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In the mid-1980s, San Diego physician Dr. Vincent Feletti of Kaiser Permanente made a surprising discovery: Many obese people also had a history of trauma. Overeating, Feletti found, was for some a reaction to traumatizing events from childhood, such as sexual abuse.

Feletti, along with Centers for Disease Control epidemiologist Dr. Robert Anda, developed the “adverse childhood experience” scale that is the basis for the current trauma-informed care movement.

Generally, the higher the ACE score, the more at risk you are for poor mental and physical health, unemployment and other negative outcomes in adulthood. However, the score does not measure positive factors that create resiliency such as the presence of a supportive adult. And it does not measure the severity or repetitiveness of these traumas — each type of ACE counts for just 1 point — nor does it cover all traumas, such as racism or street violence.

To learn your ACE score, take the quiz:

While you were growing up, during your first 18 years of life:

  • 1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often…
    Swear at you, insult you, put you down or humiliate you?
    Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

    If yes, enter 1 ________

  • 2. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often…
    Push, grab, slap or throw something at you?
    Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?

    If yes, enter 1 ________

  • 3. Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever…
    Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way?
    Attempt or actually have oral, anal or vaginal intercourse with you?

    If yes, enter 1 ________

  • 4. Did you often or very often feel that…
    No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special?
    Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other or support each other?

    If yes, enter 1 ________

  • 5. Did you often or very often feel that…
    You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes and had no one to protect you?
    Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?

    If yes, enter 1 ________

  • 6. Were your parents ever separated or divorced?
    If yes, enter 1 ________

  • 7. Was your mother or stepmother:
    Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped or had something thrown at her?
    Sometimes, often or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist or hit with something hard?
    Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

    If yes, enter 1 ________

  • 8. Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic or who used street drugs?
    If yes, enter 1 ________

  • 9. Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?
    If yes, enter 1 ________

  • 10. Did a household member go to prison?
    If yes, enter 1 ________

    Add up your “Yes” answers: ________ This is your ACE score.

*Note: The number of “correct” answers on the quiz equals your total ACE score. –>

Reporting for this story was supported by the Solutions Journalism Network and the Center on Media, Crime and Justice. The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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Dee J. Hall, a co-founder of Wisconsin Watch, joined the staff as managing editor in June 2015. She is responsible for daily news operations. She worked at the Wisconsin State Journal for 24 years as an editor and reporter focusing on projects and investigations.

A 1982 graduate of Indiana University’s journalism school, Hall served reporting internships at the weekly Lake County Star in Crown Point, Ind., The Gary (Ind.) Post-Tribune, The Louisville (Ky.) Times and The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. Prior to returning to her hometown of Madison in 1990, she was a reporter for eight years at The Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix, where she covered city government, schools and the environment. During her 35-year journalism career, Hall has won more than three dozen local, state and national awards for her work, including the 2001 State Journal investigation that uncovered a $4 million-a-year secret campaign machine operated by Wisconsin’s top legislative leaders.