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All the ACEs: A Chaotic Concept for Family Policy and Decision-Making?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 April 2019

Sue White
Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield E-mail:
Rosalind Edwards
SSPC, University of Southampton E-mail:
Val Gillies
Social Sciences, University of Westminster E-mail:
David Wastell
Nottingham University Business School E-mail:


This article will consider Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) as a chaotic concept that prioritises risk and obscures the material and social conditions of the lives of its objects. It will show how the various definitions of ACEs offer no cohesive body of definitive evidence and measurement, and lead to a great deal of over-claiming. It discusses how ACEs have found their time and place, locating a variety of social ills within the child’s home, family and parenting behaviours. It argues that because ACEs are confined to intra-familial circumstances, and largely to narrow parent-child relations, issues outside of parental control are not addressed. It concludes that ACEs form a poor body of evidence for family policy and decision-making about child protection and that different and less stigmatising solutions are hiding in plain sight.

Themed Section: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) – Implications and Challenges
© Cambridge University Press 2019 

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