Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Looking Back, Moving Forward: A Phenomenological Investigation of African American Millennials' Views on Historical Trauma
by Lewis, Ariel, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2020, 202; 27744813
Abstract (Summary)

Background: The current DSM-5 criteria for trauma eliminate events that do not involve actual or threatened death or injury to an individual or someone that that individual has a close relationship with. This is quite limiting as it ignores the reality that one person’s negative experiences may have long-term effects for others as well. Historical trauma is a concept that accounts for these trickle down effects by outlining the manner in which trauma can be group experience that is cumulative over time and damaging across generations. While historical trauma has been explored in relation to some historically marginalized groups, a review of the existing literature reveals that African American historical trauma is an understudied topic. African Americans possess a rich history, inclusive of both tragedy and triumph, with perhaps the most widely recognized of the tragedies being chattel slavery. Slavery would then be followed by many years of institutionalized racism and an ongoing struggle for equality. The purpose of this study is to explore the manner in which African Americans perceive and make meaning of historical traumas experienced by earlier generations, and how they cope with those realities in the present.

Method: This study employed phenomenological interviews as a means of allowing the target population to speak about their perceptions of historical trauma in their own words. The 12 participants self-identified as African American millennials, with at least two generations of families having been born in the United States. Interviews were held via online video conferencing software and by phone. Interviews were then transcribed and analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results: Thematic analysis revealed the presence of eight main themes. This themes included (1) What’s in a name?,(2) Education on African American history: early and inadequate, (3) Slavery was just the beginning, (4) Storytelling as preparation, (5) All-encompassing loss, (6) Pride as a grief response, (7) Restricted expression, and (8) Navigating an evolving racial climate. These findings will contribute to the ability of clinicians, researchers, and other decision makers to include historical trauma in their conceptualizations of African American millennials. Suggestions for clinical practice as well as future directions for research are provided.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Garcia, Jorge
Commitee: Howard, Lionel, Crunk, A Elizabeth
School: The George Washington University
Department: Counseling
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 81/9(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Counseling Psychology, African American Studies, Mental health
Keywords: African Americans, Grief, Historical trauma, Phenomenological, Racism
Publication Number: 27744813
ISBN: 9781658487641
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