About Positive and Adverse Childhood Experiences

The early years of life matter to lifelong health and prosperity. Investing in the early childhood years supports children’s mental and physical health throughout their life, their ability to achieve in school and work settings, and their ability to become responsible citizens in adulthood.  Healthy child development is the foundation that leads to strong communities and a healthy economy.

Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) are experiences during childhood that promote safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments. These experiences can include close relationships with any parent or safe, stable adult; feeling safe at home, at school, and in the community; and having chances to learn and belong in a community.  PCEs can help children develop a sense of belonging, connectedness, and build resilience. 

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic experiences during childhood that may disrupt the formation of brain architecture, affecting lifelong health.  Experiences during childhood such as abuse, neglect, or family disfunction can disrupt the safe, stable, and nurturing environments that form healthy brains and help children thrive. Community factors that undermine a child’s sense of safety or stability – such as poverty, community violence, or lack of safe and affordable housing –are also considered ACEs. 

General Graphics to Understand the Impact of ACEs and PCEs:

The Three Realms of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Research exploring ACEs reveals that ACEs are associated with increased risk for negative health outcomes such as smoking, substance abuse, depression, obesity, and heart disease.

Fortunately, the negative effects of ACEs on child development can be buffered by PCEs. Encouraging safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments for children has lifelong positive effects on the health of Tennesseans. Children with PCEs are less likely to engage in risky health behaviors, less likely to experience long-term illness, and more likely to enjoy better mental health and overall health later in life.  

CDC ACEs Graphic
PCEs Graphic Final Transparent