How adults maltreated as children relate to work supervisors: relational patterns and processes

Tamar Icekson, Avital Kaye-Tzadok, Natalie Aharon-Peeri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study explores the experiences of child maltreatment (CM) survivors as subordinates in the workplace. Relational theories suggest that, due to their histories, CM survivors may be more vulnerable to interpersonal difficulties, especially with authority figures. Based on both relational theories and job crafting theory, this exploratory study aims to yield a richer understanding of the relationships of CM survivors with their supervisors by focusing on two main questions: How do survivors perceive these relationships? And how do they cope with challenges in such relationships throughout their careers? Phenomenological analysis is applied to retrospective data, regarding 48 relationships reported in 19 in-depth interviews with working adults who were maltreated as children (including multiple subordinate–supervisor relationships experienced by the same employee over time). Three main patterns of relationships with supervisors emerge: role reversal (parental subordinates), vulnerability/revictimization, and supportive ties. Coping is described by three main relational processes: early avoidance, ongoing negotiation of boundaries, and gaining autonomy. By using a psychodynamic lens, the findings broaden our understanding of the intricate nature of supervisor–subordinate relationships involving CM survivors and point to possible underexplored relational coping processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9347-9360
Number of pages14
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2023


  • Attachment theory
  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Family systems theory
  • Job crafting theory
  • Supervisor–subordinate relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)


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