Date of Conferral







Benita Stiles-Smith


The purpose of this study was to fill a gap in the literature regarding survivors of child abuse and their capacity to continue their educational pursuits beyond high school. Thus, this study explored the lived experience of self-identified abuse survivors who were enrolled in higher education. The theoretical bases for this study included Bandura’s social cognitive theory, Rotter’s theory of locus of control and Heider’s and Weiner’s theory of attribution. Open-ended interviews were conducted with 15 survivors of child abuse enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at an online or brick and mortar university. The interviews were then transcribed and analyzed for relevant codes and themes. Results of this phenomenological qualitative study revealed that external supports played a major role in motivation for survivors of abuse to pursue higher education and that middle school was a pivotal point for child abuse survivors. This study contributes to social change by providing information to survivors of child abuse, educators, family members, and counselors that may lead to better understanding the needs of the survivors of child abuse and increase training effectiveness for interventions useful in meeting the unique needs of child abuse survivors.