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This post will carry forward in time on how Adverse Childhood Experiences and Positive Childhood Experiences would affect later Adult Experiences. The longitudinal study of the ACE test of Adverse Childhood Experiences has demonstrated that its 10 questions are good predictors of later life experiences.

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Sexual abuse
  3. Emotional abuse
  4. Physical neglect
  5. Emotional neglect
  6. Mother treated violently
  7. Household substance abuse
  8. Household mental illness
  9. Parental separation or divorce
  10. Incarcerated household member

An example: people with high Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) test scores of five or more are 30 times as likely to commit suicide as those with ACE test scores of 1 or less. Similar results are found for alcoholism, heart attacks, and disease in general. See CDC statistics. CDC, Violence Prevention, Child Maltreatment, ACE Study, Data and Statistics.

Adverse Childhood Experiences ACE test scores compared

ACE test scores for employed and insured Americans

A worrisome problem for the general health of Americans is that these statistics were created from a sample of 17,337 fully employed, fully insured adults. Certainly data gathered from unemployed, uninsured people would be worse, and that means that more than 12.5% of adults have had a very traumatic childhood.

An important question would be, “Does a positive adult living situation improve the negative average projection based on high ACE test scores?” To what degree does entering adulthood liberate a person to pursue a happier lifestyle than they endured as children?

The efforts made by some people to self-correct for high ACE childhood include high-risk activities, sexual promiscuity, and compulsive work habits. These pursuits are intended to make their lives more meaningful, and are only a problem when they are excessive, but what is excessive? It’s just too much of a good thing. That brings us to the similar problems with alcohol, which is a good thing at one or two drinks per day for health and pleasure, but a very bad thing for long-term suppression of chronic emotional pain. Alcohol reduces stress but it interferes with facing and coping with one’s personal problems, which only makes the problems worse, and over time leads to chronic alcoholism.

I’ve been promoting the slogan, “Drink for pleasure, not for pain,” because it defines behavior that helps a person do the right things for the right reasons. It seems reasonable to apply that same simple slogan to those other potentially destructive activities. Hmm? “Thrilling sports for pleasure, not for pain”, “Sex for pleasure, not for pain”, “Work for pleasure, not for pain.” Perhaps these slogans are compressed too much, and should be adjusted to, “Drink to achieve pleasure, and not to suppress pain” and the same for the others.

It seems there is a tipping point, defined with these slogans, that is itself defined by the reasons for pursuing life’s normal activities. It’s the motivations for the actions that control the long-term effects of repeated actions. Actions that are motivated by the suppression of fear, when they become chronic, tend to shrivel the person’s ability to enjoy life. The actions become a problem because the worse the problems become the more suppressive actions they demand. The same action, when performed to enhance cheerful pleasure for oneself and other people, will enhance everyone’s life and will never become a problem, because the instant it isn’t pleasurable we stop doing it.

Adverse Adult Experiences versus Positive Adult Experiences are created by motivations to avoid pain versus experience pleasure.