Social work and adverse childhood experiences research: implications for practice and health policy

Soc Work Public Health. 2014;29(1):1-16. doi: 10.1080/19371918.2011.619433.


Medical research on "adverse childhood experiences" (ACEs) reveals a compelling relationship between the extent of childhood adversity, adult health risk behaviors, and principal causes of death in the United States. This article provides a selective review of the ACE Study and related social science research to describe how effective social work practice that prevents ACEs and mobilizes resilience and recovery from childhood adversity could support the achievement of national health policy goals. This article applies a biopsychosocial perspective, with an emphasis on mind-body coping processes to demonstrate that social work responses to adverse childhood experiences may contribute to improvement in overall health. Consistent with this framework, the article sets forth prevention and intervention response strategies with individuals, families, communities, and the larger society. Economic research on human capital development is reviewed that suggests significant cost savings may result from effective implementation of these strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / psychology
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Family / psychology
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Social Work* / organization & administration
  • United States