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Nearly 4 in 10 Ohio adults had an Adverse Childhood Experience

Nov 1, 2019


The Ohio Health Issues Poll is conducted every year to learn more about the health opinions, behaviors and status of Ohio adults. In 2019, OHIP asked Ohio adults whether they had experienced three specific adverse events in their childhood.

Adverse Childhood Experiences are traumatic events that occur during childhood and have the potential to affect the rest of a person's life. ACEs include events such as experiencing or witnessing violence, abuse or substance use, and parental separation, incarceration or death. As the number of ACEs that children experience increases, so does their risk for long-term negative health impacts.1

What OHIP found

3 in 10 experienced divorce of a parent OHIP asked Ohio adults whether they had experienced the following situations before the age of 18:

  • A parent or guardian getting divorced or separated.
  • A parent or guardian dying.
  • A parent or guardian serving time in jail.

About 3 in 10 Ohio adults (29%) reported that they had experienced the divorce or separation of a parent before the age of 18. About 1 in 10 reported either the death (12%) or incarceration (7%) of a parent.

These results are similar to the nation. Between 2011 and 2014, 28% of respondents to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey reported experiencing the divorce of a parent before the age of 18. Eight percent reported that a parent had served time in jail.2 The survey did not ask about the death of a parent.

Most Ohio adults (63%) said they had not experienced any of these ACEs. About 3 in 10 (28%) experienced one, 1 in 10 (9%) experienced two and only 1% experienced all three of these events. 

Some adults more likely to report having experienced ACEs

Responses varied by age and income. Ohio adults ages 18 to 64 (41%) were more likely than adults ages 65 and older (28%) to have experienced at least one of the ACEs. Those living in povertyor just above poverty (43%) were more likely than those with higher income (35%) to have experienced one or more of the ACEs.

Responses also varied by a person's knowledge of substance misuse. Research has shown that exposure to ACEs can lead to substance abuse later in life.Those who knew someone who had problems because of drug use (44%) were more likely than those who did not (27%) to report having experienced one of the ACEs.

Why we ask these questions

Adverse Childhood Experiences can affect the immediate and long-term health of those who experience them. Children who experience ACEs are more likely to be both perpetrators and victims of violence, to suffer from mental health disorders, and to have fewer positive educational and
health outcomes. Ultimately, these experiences can lead to a greater burden of disease and early death.5

The harmful effects of ACEs can be prevented by providing financial support and education to families, providing quality education to children and intervening when necessary.6 For more information about ACEs, visit

What's Happening Now

First Step Home is a local organization that aims to empower women to overcome substance abuse disorders so they can achieve self-sufficiency and provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children. While First Step Home has always provided safe housing and child care for the children of mothers with substance use disorder, it has recently begun providing more supports for children through its Child Resiliency Program. The program, partially funded by Interact for Health, provides trauma-informed pediatric mental health services, regular speech therapy and social and emotional learning tools for staff and child care providers. To learn more please visit

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). About Adverse Childhood Experiences. Retrieved from
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System ACE Data — Data and Statistics — ACEs Prevalence. Retrieved from
3. In 2018, a family of four living in poverty (the equivalent of 100% or less of the Federal Poverty Guidelines) had a household income of $25,100 or less. A family of four living just above the poverty level (between 100% and 200% FPG) had a household income between $25,101 and $50,200. A family of four that had higher income (more than 200% FPG) had a household income greater than $50,200.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). About Adverse Childhood Experiences. Retrieved from
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Association Between ACEs and Negative Outcomes. Retrieved from
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). ACEs can be Prevented. Retrieved from

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