Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


The purpose of this research investigation is to explore cultural trauma theory on African American young adult development. Cultural trauma theory asserts the adverse cross-cultural encounter, North American slavery, reproduces intergenerational psychosocial legacies for contemporary African Americans. Accordingly, cultural trauma theory is used to explore with African American young adults three "slave" legacies: ethnic identity formation, perceptions of racism, and racial socialization experiences. A qualitative case study approach is used for (N=26) participants enrolled in either college or a GED program. Each young adult participates in either an individual or focus group interview. To aid in data triangulation, older African American adults (N=7) are also interviewed. Results indicate young adults broadly perceive racism as incessant stereotype stigmatization. In addition, educational status impacts young adults' ethnic identity formation and racial socialization experiences. College enrolled young adults express both higher stages of ethnic identity, inclusive of a greater sense of collective group responsibility; and being exposed to multiple sources which support positive African American socialization, including parents, teachers, and church. Implications for the field of social work are also discussed.

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