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

Bradley van Eeden-Moorefield

Committee Member

Katia Paz Goldfarb

Committee Member

Jonathan Caspi


Despite a wide body of literature that suggests safety as critical to human development and individual well-being (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters, & Wall, 1978; Bowlby, 1969; Fosha, Siegel & Solomon, 2009; Marvin, Cooper, Hoffman & Powell, 2002; Porges, 2011; Tronick, 2007), a comprehensive review of the literature found a paucity of research that addresses the phenomenon of a sense of safety within family units. This study sought to fill this gap through an entirely strengths-based design that made use of post-intentional phenomenological methods and arts-based analysis. The research question that guided this study was: How is the phenomenon of a sense of safety experienced within three-generation families with reported incomes at a maximum of 150% of the federal poverty level? Four families were invited to collaborate in activities of the study, including a 60-minute Open View (Fenton, 2013), the collection of children’s drawings, and an exercise of Family Sculpting (Duhl, Kantor, & Duhl, 1974; Satir, 1972). The phenomenological material produced seven tentative manifestations, which then combined into four post-intentional provocations about a sense of safety for these families: implicit, intergenerational, vigilant, and proximal. Findings from this study suggest that a sense of safety for three-generation families reporting incomes at a maximum of 150% of the federal poverty level is experienced implicitly, across generations, through actions of vigilance and physical proximity.

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