Researching Adverse Childhood Experiences in a Domestic Violence service: The role of co-operative inquiry groups in practice development and change


  • Sarah Morton University College Dublin
  • Megan Curran Columbia University
  • Mary Barry O'Gorman Cuan Saor Women's Refuge



cooperative inquiry groups, domestic violence, adverse childhood experiences, ACE, organizational change, practitioner change, trauma, groupwork, group work


The long-term impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are of increasing interest to researchers and practitioners. While attention is being paid to the effectiveness of screening for ACEs to improve health and social outcomes, how to implement such practices has become key. The Irish study upon which this article is based used an action research approach to implement ACEs routine enquiry within a domestic violence service, while also utilising co-operative inquiry groups for practitioners within the organisation (n=10) and those working in associated fields of infant mental health, child protection and welfare and community support (n=7). This article documents the process of enacting the co-operative inquiry groups and outlines learning points, challenges and lessons. Drawing on Finlay’s (2002a, 2002b) theories on the variants of reflexivity in research processes, six themes emerged on the research process: insider and outsider status; the structure and approach to the groupwork process; participation in the group process; addressing fears; practice concerns; and motivations to act. We conclude with suggestions for effective co-operative inquiry processes and highlight the factors related to groupwork that may contribute to improvements in practice, organisational and community change.

Author Biographies

Sarah Morton, University College Dublin

Assistant Professor in Community Engagement

Megan Curran, Columbia University

Postdoctoral Research Scientist Center on Poverty and Social Policy

Mary Barry O'Gorman, Cuan Saor Women's Refuge

Services Manager 


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2021-12-03 — Updated on 2021-12-10


How to Cite

Morton, S., Curran, M., & Barry O’Gorman, M. (2021). Researching Adverse Childhood Experiences in a Domestic Violence service: The role of co-operative inquiry groups in practice development and change. Groupwork, 30(1), 48-76. (Original work published December 3, 2021)



Groupwork and Research