Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Abused women-Psychology, Psychological abuse victims-Psychology, Depersonalization, Self-perception, Attachment disorder, Psychic trauma, Self-actualization (Psychology) in women, Women, Emotional abuse, Traumatic bond, Traumatic attachment, Psychological trauma, Sense-of-self, Self-in-relation, Separation resolution


This research study demonstrates how women's orientation to relationships can leave them personally at risk of losing themselves in attachment relationships that are abusive. This research hypothesized that women find it difficult to leave abusive relationships because they fear that the loss of the relationship will result in a loss of self. They stay because they believe that to lose the relationship is to lose something of their essential self. This study confirms the hypothesis but demonstrates that this belief is a supposition and that the reverse is true. When women remain in abusive relationships in an attempt to preserve the relationship, they suffer a loss of self. The central guiding question of this thesis is: "What makes it possible for a heterosexual woman to overcome the effects of traumatic attachment in exiting a long-term intimate partner relationship characterized by emotional and psychological abuse?" Two psychological theories are offered to understand the effects of abuse in an attachment relationship and what must be overcome to exit the relationship both physically and emotionally. The theoretical framework of relational-cultural theory and trauma theory provide insight into the emotional entrapment of an abusive relationship as well as the path to freedom and successful separation resolution. The study has implications for social work practice on both the individual and societal level.




iii, 99 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 93-99)