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Adverse Experiences


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can affect young children from a range of backgrounds and communities. Understanding the different adversities young children can face can increase your awareness of the effects of toxic stress and help you to develop strategies to support their physical and mental development.

NSPCC. 2019

Watch this UNICEF video that outlines different types of adversity that can induce toxic stress and the effects it can have on young children.


Please note that this video may contain content of a distressing nature.


Adverse Experiences

Manchester Safeguarding Partnership define Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) as:

A wide range of stressful or traumatic experiences that can occur from conception to the age of 18 – they include abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction.

Manchester Safeguarding Partnership argue that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) refer to some of the most intensive and frequently occurring sources of stress that children may suffer early in life.

When children are exposed to adverse and stressful experiences, it can have a long-lasting impact on their ability to think, interact with others and on their learning.

It has been shown that considerable and prolonged stress in childhood has life-long consequences for a person’s health and well-being, with negative behaviours often being used unconsciously as protective solutions to unrecognised problems dating back to childhood.

ACEs sit alongside societal issues, and Manchester Safeguarding Partnership refer to a pair of ACEs to include Adverse Community Environments like poverty, discrimination, poor housing, lack of economic opportunity and social connectedness. They suggest that by addressing adversity in society, communities are less likely to experience chronic stress and more likely to have their basic needs met, resulting in lowered adverse childhood experiences and better long-term outcomes.

Visit the Manchester Safeguarding Partnership website to discover more about the Manchester approach to ACEs. 


The Centre for Youth Wellness and ZERO TO THREE suggest that when caregivers consistently care for children and offer support, they feel safe. This feeling of safety is good for their brains and bodies. Other protective factors include eating healthy food, getting regular exercise, getting a good night’s sleep, practicing mindfulness, and getting mental health support when needed. Together, these factors help lower the stress response and can help reduce the potential negative effects of adverse childhood experiences.

Center for Youth Wellness and ZERO TO THREE (2018)

Read the information in the document below.
By completing this activity, you will develop an understanding of adverse childhood experiences and how they can contribute to the exposure to toxic stress (e.g. abuse, neglect, parental addiction) and affect children’s later physical and mental health.



Based on the content above, reflect on the following:

How can your interactions reduce the exposure to ACEs and the effects of toxic stress to support the development of physical and mental health in young children?


Further Resources

  • WAVE Trust is an international charity, dedicated to making the world safer by reducing the root causes of violence, including child abuse, neglect and domestic violence.