Date of Conferral





Human Services


Mary E. Bold


Existing literature indicates that education is vital to overcoming poverty, yet educational prospects for those in persistent, generational poverty (GP) are often limited. This qualitative phenomenological study centered on the emergence from GP of individuals without formal education beyond 12th grade or a high school equivalency certificate, and explored how those who have done it perceived their experiences. Rutter's resilience theory was the conceptual framework for examining this phenomenon and its challenges and processes. A sample of five adult participants from the United States were recruited using a snowball method, completed a screening survey, and then participated in in-depth interviews. The multiple case study structure provided biographical narratives for each participant that thoroughly described the phenomenon. Analysis was done via interpretive phenomenological analysis which relied on careful scrutiny of the data and a full grasp of how the phenomenon was understood and experienced by participants in their unique contexts. Results indicated many parallels among the narratives. All participants reported GP-related anxiety during childhood and/or adolescence; each recalled the positive presence of at least one influential non-family member as critical to personal growth; and all reported positivity, work ethic, and personal agency as keys to emergence from GP. This conclusion of this study indicated the need for a model for the emergence from GP of individuals without formal secondary education. The social change implications are the potential development of mentoring programs based on the participants' perceived replicability of their accomplishments and their willingness to share their experiences in order to foster self-agency and self-advocacy among children and adolescents in GP.