Research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) has traditionally relied on cumulative ACE scores, which prevents understanding about the effects of distinct adversities and their mechanistic pathways. Dimensional and person-centred approaches have been proposed as alternative methods to conceptualise ACEs, which address limitations of the cumulative ACE score. In this issue, Sisitsky et al. (Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, 2023) apply these approaches to identify dimensions of ACEs and profiles of children with distinct patterns of early exposure, in a large, racially diverse cohort from the US. The authors also examine the longitudinal associations between profiles of early adversity in early childhood with later mental health and telomere length. In this commentary, we discuss key findings from the study and recommend future avenues for improving the conceptualisation of ACEs.