Does an Adverse Childhood Experience Score Affect a Person’s Somatic Empathy?
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur before the ages of eighteen. Research shows the negative outcomes of these events are far reaching, impacting both physical and mental health. Currently there is only a small body of research about the effects of ACEs on empathy levels. What is available suggests people who have faced adversity in childhood show higher levels of empathy, this is important in the development of pro-social behaviours. This investigation sets out to establish a link between high ACE scores and somatic empathy by measuring sweat production after exposure to different facial expressions. It was hypothesised the higher ACE scores would have a hyper-aroused stress response than the lower scores. The results were surprising, the higher scorer showed a blunted stress response, reacting to the facial expression less, especially that of the pain expression. Which supports theories of hypo-arousal effect as a stress response.