the strategy, with charities such as NSPCC Scotland pioneering work into stopping significant ACEs before they happen.
Research on the topic is not recent, but it has reached national attention in Scotland, reflecting an increased understanding of the significance of the potential impact of childhood adversity on life chances in the longer term.
The term originated in the United States when a large scale study between 1995 and 1997 established that around two thirds of the 17,000 adults surveyed reported encountering at least one ACE.
Those who reported four or more ACEs have an increased risk of presenting with poorer longer term health and social outcomes.
Recent studies in England and Wales reflect those figures and although there is no current Scottish survey, reports suggest the stats are likely to be the same, if not worse, on account of Scotland’s higher mortality and morbidity rates.
Cllr Susan McGill, convenor of the Children and Young People committee, said after the meeting: “This Council’s first priority is to look after all its citizens and ensure that Stirling is a nurturing, respectful and ambitious place for all children and their families and communities.
“The discussion gave us an insight into the difficulties some children face across Stirling’s diverse society, as well as the work being done to help them recover and ensure the Council is working towards its own goals.
“It is clear to me that understanding the impact adversity has on shaping a child’s life is key to preventing harm and poor health later on in adulthood.
“No one would deny that adversity is part of everyone’s life at some stage or another, and dealing with that at a young age helps build resilience, but suffering from things like abuse, poverty, neglect, or being witness to constant violence or the loss of a parent as a child has a ripple effect that can span a life time.
“I was pleased, then, to hear the progress our staff are making to increase collaboration across the Council and with external partners to ensure children are getting the right support at the right time.”