Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been associated with a range of physical and mental health problems, and it is now understood that the developmental timing of ACEs may be critically important. Despite this, there is a distinct lack of methods for the efficient assessment of such timing in research and clinical settings. We report on the development and validation of a new measure, the Adverse Life Experiences Scale (ALES), that indexes such developmental timing within a format incorporating caregivers' reports of ACEs in their own lives and those of their children. Participants were a nationally representative sample of Australian families (n = 515; Study 1), and a sample of clinic-referred families (n = 168; Study 2). Results supported the internal consistency and test-retest reliability of the ALES and indicated high levels of acceptability for the measure. In terms of validity, ALES scores were significantly associated with interview-based measures of child maltreatment and quality of the family environment, as well as measures of psychopathology across multiple informants (parents, teachers, clinician-rated). Furthermore, indices of ACEs occurring within specific age-based periods of childhood were found to explain unique variance in current symptoms of child and caregiver psychopathology, independent of the overall chronicity of those ACEs and current adversity.
- adverse childhood experiences