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The Philadelphia Urban ACE Study


This page includes The Philadelphia Urban ACE Study Executive Summary, a downloadable PDF of the report including survey questions and  a downloadable PDF slide show on the report and the data . The study, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and conducted by Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) for the Institute for Safe Families and the ACE Task Force, collected data from Philadelphians regarding adversity that they faced. The questions developed for this survey expanded on the original questions from the ACE Study done in 1995. These new questions were the first extensive survey of this kind specifically in an urban setting. 


Executive Summary

Note: The data source for this summary and for the report is the Philadelphia Urban ACE Survey, 2013; the data were prepared by the Research and Evaluation Group at PHMC; and the data have not yet been formally published.

Click here to access PDF of the report (link updated 10.24.13)

Click here to access PDF Slide Show of the survey report

Click here for more information on the Philadelphia ACE Task Force

This report provides findings on the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) of Philadelphia residents. Past studies, including the seminal 1998 Kaiser study by Felliti and Anda, have confirmed the negative impact of ACEs, such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse and household dysfunction, on health behaviors and health outcomes in adulthood.  However, most of these findings have been confirmed in studies composed of primarily white, middle-class, and highly educated individuals. The Institute for Safe Families (ISF)[1] formed the ACE Task Force in 2012 with an interest in examining the prevalence and impact of ACEs in Philadelphia, an urban city with a socially and racially diverse population.

ISF contracted with Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) to develop and conduct a survey of childhood adversity exposures among Philadelphia residents in the fall of 2012.  PHMC contracted Social Science Research Solutions to conduct the survey as a follow-up to PHMC’s 2012 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey (SEPA HHS).

A total of 1,784 adults completed the Philadelphia Urban ACE Survey for a response rate of 67.1%. The survey found a higher prevalence of ACEs than found in previous studies. In particular, 33.2% of Philadelphia adults experienced emotional abuse and 35% experienced physical abuse during their childhood.  Approximately 35% of adults grew up in a household with a substance-abusing member; 24.1% lived in a household with someone who was mentally ill; and 12.9% lived in a household with someone who served time or was sentenced to serve time in prison.

The Philadelphia Urban ACE Survey also examined the stressors that exist in the communities where people live. The study found that 40.5% of Philadelphia adults witnessed violence while growing up, which includes seeing or hearing someone being beaten, stabbed or shot. Over one-third (34.5%) of adults reported experiencing discrimination based on their race or ethnicity, while almost three in ten adults (27.3%) reported having felt unsafe in their neighborhoods or not trusting their neighbors during childhood. In all, over 37% of Philadelphia respondents reported four or more ACEs. The findings from this study suggest the need for services that address the unique environmental stressors experienced in urban neighborhoods to mitigate their impact on individuals and prevent ACEs.


Request for Access to Data

The data will be further analyzed by a team of ISF reasearchers . Following publication of the first papers in peer reviewed journals, ISF will entertain additional requests for the data and particular questions.  Please contact with any questions.


The Philadelphia Urban ACE Study was supported by a generous grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Additional support for the Philadelphia ACE Task Force efforts has been provided by the CHG Charitable Trust, the First Hospital Foundation, the Stoneleigh Foundation, and the Scattergood Foundation.

The authors would like to thank members of the Philadelphia ACE Task Force who helped guide the Philadelphia Urban Ace Study.  Specifically, Megan Bair Merritt, Sandra Bloom, Peter Cronholm, Martha Davis, Sandy Dempsey, Joel Fein, Sara Ann Kuykendall, Lee Pachter, and Roy Wade assisted in drafting the Philadelphia Urban Ace Study, reviewing the findings and the commenting on the final report.