Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Chang, Janet


The purpose of the following study is to examine the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) of social work students as well as any associations between specific ACE questionnaire scores and professional field specializations or interests. Previous research has indicated that scoring on the ACE questionnaire can potentially lead to a number of psychological and physiological related issues. Given that many social workers enter the field as what some researchers refer to as “wounded healers”, this study aimed to explore whether social workers who have specific adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) choose field specializations or interests which relate to any previous childhood trauma or personal adversities. This study collected data from graduate level social work students from a non-disclosed university in Southern California utilizing a quantitative self-administered questionnaire. A total of 60 participants completed the questionnaire. Findings indicated that social workers have a higher prevalence of ACE’s when compared to the general population. Additionally, associations were found between direct exposure to mental illness/suicide attempt during childhood and specializing in mental health. A correlation was also found among social work students who experienced emotional neglect as a child and participation in personal therapy. Further research should be done on this topic in order to improve representation and generalizability. In addition to this, it is recommended that social work programs implement education on ACE’s within their curriculum's to further improve ethical and professional practice.

Included in

Social Work Commons