New HRSA Data Show One in Three US Children Have Suffered an Adverse Childhood Experience

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Monday, October 7

Today, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announces the release of data from the 2018 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH). Data from the survey show that in 2017-2018, one in three children under the age of 18 were reported to have suffered at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE) in their lifetime and 14 percent experienced two or more ACEs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics describes ACEs as stressful or traumatic events that occur during childhood and are strongly related to a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifetime. The NSCH collects information on several of these experiences, including: having divorced/separated parents or a deceased parent, living with anyone with a drug or alcohol problem or who is mentally ill, having a parent who served time in jail, seeing or hearing parental violence, and witnessing or being the victim of neighborhood violence.

"The HRSA National Survey of Children’s Health provides critical data about the health and health needs of our nation’s children, including the prevalence of ACEs," said Tom Engels, HRSA Acting Administrator. "We will continue to leverage the survey so our programs can better support families as they deal with the burdens of ACEs and other health issues."

The NSCH, which is funded and directed by HRSA's Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, provides the latest national and state-level estimates of the health and health care of children as well as information about their families and their communities. The 2018 survey includes data for more than 30,500 children across the U.S., which when combined with data from the 2017 survey, yields a total sample of more than 50,000 children.

According to the latest NSCH data from 2017-2018, the most prevalent ACE in children's lifetime was “Parent/guardian divorced or separated” (23.4%), followed by "Lived with anyone with alcohol/drug problem” (8.0%), and “Parent/guardian served time in jail" (7.4%).

"Understanding these child health key indicators helps HRSA support programs that help to treat children when they are sick and keep them healthy throughout their lives," said Michael D. Warren, MD, MPH, FAAP, Associate Administrator of HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

The NSCH also provides annual estimates for numerous other key indicators of child health and well-being, as well as the family and community level factors that can influence children's health. The survey collects information on critical topics including the prevalence of health conditions such as allergies, attention deficit disorder/attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and asthma; the availability of accessible and coordinated health care, including for children with special health care needs; family health and activities; and parental health status.

For more information about the HRSA National Survey of Children's Health, visit

Date Last Reviewed:  October 2019