Filton Hill School

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Attachment

You may have heard about ACEs?

The experiences we have early in our lives and particularly in our early childhoods have a huge impact on how we grow and develop, our physical and mental health, and our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Two important factors to think about when considering our mental wellbeing, are the quality of our attachment relationships and our experience of ACEs.

Understanding ACEs forms part of staff safeguarding and child protection induction training for all staff.

What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?



Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are “highly stressful, and potentially traumatic, events or situations that occur during childhood and/or adolescence. They can be a single event, or prolonged threats to, and breaches of, the young person’s safety, security, trust or bodily integrity.” (Young Minds, 2018).

Examples of ACEs:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Living with someone who abused drugs
  • Living with someone who abused alcohol
  • Exposure to domestic violence
  • Living with someone who has gone to prison
  • Living with someone with serious mental illness
  • Losing a parent through divorce, death or abandonment

How common are ACEs?

In a 2014 UK study on ACEs, 47% of people experienced at least one ACE with 9% of the population having 4+ ACES (Bellis et al, 2014).

Some of the things exposure to ACEs can impact, are:

  • The ability to recognise and manage different emotions.
  • The capacity to make and keep healthy friendships and other relationships.
  • The ability to manage behaviour in school settings.

Difficulties coping with emotions safely without causing harm to self or others.

Parents and carers have a responsibility to keep children and young people safe from harm and sometimes need support themselves to protect families from ACEs. If you would like some help, please do not hesitate to contact us on the school number, or you call the Access and Response Team for advice- their number is 01454 866000.


What is Attachment?

Attachment refers to the pattern of the relationships we have had with our parents or carers early in our lives. It is the emotional bond that forms between a parent and child from birth and has a huge impact on our development. The way a parent or carer responds to their child will impact on the child’s attachment style. This attachment style becomes a template for how we build future relationships with others in our lives, and also a template of how we feel about ourselves and other people. If we have experienced a relationship with a parent or carer which has been positive, we will develop a positive template for other relationships as well as positive feelings about ourselves and others. But sometimes how children are cared for is not so positive, for various reasons, and this can make it harder for people to make and maintain positive relationships in the future, manage their feelings and behaviour, or feel good about themselves or others. When our early attachments have been negative and these lead us to go on to have difficulties with relationships and our mental wellbeing, this can sometimes be described as attachment difficulties.


If you have read anything here that has caused you concern, please do not hesitate to contact the Designated Safeguarding Lead or another member of the safeguarding team. You will find those details on the safeguarding introduction page.