Adverse childhood experiences What we know, what we don’t know, and what should happen next

Dr Kirsten Asmussen, Dr Freyja Fischer, Elaine Drayton & Tom McBride

The Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) is an independent charity established in 2013 to champion and support the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing poor outcomes.


In 2018, a House of Commons science and technology committee inquiry was held to examine the evidence linking ACEs to poor adult outcomes, and to consider the role of early intervention in preventing and reducing ACEs. The inquiry took evidence from a range of experts and organisations, including EIF. While there was strong consensus that ACEs were harmful and associated with a range of negative adult outcomes, there was also scepticism about the strength of this relationship and the extent to which current practice responses, including routine ACE screening, are effective or appropriate.


The committee concluded that there was ‘a clear correlation between suffering adversity in childhood and experiencing further negative outcomes in later life’ and recommended that the government ‘ensure that it is making the most of the opportunity for early intervention to effectively and cost-effectively address childhood adversity and trauma, and the long-term problems associated with such experiences’. Additionally, the committee advised that progress could only be made if there was clear and robust evidence about the nature of ACEs and their impact on children’s development. The committee report also encouraged joined-up working across academic fields to develop this evidence base.


A primary aim of this review is to respond to the science and technology committee’s recommendations by examining the ACE evidence base in terms of its quality and the conclusions which have followed. A second aim is to consider the strength of evidence underpinning common responses to ACEs, including routine ACE screening and trauma-informed care.


To download this report, please click on the link below.