Abstract

Direct support professionals (DSPs) provide integral support to many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Yet, individuals' access to qualified DSPs is often compromised as organizations struggle to hire and retain DSPs. Despite a vast body of research exploring factors associated with turnover, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among DSPs remain absent from the literature. ACEs encompass abuse and familial dysfunction prior to the age of 18 and, in the general population, have been linked to compromised well-being and work-related challenges in adult life. An online survey was conducted to explore the prevalence of ACE categories and ACE scores (i.e., the sum of each ACE category experienced by a person) among DSPs (n = 386) working in licensed settings. Seventy-five percent of DSPs experienced at least one ACE and 30% had an ACE score of four or more. DSPs who identified as female and those who had been in their position less than one year had significantly higher ACE scores than males and others who had been in their position longer, respectively. In comparison with other studies, the four most common ACE categories among DSPs (i.e., divorce, emotional abuse, mental illness, and substance abuse) were the same, however, DSPs in the present study had a higher average ACE score and nearly twice the percentage of persons having an ACE score of four or more. The potential implications of ACEs among DSPs, at the intersection of their work with individuals with IDD, are discussed.

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