City Research Online

Early trauma and the developing mind

Bannon, Alisha (2013). Early trauma and the developing mind. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


The area of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has been the focus of increasing attention over recent years. In particular, research has emphasised that the sexual abuse of children is a major societal problem because of its high prevalence and devastating impact on the victimised child. A growing body of research suggests that the experience of CSA can have a lasting impact on adult interpersonal functioning. The majority of existing research studies have employed quantitative methodologies. This study explored in depth the lived experience of relating amongst women who have experienced CSA. A qualitative methodological approach was employed. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews and analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). The participants were eight women who had experienced sexual abuse during childhood. The three superordinate themes that emerged from the data included: ‘Protection’, ‘Disturbed Intercourse’ and ‘Responsive and unresponsive mothers and others’. The women’s experience of relating was complex and multifaceted. Much of the women’s experience of relating was overwhelmingly negative as they depict worlds occupied with threatening and malevolent others who could invariably cause harm. A resounding communication evident throughout all of the dialogues appeared to suggest that present relating is inextricably bound to past experiences. The narratives revealed the difficulties and disturbance experienced within the context of relating and how the past has in some way formed an invisible template for present day relating causing terror, angst and uncertainty. This study presents rich descriptions of the lived experience of relating amongst this group of women. Implications for the clinical practice of Counselling Psychology are considered within.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
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