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

Jennifer Brown Urban

Committee Member

Soyoung Lee

Committee Member

Chih-Yuan Lee

Committee Member

Johanna S. Quinn


Life Course Theory’s (Elder, 1998) paradigmatic themes of historical time and place, linked lives, timing of events, and human agency were applied to explore the experiences of Poles who survived the Second World War in Poland and the impact of intergenerational transmission of traumatic effects and/or features of posttraumatic growth, and meanings constructed. A phenomenological analysis was based on 13 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with one 1st generation survivor, seven 2nd generation and five 3rd generation descendants; four females and nine males, ranging in age from 23 to 90. The conceptual framework of Posttraumatic Growth (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2006); positive changes associated with KZ Syndrome (Kepiński, 1970/2008; Lesniak, 1965); Family Resiliency Framework (Walsh, 2016); and theory of Ambiguous Loss (Boss, 2016) informed this study. Findings revealed a main theme of Loss as the core essence of trauma, across all three generations; other main themes included Betrayal, Lack of Recognition of Poland’s Suffering, and Positive Growth and Legacies Shared. Family milieu, communication patterns, and shared worldviews contributed to transmission of traumatic effects, and/or features of posttraumatic growth and family resilience. Sharing of positive legacies sowed the seeds for positive growth, and in some instances, a sense of purpose in descendants.

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