School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Thomas Vail


trauma, childhood maltreatment, post-traumatic growth, adversity




The purpose of this phenomenological study is to better understand the transformational experience from identifying as a victim of childhood maltreatment (CM) to self-perceived post-traumatic growth (PTG). Some adults who were abused and/or neglected in childhood report continued struggles in adulthood that they perceive to be directly related to the maltreatment they experienced, while other adults have found beneficial aspects, such as positive psychological change, from past adverse experience(s). Identifying the constructs that differentiate these two outcomes, either feeling “stuck” in one’s past or self-perceived growth, are essential to further establish the relevance of PTG in trauma-related research. PTG, a fairly new construct in scientific literature, has not been examined in volume, most notably within the context of childhood maltreatment being the identified traumatic exposure of focus. To explore these phenomena, this researcher will collect rich, descriptive narratives from individuals that claim both CM and PTG to better understand what facilitated a change in perception of being a trauma-exposed youth. Several theories build a conceptual framework for this study to better understand what makes some individuals more capable of adaptation and positive change after abusive and/or neglectful treatment. Focusing on the shift of perception of past adversity, an emphasis on the key role that cognitive re-processing plays in finding new meaning of one’s circumstances will be explored. Other key factors of theoretical reference are associated with emotion regulation abilities, human development, and the need for attachment in relationships. A goal of this study is to bridge the research gap in PTG literature that lacks first-hand accounts of what facilitates PTG for someone who was abused and/or neglected as a child.

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