A Systematic Literature Review of the Career Choice of Helping Professionals Who Have Experienced Cumulative Harm as a Result of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2023 Jan;24(1):72-85. doi: 10.1177/15248380211016016. Epub 2021 May 18.


The pervasive effects of cumulative harm resulting from adverse childhood experiences influence all aspects of an individual's life course. Research highlights a relationship between early trauma and career choice; however, there is a dearth of research pertaining specifically to cumulative harm and the influence on career choice in the helping professions. A systematic literature review was conducted to explore the associations of cumulative harm and childhood trauma on career decision making in people in the helping professions. A search was conducted across databases between February 1990 and February 2019 relevant to searches combining three areas of interest: (a) "childhood trauma," (b) "career choice," and (c) "helping professionals." Database searches and further manual searches yielded a total of 208 articles, and 28 studies satisfied all inclusion criteria. Only studies that were peer-reviewed and published between February 1990 and February 2019 were included. The evidence from the review indicated that family of origin dysfunction, parentification, individual characteristics, and traits developed through adversity, and experiential motivations were associated with the career choice in the helping professions. Further research is required to explore different professional cohorts and the utility of life themes as both a source of data for research and reflexive practice in helping professionals.

Keywords: career choice; career construction theory; cumulative harm; helping professions; trauma.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Career Choice*
  • Humans
  • Motivation