Date of Conferral







Susan Rarick


The number of children exposed to a traumatic event seems to be continuously growing. Currently there is no research that has examined specifically how a child's traumatic experience is understood in the context of the child-caregiver relationship. The purpose of this study was to understand the dynamics of the relationship between the child and caregiver after a child's traumatic event, from the caregiver's perspective. The research design for this study was a multiple case study qualitative design involving 9 participants, recruited through criteria sampling. These participants provided data obtained through semi-structured interviews. Based on the methodology and the research question, the theoretical foundation for this study was Salvador Minuchin's structural family therapy (SFT). Minuchin's theory provided the framework and pre-existing categories for the qualitative deductive analysis of participants' interviews. The study found that the most common triad among children with a trauma history is an odd man out triad. The odd man out triad is representative of at least one family member having a cut off relationship with another family member. Results also indicate the most common relational dynamic, or theme, between the child and/or caregiver(s) was a cut off relational dynamic. These dyads and triads aid in identifying how the family subsystems are operating and subsequently inform researchers and clinicians how families organize around a traumatic event. This study also can aid in getting professionals to use a systemic lens when working with children who have experienced trauma. In conclusion, the research in this study found that not only are children impacted by their traumatic events, but the caregivers are as well.