Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Seminarians: Personal Experiences of Trauma and Implications for Pastoral Well-Being and Ministerial Training


Recent research has shown Mainline Protestant clergy evidence poor mental health. In accounting for this, research has focused on occupational factors that impact health, with less attention paid to the role of selection into ministry as it relates to health. We investigate one possible selection characteristic, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), among a sample of 535 seminarians attending a Mainline seminary. Compared with a demographically matched national sample, these seminarians reported higher prevalence of the childhood experiences of emotional abuse, of living with someone with mental illness, and of sexual abuse. These seminarians also reported lower prevalence of parental separation/divorce and of familial incarceration. Furthermore, we found demographic variations in the prevalence of certain ACEs among the sample of seminarians. In addition to informing the scholarly discussion regarding mechanisms associated with clergy well-being, this work highlights the need for seminaries to attend to the ministerial formation of students with these experiences.

Journal of Psychology and Theology