Research – Williams: Prevalence of Childhood Trauma in a Community-Based Mental Health Clinic


A large number of individuals in the US have experienced childhood trauma. However, little is known about the prevalence of trauma in a diverse patient population entering treatment in a community mental health center. To assess early trauma in this population, the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs) questionnaire was administered to 856 participants over a nine-month period. 40% reported four or more ACEs. Among high scorers, emotional abuse, physical abuse and emotional neglect were the most prevalent ACE experiences. High mean ACE sum scores were observed among patients with PTSD, depression, impulse disorder and substance use disorder. Having a higher ACE sum score was associated with a greater number of co-occurring psychiatric disorders. Characterizing ACEs by patient sociodemographic attributes and psychiatric diagnoses extracted from the electronic medical records (EMR) can benefit therapeutic interventions. These findings indicate a need for creating more trauma-informed settings with knowledgeable, trained staff.


Sucich, J., Breitbart, V., Williams, S. et al. Prevalence of Childhood Trauma in a Community-Based Mental Health Clinic. Community Ment Health J (2023).

Sharifa Z. Williams is an Assistant Professor at the Bloustein School