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Social Work


Thomas McLaughlin


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) have been linked to long-term impairments involving neurobiological and epidemiological functions and increased risk for mental and physical health challenges. Many social workers have experienced a high number of ACEs, which increases risks for problems involving wellness, employment instability, and secondary traumatic stress (STS). However, the impact of total ACEs on social workers’ identity, growth, and professional quality of life (PQL) is less known. Using a correlational cross-sectional design, this quantitative study involved examining the impact of total ACEs on posttraumatic growth (PTG), event centrality, and PQL (in terms of burnout, STS, and compassion satisfaction) for child welfare social workers. The PTG theory was the framework for the study. Data were collected using an online survey with a purposeful sample of 104 licensed social workers with at least one year of employment in child welfare in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Spearman’s rank-order correlation results indicated total scores for PTG, event centrality, STS, compassion satisfaction, and burnout were all weakly correlated with total ACEs that were experienced, with only total PTG levels having a statistically significant relationship with total ACEs. Polynomial regression analysis results indicated that total ACEs did not significantly predict PTG, event centrality, or PQL total scores. These findings can lead to administrative changes, including providing interventions that act as ACE treatments and prevention strategies. Preventing ACEs may reduce cases of adverse health outcomes and improve public health, leading to positive social change.

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