Parenting economically disadvantaged adolescent children through pervasive loss in the inner city

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marriage and Family Therapy


Mona Mittal


Stress, Trauma, Pervasive loss, Parenting, Economically disadvantaged, Inner city

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Economically disadvantaged families living in the inner city have been shown to experience inordinate amounts of stress, trauma, and loss. Previous research has focused on the ways in which experiences of trauma and loss have been shown to have a multitude of negative effects on children and adolescents, and the buffering effects of supportive parenting. While a good deal of literature has focused on inner-city adolescents' experiences with loss, to date no research has focused on the parents of these adolescents. The purpose of this study was to investigate the experience of parenting economically disadvantaged inner-city children through loss. This study used a qualitative methodological approach guided by phenomenology. The criteria for participation in the study were for participants to be the parent and primary caretaker of an adolescent child who is between the ages of 12 and 18, to live in an inner-city neighborhood, and to be the recipient of public assistance or to have an income level at or below the poverty line. Ten parents took part in the study. Each participant responded to an in-depth, semi-structured interview. Results of the study reflected those of previous research in that these families have experienced inordinate amounts of loss and trauma. The findings also indicated that parents are extremely concerned about loss in the lives of their adolescent children. According to these parents, pervasive loss and trauma disrupts a sense of individual and family wholeness across generations. When pervasive loss is combined with social oppression, parents believe children to be at risk of making despairing meaning from experiences of loss and surrendering healthy ambitions for their lives. The results of this study suggested that parents respond to the pervasive loss in the lives of their children by focusing on reaffirming family wholeness, encouraging their children to release their pain, and generating meaning that sustains hope. Implications for practitioners serving economically disadvantaged families in the inner city are discussed as are implications for future research.


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