Department or Program



Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is a framework developed by Felitti et al. (1998) that aims to understand the public health effects of childhood trauma more comprehensively. ACEs are strongly associated with chronic physical health issues, substance abuse, and mental illness later in life. Over time, the definition has shifted from individual household-level experiences to include community environmental factors, increasing resource mobilization to combat underlying social problems contributing to ACEs. However, ACEs remain inconsistently defined in the literature, and scholars debate if this undermines the value of the framework. Through content analysis of scholarly literature on ACEs and U.S. policies addressing childhood trauma, I explore which aspects of the framework established in the literature make their way into policy. A scoping review of peer-reviewed scholarly literature gathered through a systematic search of SocINDEX, PsycInfo, and PubMed was completed. A census of relevant federal policy documents was gathered by searching records on Articles and policies meeting the inclusion criteria were coded to identify which factors from the original ACEs study and the expanded framework were included. I compared these inclusions in the literature and policy and analyzed the use of the ACEs terminology in policy over time. This analysis documents the contested nature of ACEs terminology, the implications of which I explore in relation to consistency in research and policy, as well as possible avenues for addressing childhood trauma and its public health impacts even more effectively.

Level of Access

Restricted: Embargoed [Open Access After Expiration]

First Advisor

Kane, Emily

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


Available to all on Wednesday, April 03, 2024