Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences in a University Population: Associations with Use of Social Services

Lian McGavock, Trevor Spratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


This paper is part of a series published by the Multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences research group based at QUB. First-year undergraduates took part in an online survey, self-reporting on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and measures of social service contact. The 10-item ACE questionnaire measures abuse, neglect and household dysfunction (current sample ?????????The study achieved a response rate of 18.6%. (N=765; 552 (72.7%) females and 212 (27.2%) males; 21.8% reporting having been educated at a ‘Protestant’ school, 42% reporting having been educated at a ‘Catholic’ school and 20.4% reporting previous school religious affiliation as ‘other’). Despite obvious non-response bias, ACE scores for this student population are comparable with college-educated populations in the US. Current respondents with previous social service contact are over twenty three times more likely than peers to have experienced multiple adversities. Findings support the hypothesis that social service contact, alone, acts as a proxy indicator for the presence of multiple adverse childhood experiences, with no significant elevation in ACE scores for those going through court proceedings or subject to child protection registration. This study supports current concerns by policy makers to target those children experiencing multiple adversities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)657-674
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
Early online date21 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Child protection, children and families, children in need

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