Adverse Childhood Experiences as a Determinant of Public Service Motivation

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The wounded healer archetype predicts that people who suffer negative experiences in childhood would be motivated to enter helping fields as a way of self-healing. Developmental traumatology, however, suggests that people who have negative experiences in childhood may have their development stunted, particularly when it comes to caring for others. To test these competing theories, researchers test the effect of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on public service motivation (PSM) and find negative experiences in childhood are associated with a lower willingness to help others. However, some evidence suggests that a curvilinear relationship exists such that extreme levels of ACEs result in more PSM.

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