Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-11-2018


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Counselor Education and Supervision (ExCES)


School of Education

Committee Chair

Lisa Lopez Levers

Committee Member

Waganesh Zeleke

Committee Member

Gibbs Kanyongo


Transgenerational Trauma, Cultural Trauma, Historical Trauma, Intergenerational Trauma, Transferred Trauma, Parenting African American Adolescents, Parent, Caregiver, Inherited Trauma


The system of institutional enslavement in North America has produced myriad effects on the contemporary African American community via the transmission of individual, familial, and collective trauma across generations (Carter, 2015; DeGruy, 2005; Weingarten, 2004). This research explored the roles of parent and caregiver within this cultural group in an effort to determine how past traumas have influenced the lived experiences and world view of African Americans in these roles.

While research on certain historically marginalized cultural and religious groups is plentiful, there is a clear lacuna of scholarly investigation into the African American experience, particularly as it relates to the roles of parent and caregiver. Parenting is among the most significant of human endeavors. The impact of parenting and care-giving on future generations is immeasurable; it is the apex of humanity. A great majority of the world’s cultures and religions place unequaled value on parenting as well as acting in the place of parents, as in the case of caregivers. These roles are even considered sacred within many groups. For these reasons, this aspect of the African American lived experience was examined in this research.

The inquiry examined and presented various theories in order to offer a comprehensive background related to this topic. Transgenerational trauma theory provided the foundation for this research, along with cultural trauma and historical trauma theories. Supplemental investigations of self-determination theory, critical race theory, racial/ethnic identity development theory/nigrescence, race-based trauma theory, post traumatic slave syndrome, and acculturative stress theory also were incorporated in an effort to provide a comprehensive perspective.

After analyzing the emergent themes resulting from the data collection process, findings suggested that several factors contributed to African American parenting styles, traditions, and perceptions. Among the most ubiquitous were fear, control, punishment, and separation. Fear has been used to take and maintain control over certain populations within American culture. Often, these more prevalent themes implicated the American criminal justice system as a key factor of oppression. Not only has it had the power to mete out punishment, but also to disenfranchise people, affect economic status, and instigate separation within families and from society. Historically, these same tactics have been used against African Americans and have maintained the cycle of transgenerational trauma symptoms to the extent that they have become embedded in the culture via the parenting relationship.

These exploratory research findings have suggested multiple factors that affect how parenting and care-giving are viewed in the contemporary African American community. This inquiry aimed to encapsulate how past collective traumas have been integrated into the lived experiences of African Americans and to illuminate the effects of the transferred trauma. The current research indicated that trauma effects have been transmitted via familial and cultural means, which have become manifest in the parent and caregiver relationships in various forms that can be better understood within a transgenerational context. Notably, risk and protective factors were identified as well as commonly incorporated coping mechanisms within the African American community regarding parenting philosophies and behaviors.