Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Adult child abuse victims-Mental health, Adult child abuse victims-Rehabilitation, Older people-Mental health, Child abuse-Psychological aspects, Attachment disorder-Etiology, Attachment theory, Relational cultural theory, Interpersonal trauma, Older adults


The research question of this theoretical thesis was to examine the manifestation of prior trauma in the older adult population. Previous research focused mainly on interpersonal trauma theory. The literature on elders who were survivors of childhood interpersonal trauma was minimal. The experiences of older adults who have a history of interpersonal trauma were further examined through attachment theory and Relationalcultural theory. Attachment theory speaks to the difficultly of a child exposed to prolonged interpersonal trauma to develop an adaptive method to regulate affect and seek help from others when distressed. These experiences later influence the relational capabilities of the older adult. Relational-cultural theory (RCT) speaks to the relational isolation and shame that survivors of trauma may experience. RCT states that bringing survivors of trauma into growth fostering connections will promote healing. Implications for psychotherapy interventions are further discussed combining the ideas from trauma theory, attachment theory, and Relational-cultural theory.




iii, 64 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 57-64)