School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Susan K. Stanley


trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), resilience, acute (type I trauma), chronic (complex or type II) trauma


Education | Social Work


This transcendental phenomenological study examined the lived experiences of individuals who overcame childhood trauma to become resilient adults. For this study, a resilient adult was defined by successful academic and career outcomes. Successful academic outcomes were operationalized as post-secondary educational attainment and successful career outcomes were demonstrated by steady employment of a professional career pathway. Terr’s (1991) theory of childhood trauma and Garmezy and Rutter’s (1983) resilience theory guided the study designed to answer the following central research question: What are the lived experiences of individuals who have overcome adverse childhood experiences to become resilient adults? The study involved thirteen adults living in the South, Northeast, and Midwest regions of the United States, who experienced the phenomenon. Data was collected over one month, using participant journals, interviews, and questionnaires. Data was analyzed using Moustakas’ transcendental phenomenological approach, including Epoché, phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, and synthesis. From data analysis, the following common themes were identified: experiences in childhood that fostered resilience, experiences in adulthood that contributed to resilience, and long-term impacts of trauma, their lived experiences. Finally, implications for practice and suggestions for future research were discussed, with the most salient being that the individual’s reaction to the trauma is a major determinant of one’s resilience, especially when it leads to a greater strength and determination.