A phenomenological study of women who have overcome childhood abuse

Deborah Blair Stevens, University of Pennsylvania


Since the time of Hippocrates and the inception of what has become modern medicine, the clinical focus has been on disease, with little effort expended on issues of health and well being. The same has been typical in the fields of mental health, such that little interest has been focused on those who survive, succeed, and flourish. The purpose of this qualitative exploratory multi-case study was to investigate the phenomenological perceptions and the cognitive personal constructs of ten women between the ages of 41 and 60 who perceived their development to have been in families that were emotionally and psychologically abusive. This retrospective study of strengths and personal resources was conducted in order to identify and understand the processes through which these women acquired effective and adaptive skills to survive and overcome their early experiences such that they now self identify as successful and well adjusted. The study operated from the theory base of symbolic interactionism (Sherman & Webb, 1990), the methodology of grounded theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Sherman & Webb, 1990; Strauss & Corbin, 1990), and was conducted through the new paradigm qualitative method of research as praxis (Lather, 1986) by the process of interview and interactive reflexively negotiated reinterviews to clarify and analyze, by constant comparison, emerging themes. A theory emerged from the findings of this investigation that led to implications and suggestions for future research. The emergent theory linked the constructed personality characteristic of agency with success and self esteem. The implications of this study are relevant to educators, clinicians, and parents. Future research suggestions include longitudinal and cross sectional research addressing the areas of positive outcomes of abusive backgrounds and gender role development with populations of women and men with similar and diverse demographics.

Subject Area

Womens studies|Academic guidance counseling|Developmental psychology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Stevens, Deborah Blair, "A phenomenological study of women who have overcome childhood abuse" (1996). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9713010.