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EIF report

Adverse childhood experiences: Building consensus on what should happen next

Published

19 Aug 2021

Building on our major 2020 review of the evidence on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), this report presents the findings of a Delphi-style consensus-building exercise to understand key stakeholders' views about the research evidence, whether it has influenced their work with children and families, and how they think the evidence can best be taken forward to inform policy and practice.

Report

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Technical annex

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In February 2020, we published a comprehensive review of the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) evidence entitled Adverse childhood experiences: What we know, what we don’t know and what should happen next. We observed that while ACEs pose a clear threat to children’s wellbeing at all points of their development, many popular claims about ACEs are not supported by the best evidence, and many ACE-related practices have yet to be rigorously evaluated. The report concluded with a set of nine recommendations about how the ACEs evidence could be improved and outlined what an evidence-informed public health response to ACEs might be.

While our review and its conclusions were positively received by a wide range of audiences, more work was needed to understand how its key messages were perceived and if they were influencing their work with families and children. To do this, we commissioned RAND Europe, a not-for-profit research institute, to conduct a Delphi-style consensus-building exercise to better understand our audience’s views about the research evidence, and how they think it might best be taken forward to improve policy and practice.

Our study was successful in engaging 70 practitioners, policymakers, academics and children’s charities who have a shared interest in improving children’s lives. These individuals achieved consensus on 41 statements regarding the quality of the ACEs evidence and how it might best be used to help vulnerable children.

This report provides a high-level overview of the findings of this exercise, highlighting the areas where consensus was achieved and how this consensus aligns with the most robust research evidence. A more detailed analysis of our findings is also available in the technical annex.

About the authors

Dr Kirsten Asmussen

Kirsten is head of what works, child development, at EIF.

Tom McBride

Tom is director of evidence at EIF.