ACEs, Places and Status: Results from the 2018 Scottish Secure Care Census





This report, written by Ross Gibson, shares findings from a study by Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice (CYCJ) that aimed to highlight the prevalence and impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) across Scotland’s five secure care centres, whilst aiming to address a lack of research in this area.

Using a census, the study collected data about each young person resident within the secure care estate on one particular day in 2018. Completed by staff who knew the child well, the census consisted of questions relating to the lives of children in their care, drawing on existing information held by the unit and charting a variety of demographics.

Key issues include:

The level of exposure to (ACEs) amongst children in Scotland’s secure care centres is both broad and substantial

Substantial levels of poverty and deprivation are experienced by children in secure care, with a statistically significant relationship reported.

Gender appears as a factor, with girls in secure care seeming to experience a greater number of ACEs.

Recommendations made in the report could offer support to secure centres in developing services to respond to ACEs, whilst stressing the need to support families, communities and services in order to prevent them in the first place.

This study reiterates the recommendations of Scotland’s Independent Care Review, which called for therapeutic services within secure care, provision of care that reflects the needs of these children, and an increase in community alternatives.


Reference:  Gibson, R. (2020). ACEs, places and status: Results from the 2018 Scottish secure care census. Glasgow: CYCJ


See related academic articles and citations in Google Scholar.




The analysis here is based on the interpretations of staff who know (albeit well), the young people in question (a double hermeneutic -an interpretation of an interpretation - in interpretivist research terms); this is due to a methodological problem (of access) that is common with research in the secure estate.

ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) (Felitti, et al. 1998) refer to exposure to physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, witnessing domestic violence, familial substance abuse, familial mental ill-health, familial imprisonment or parental separation prior to the age of 18.

ACEs as a concept is catagorised as 'risk factor research', which is not without critique in terms of being overly-deterministic, and in terms of the prescriptive nature of the risk factor paradigm, see inter alios Case & Haines (2009), and, as such, is often treated with particular academic caution.



Note that grey literature publications should be referenced in the normal (Author, date) convention. Grey literature is any information that is not produced by commercial publishers. It includes research reports, working papers, conference proceedings, theses, preprints, white papers, and reports produced by government departments, academics, business and industry, although here at we collate academic research (social research that has a particular theoretical framework) separately from research that is survey-based (designed to identifying so-called 'social facts').


Crown copyright material is reproduced here under the Open Government Licence for public sector information. All other copyrights are recognised and this material is included on the site for educational purposes only.

Download this file (ACEs-Places-and-Status.pdf)ACEs-Places-and-Status.pdf[Gibson, R. (2020). ACEs, places and status: Results from the 2018 Scottish secure care census. Glasgow: CYCJ]1429 kB

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.


Right Click

Only subscribers can copy.