Integrating Positive and Adverse Childhood Experiences (PCEs and ACEs)

The Art of Balancing PCEs and ACEs

Balancing PCEs and ACEs: High ACE scores are not a life sentence, having 4 or more does not condemn a person to negative health conditions especially as there are other factors that play a role in health. Positive childhood experiences (PCEs) act as a buffer between ACE and negative health outcomes and can balance out a person’s health and experiences. These PCE are not entirely dependent on the home, nor are they always dependent on others and they often are up to the individual.

ACE and the health conditions commonly associated with it.

Research has shown a positive correlation between high ACE scores and negative adult health outcomes. 61.9% of the population is likely to have experienced at least 1 ACE and so it is not always an accurate determinant of health, however 15.6 % of the population reports ACE scores of 4 or higher and are significantly more likely to later experience negative health conditions. The CDC monitors ACEs due to the link between ACE and overdose and suicide, stating that those who experience 4 or more ACE are 3x more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder and 30x more likely to attempt suicide. The presence of ACE will also have an effect on familial relationships and overall family health bringing it into the public health domain.

PCE and the health conditions associated with it.

As there can be adverse experiences, there can also be positive childhood experiences (PCE). These positive experiences are shown to have beneficial effects on health and well being. Individuals who report PCEs are more likely to experience less stress and sleep difficulties. They are more likely to experience high executive function, a stronger locus of control, better familial relationships, and feelings of gratitude and forgiveness.


What are Positive Childhood experiences (PCEs)?

There are 7 main positive childhood experiences. These are (1) Being able to discuss feelings with family, such as concerns or conflicts they may be facing. (2) feeling a sense of belonging in school, (3) feeling supported by friends, (4) having at least 2 non-parent trusted adults who take an interest in your life such as teachers or coaches, (5) participating in community events/traditions like neighborhood barbecues or religious practices. (6) Family support during tough experiences like the death of a relative, and (7) Feeling safe and protected by the adults in your own home. It is important to note that there are many other positive experiences that will improve the health of an individual, these are general experiences which research has deemed necessary for the positive development of a child. PCE also known as counter-ACE and can improve an individuals life and development regardless of the presence of high ACE scores. Research suggests that 5-6 PCE are linked to a 16% decreased chance of developing negative health conditions later on.

Why are these experiences beneficial to health and well being?

It may seem like common sense that more positive experiences are good for people but much like ACE it extends deeper into the physiology and health of an individual. Positive experiences boost the production of important neurotransmitters such as Dopamine and Serotonin which are imperative to the development of memory and motor movement. They also limit the amount of time a person spends in fight or flight mode which reduces exposure to cortisol. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone and too much can have a negative effect on several bodily functions. Even people with high ACE scores can expect a reduction in risk if exposed to PCE. Knowing that most individuals will face adversity at least once during childhood it is necessary for positive environments to be created and protected for youth to develop.


It’s never too late to change a kid’s life for the better!

  • 4 of the 7 listed PCE are likely to be influenced by a child’s presence in schools. For that reason it is a crucial area where safe spaces and trusted adults are an absolute necessity. Within educational institutions Restorative Practices are necessary to reduce negative behaviors while also ensuring the safe and positive space for development. These practices include first identifying the harm that was caused and the needs of those involved, second the individual who caused the harm has the obligation to accept responsibility and be held accountable for their actions, and third engagement allowing both parties to communicate in a respectful manner to resolve the conflict. Schools who follow these practices rather than a punishment/reward system see a significant decrease in violence within the school. This approach also teaches self accountability and resilience which influences how an individual may view themselves and their role in the world. Reducing the probability of high ACE scores is a first step in a long process of addressing ACEs and the risks associated with them.
  • We may not be able to control every moment in a child’s life, but we can control how we interact with the youth in our life. Parents, guardians, child care providers have so much influence over a child’s development. Creating a safe space within the home may not be easy but it is imperative to create a sense of trust and belonging within the family. Teachers, coaches, and anyone who works with children have equally important roles as they influence how a child may develop outside of the home. They offer new perspectives and understandings while fostering growth and a sense of community. All adults are being looked to as role models for youth, those who choose to have and/or work with kids hold the development of a generation in their hands. Ask yourself, what can you do to create safe spaces for youth to grow? What efforts have you made to foster the positive experiences of the young minds around you?


Prism Lites Goal and message

At Prism Lite our mission is to create safe spaces where trauma can be addressed and processed by increasing awareness and providing necessary tools opening the door for these conversations. The growth of children is dependent on the wellness of the adults and communities that surround them.

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Breedlove, Meghan, et al. “Mitigating the Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences: How Restorative Practices in Schools Support Positive Childhood Experiences and Protective Factors.” The New Educator, vol. 17, no. 3, 24 Aug. 2020, pp. 1–19,

Crandall, AliceAnn, et al. “ACEs and Counter-ACEs: How Positive and Negative Childhood Experiences Influence Adult Health.” Child Abuse & Neglect, vol. 96, no. 96, Oct. 2019, p. 104089,,

Daines, Chantel L., et al. “Effects of Positive and Negative Childhood Experiences on Adult Family Health.” BMC Public Health, vol. 21, no. 1, 5 Apr. 2021,

Huang, Cher X et al. “Positive Childhood Experiences and Adult Health Outcomes.” Pediatrics vol. 152,1 (2023): e2022060951. doi:10.1542/peds.2022-060951

“Priority Areas.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 June 2023,,and%20likelihood%20of%20experiencing%20overdose.