Adverse Childhood Experience Survey

September 20, 2020

by Sean Kullman

GIBM has spent the last several weeks in contact with the Centers for Disease Control addressing a shortcoming of the original Adverse Childhood Experience Survey that took place from 1995 to 1997. (The Adverse Childhood Experience Survey, used since the mid-1990s, has been a staple for institutions nationwide to address adverse childhood experiences that contribute to higher physical and emotional health risks later in life.) Although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has responded to our inquiries, they are still reviewing our essential concerns.

In phone calls and emails with the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC acknowledged changes were made in an updated module of the ACE Survey to address the adverse childhood experiences of witnessing the abuse of a parent. But the new module did not specifically address children witnessing mothers abuse fathers, step-fathers, and boyfriends. Instead, the CDC introduced a broader question: "How often did your parents or adults in your home ever slap, hit, kick, punch, or beat each other up?"

The original survey specifically asked participants if they witnessed fathers, step-fathers, or boyfriends abuse mothers. No such question was asked regarding mothers abusing fathers. The survey and its data continue to be used as a reliable survey-tool and source despite this essential flaw. The CDC acknowledged in an email that
"we agree that this is an important clarification when interpreting the original results of the Kaiser-CDC study published in 1998."

The data from the survey continues to shape the way we identify, fund, and address domestic violence. GIBM found a 2018 study conducted by the Georgia University System that used the original ACE Survey from the 1990s to ask, address, and quantify "mother treated violently" but no question that would ask, address, and quantify "father treated violently." The original ACE Survey continues to encourage a partial narrative and lead to misleading data-reporting regarding the adverse childhood experience of witnessing the abuse of a father.

GIBM has asked the CDC to include a very visible infographic that states the following: The original ACE Survey did not address the abuse of fathers, step-fathers, and mother's boyfriends at the hands of mothers. Therefore, intimate partner violence information against males was not collected and a reason the CDC needed to add a more inclusive question in an updated survey. GIBM has made a few other requests and the CDC is sharing our notes with its researchers.

There is an immense gap that still exists within universities and government agencies when it comes to domestic violence against males and the adverse childhood experiences that impact physical and emotional health.

GIBM is still in contact with the CDC to address these necessary changes and intends to share its report in the coming weeks.

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