What Doesn’t Kill You

Correlates of Resilience Among Master of Social Work Students

  • Jacky T. Thomas California State University San Marcos
  • Blake Beecher California State University San Marcos
Keywords: Resilience, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Experiential Avoidance, Perceived Stress, Spirituality, MSW Students, ACEs


The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and resilience in a sample (n=139) of Masters of Social Work (MSW) students. Perceived stress, religious faith, experiential avoidance, and mindfulness were also examined as correlates of resilience. Resilience scores for the MSW students were comparable to general population and college student norms, but ACEs and perceived stress scores were higher. Despite a broad literature supporting associations of high ACE scores with varied measures of physical and psychological problems, this study paradoxically showed a positive relationship between higher ACE scores and resilience. Regression analysis indicated a model including age, ACE scores, experiential avoidance, religious faith, and perceived stress explained 39.2% of the variance in resilience scores. Prior adverse childhood experiences and stronger religious faith are associated with increased resilience, while experiential avoidance and perceived stress are associated with lower resilience. This study provides further evidence that many students come to social work education with substantial trauma histories and experience considerable stress during their studies. Results suggest that social work educators should acknowledge risks associated with avoidant coping, and provide learning experiences aimed at developing students’ capacities for increased awareness and acceptance of challenging experiences—their own and others.

Author Biographies

Jacky T. Thomas, California State University San Marcos

Assistant Professor of Social Work

Department of Social Work

College of Education, Health & Human Services

California State University San Marcos

San Marcos, CA

Blake Beecher, California State University San Marcos

Associate Professor of Social Work

Department of Social Work

College of Education, Health & Human Services

California State University San Marcos

San Marcos, CA


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