A phenomenological exploration of work-related post-traumatic growth among high-functioning adults maltreated as children

Avital Kaye-Tzadok, Tamar Icekson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Childhood maltreatment is a highly prevalent traumatic experience, and its adverse psychological and behavioral consequences are well-documented. Notwithstanding these adverse outcomes, many individuals who suffered from traumatic experiences report post-traumatic growth, i.e., transformative positive changes resulting from their struggle to cope. Post-traumatic growth has been extensively explored among adult survivors of childhood maltreatment, with findings indicating both the previously recognized domains (personal strength, relating to others, appreciation of life, openness to new possibilities, and spiritual change) as well as abuse-specific domains of growth (e.g., increased ability to protect themselves from abuse). However, little attention has been given to vocational aspects of post-traumatic growth among survivors, despite the central role and importance of work in adulthood. Exploration of post-traumatic growth at work has focused on certain vocational traumatic experiences, such as those which occur in the military, or through secondary trauma. This exploratory qualitative study focuses on the question: What is the lived experience of work-related post-traumatic growth among high-functioning adult survivors of CM? Method: Twenty in-depth interviews were held with high-functioning working adults who were maltreated as children. Phenomenological analysis was applied to the retrospective data reported in these interviews. Result: Rich descriptions of work-related positive psychological changes were provided by all participants. Analysis revealed that survivors’ post-traumatic growth corresponded with all five previously recognized domains of growth: changes in self, relating to others, openness to new possibilities, finding meaning to the abuse, and appreciation of life. It also revealed that work is perceived as a form of resistance (a subtheme of changes in self), and that finding meaning entails three emerging subthemes: being a survivor and a role model, giving others what was needed and never received, and making a better world. Discussion: While the vocational lives of survivors of childhood maltreatment have rarely been examined through the lens of post-traumatic growth, our results show this lens to be highly valuable. Work-related post-traumatic growth has relevance not only regarding vocational traumas occurring in adulthood as has been previously studied, but also in the context of childhood traumas. Moreover, our research broadens the understanding of the possible domains of work-related growth.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1048295
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 22 Dec 2022


  • adult survivors
  • childhood maltreatment
  • meaning-making
  • post-traumatic growth
  • work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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