Examination of the Factorial Structure of Adverse Childhood Experiences and Recommendations for Three Subscale Scores

Psychol Violence. 2014 Oct;4(4):432-444. doi: 10.1037/a0037723.


Objective: The purpose of the current investigation is to assess and validate the factor structure of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System's (BRFSS) Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) module.

Method: ACE data available from the 2009 BRFSS survey were fit using exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to estimate an initial factorial structure. The exploratory solution was then validated using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) with data from the 2010 BRFSS survey. Lastly, ACE factors were tested for measurement invariance using multiple group factor analysis.

Results: EFA results suggested that a 3-factor solution adequately fit the data. Examination of factor loadings and item content suggested the factors represented the following construct areas: Household Dysfunction, Emotional/Physical Abuse, and Sexual Abuse. Subsequent CFA results confirmed the 3-factor solution and provided preliminary support for estimation of an overall latent ACE score summarizing the responses to all available items. Measurement invariance was supported across both gender and age.

Conclusions: Results of this study provides support for the use of the current ACE module scoring algorithm, which uses the sum of the number of items endorsed to estimate exposure. However, the results also suggest potential benefits to estimating 3 separate composite scores to estimate the specific effects of exposure to Household Dysfunction, Emotional/Physical Abuse, and Sexual Abuse.

Keywords: ACEs; adverse childhood experiences; child abuse; child maltreatment; factor analysis.