Prevalence of adverse childhood experiences and their co-occurrence in a large population of adolescents: a Young HUNT 3 study

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2022 Dec;57(12):2359-2366. doi: 10.1007/s00127-022-02277-z. Epub 2022 Apr 22.


Purpose: Studies of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) undertaken at the time of adolescence in the general population are not common. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and co-occurrence of the individual ACEs and sub-types of ACEs in a large population of adolescents.

Methods: Data were used from the Young Nord-Trøndelag Health (Young HUNT 3) study, a population-based study of young adolescents. ACEs were operational defined as sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse; physical and/or emotional neglect; and/or household dysfunction. Co-occurrence was measured as the accumulation of ACEs and as an overlap analysis.

Results: Of the 8199 evaluable adolescents, 65.8% had experienced at least one ACE and 28% of those had experienced more than one ACE. Household dysfunction was the most prevalent ACE subtype. The biggest overlaps among the three ACE sub-types were seen in those reporting neglect or abuse.

Conclusion: There was a high degree of overlap between the three ACE sub-types and the individual ACEs, indicating that ACEs should be assessed together as a whole rather than separately. This study provides an opportunity to assess ACEs and their co-occurrences in relation to outcomes later in life.

Keywords: ACE; Abuse; Childhood maltreatment; Neglect; Prevalence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse* / psychology
  • Family Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Prevalence