Some are set up to succeed, and some are set up to fail; or at least that seems to be a prevalent theme in the channels and currents within our various social institutions. The social sciences teem with whole mountain ranges of studies that inform on how social problems such as racial discrimination, sex and gender orientation and discrimination, age discrimination, and socioeconomic disparities all work in favor of some, and against others.

There are mountains of research into the impacts various forms of discrimination can have on individuals. There are mountains of risk factors for physical and mental health issues, and on the social issues that impact communities and society as a whole. And nearly everyone is trying to determine sets of personality traits that can be used to weed out individuals as potentially violent or for other criminal behaviors.

One such study is the Adverse Childhood Experiences study; a longitudinal study started in 1994 and still ongoing. The Adverse Childhood Experiences study is a collaborative effort between the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente utilizing participants from Kaiser’s HMO program (17,337 research participants). The study is meant to determine the long-term health risks for people who have history of ACE.

Adverse Childhood Experiences include emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect, and various forms of family dysfunction, including witnessing domestic assault, and divorce. It is one of the first elements in life that can predispose an individual to failure. Individual differences in resilience can mitigate some of the impact of such experiences but to what degree depends on the individual and circumstance.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences assessment is fairly easy to find online; I found it here:

For more information on ACE relative to substance abuse and related behavioral health problems, go here:

In short, the study found that ACEs are quite common. Many people have experienced more than one ACE during the course of their childhood, and four or more ACEs can put individuals at higher risk for health problems, lower quality of life, and early death. The risk factors associated with ACE are: smoking, drug, and alcohol abuse, domestic violence perpetuation, mental illness, obesity,  teen pregnancy, poor quality of life, and suicide.

Curiously, these are all risk factors associated with poverty; and notably the poverty class, though ACEs are also found in middle-class populations.  There is a gap in the literature regarding ACEs and the upper-class. Given the risk factors themselves it is not surprising that health problems include heart disease, liver disease, lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and sexually transmitted diseases.

Correlation is not causation. In studies of poverty-class related health issues, it is common to note risk factors correlate, while causation could not be determined. Many of the Adverse Childhood Experiences also correlate; the study results suggest that ACEs cause biological stress response that impairs neurological development in children. Adverse Childhood Experience is causal for development of poor stress coping behaviors.

Adverse Childhood Experiences cause disruption in brain development for children, leading to cognitive, emotional, and social impairment. Cognitive, emotional, and social impairment can contribute to the adoption of health-risk behaviors, which then lead to the development of serious health problems. In short, in the absence of mitigating factors involving resilience, adult survivors are set up for a lifetime of failure.

Some individuals strive to overcome such backgrounds, and they succeed in doing so without ACE backgrounds being noticed. For some individuals, it is a constant struggle to overcome the health-risk behaviors and go on to a successful life. And then there are some individuals who are able to avoid the associated risk factors by developing better coping mechanisms; but success proves illusive due to the stigma associated with ACE.

With behavioral risk factors like smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, risky sexual behaviors, and suicide, is it really all that surprising that one might find it difficult to obtain a successful, financially secure, productive career? Do all of these risk factors equate to a potential liability that employers might want to avoid? If you were an employer, would you hire or weed out people that show signs of ACE?