School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


William Townsend


Childhood Trauma, Emotional Intimacy, Attachment, Attachment Theory, Marriage, Women in Marriage


Christianity | Counseling


The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the impact of childhood trauma on emotional intimacy and attachment style in marriage among heterosexual women who are regular church attendees. Two research questions drove this current study: (a) How would women who have experienced childhood trauma describe their attachment style in marriage?, and (b) What challenges do women who have experienced childhood trauma face in marriage regarding emotional intimacy with their spouse? Participants completed the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Questionnaire (n.d.), the Adult Attachment Scale, and participated in semi-structured interviews. The data were categorized and analyzed using inductive and deductive analysis. Regarding attachment, the results showed that women who presented avoidant and anxious-ambivalent attachment styles had difficulty cultivating emotional intimacy with their husbands for two reasons: (a) they developed a “Lone Ranger mentality” (i.e., they had difficulty trusting, they were self-protective, they were fiercely independent, and they had an elevated fear of abandonment); and (b) they had difficulty regarding love and affection (i.e., they had difficulty receiving love from their husbands, and they had difficulty offering love and affection to their husbands). Regarding emotional intimacy, this study showed that women who experienced childhood trauma experienced lower levels of marital satisfaction due to two factors: (a) they consciously and subconsciously worked to maintain an emotional distance between themselves and their spouse; and (b) they avoided conflict at all costs. However, the study also showed that emotional intimacy could improve the longer a woman was married.