Adverse Childhood Experiences and Mental Health module (PY52011)

Learn about adversity in childhood, the impact on people's wellbeing, and ways to improve their mental health outcomes.

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Module code


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) refer to traumatic events, usually experienced before the age of 18. ACEs include child abuse and neglect, growing up with parental mental illness, substance abuse in the family, parental domestic violence, and parental divorce. These experiences have profound impacts on the lives of people, and have been linked to many mental health issues across the lifespan.

By studying ACEs, we can identify the extent of the issue nationally and globally, and the risks ACEs pose to the lives of individuals. We can then develop suitable ways to intervene early or even prevent childhood adversity and mental illness, thus potentially altering an individual's life trajectory.

Understanding the connection between ACEs and mental health can also foster empathy and reduce stigma. This is not only beneficial for healthcare professionals but society as a whole, promoting a more compassionate and understanding world.

This module will explore adverse experiences in childhood and subsequent developmental and mental health outcomes in children, young people, and adults. 

What you will learn

In this module, you will:

  • explore the historical understanding of childhood adversity and related mental health issues
  • learn about prevalence rates, measurement, and definitions of ACEs
  • explore the impact of ACEs on mental wellbeing of children and adults
  • learn about theories explaining the link between ACEs and mental health
  • learn about intervention and prevention of ACEs, and trauma-informed practice

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand ACEs and their impact on health
  • understand theoretical issues, common methodologies, and paradigms
  • critically evaluate relevant research and theories in the field and apply your understanding to examples
  • critically reflect on your learning and communicate your understanding effectively using evidence

Assignments / assessment

  • written critical reflection 2,500 words (50%)
  • essay 2,500 words (50%)
    • case study

This module does not have a final exam.

Teaching methods / timetable

  • weekly lectures
    • lectures are in person to allow for smaller classes (up to 40 students)
  • weekly reading tasks
    • academic literature
    • to be completed individually in preparation for group discussions
  • group discussions
    • involves discussion of academic literature and analysing case examples to apply your understanding
  • tutorials
    • to prepare you for assessments and provide feedback and/or answers to questions on assessments


This module is available on following courses: