Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services


Family Science and Human Development

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Pearl Stewart

Committee Member

Kathryn Herr

Committee Member

Soyoung Lee


Impoverishment and its presence are the saddest forms of brutality and have long been recognized in the United States (U.S.). The common attitude of Americans is to view impoverishment from individualistic characteristics in which it is believed that individuals will not want to work if aid is offered to them. People’s attitudes towards those in poverty play a part in policy and practice in the American government. Therefore, this study explored how and the magnitude with which students’ connections within their ecological systems and their attitudes shifted after the introduction to an undergraduate course on families in poverty. A qualitative approach -- i.e., semi-structured interviews -- permitted the researcher to understand the narratives of each participant, which were acknowledged in their statements. Throughout class observations, initial written responses, class discussions, and full interview procedures, adjustments were made to the interview guide as the researcher and the participants became comfortable communicating. Analysis of 44 students’ observations, initial responses, class discussions, and 14 individual interviews from those 44 students highlighted three specific areas: Input – poverty meaning on arrival, process - how students made meaning, and output - students’ attitudes to the end of class. Explicit quotes from students are provided for each major area to support the data. Results showed that students taking classes on poverty seemed to understand people who are impoverished from a self-confident perspective which extends beyond the individualistic dominance seen in the U.S. Limitations and recommendations are included.

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