Sema Bruno, Ph.D., is a 2024 graduate of the PhD Program in Marriage and Family Therapy at Antioch University, New England

Dr. J. Sema Bruno

Dissertation Committee:

  • Kevin Lyness, PhD, Chairperson
  • Maria Bermudez, PhD, Committee Member
  • Denzel Jones, PhD, Committee Member
  • Bryson Greaves, PhD, Committee Member


affluence; wealth; racism; classism; couples and family therapy; parental bias; family dynamics; domestic labor

Document Type


Publication Date



Navigating parental biases within White affluent homes assumes family dynamics as yet unexplored within family therapy praxis. This dissertation examines parental biases directed toward domestic laborers employed in affluent White homes and how these biases might affect the parent-child relationship and the emerging values of children in these homes. Research from other fields demonstrates that domestic laborers experience social bias within the workplace; what this highlights is the likelihood that children in these settings are navigating unspoken subtleties of racism and classism in the context of developing socio-emotional maturity and family relationships. The first article within this dissertation critically reviews relevant literature to illuminate for the reader the lives of children in the care of domestic laborers in affluent White families. Themes from this review discussed in detail include social hierarchy and the symbolic boundaries of race and class, narrative cloaks to racial and class biases, parental attitudes about race and class and the effects of these on the socialization of their children, and the significance of the relationship between the child and the domestic laborer in the home. The literary review portion of this dissertation succeeds in emphasizing the value of continued research on this underexplored context of racial and class tension and the nuanced interactions that affect family relationships and the socialization of affluent White children. The second article within this paper incorporates evidence from two rounds of data collection —an open-ended questionnaire and a Likert scale questionnaire—surveying a panel of White adults (n = 9) who grew up in affluent White households employing domestic laborers. Items endorsed by participants within the study reveal that parents’ views on race and class affect the parent-child relationship and the children’s emerging values about race and class. The findings indicate that perceptions of a parent’s treatment of domestic laborers inform adult beliefs about race and class. Further, study findings indicate that White adults who grew up in affluent White families employing domestic laborers experience difficulties in their relationships with their parents and that these difficulties are in part due to parental displays of racist and classist values, biases, attitudes, and relationship behaviors. Overall, the study confirms a significant relationship between family demographics, employment of domestic laborers, and parent-child relationships and children’s developing perceptions of race and class. The discussion of the study results offers clinical implications for MFTs and other clinicians working with affluent White families as well as directions for future research. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA ( and OhioLINK ETD Center (


ORCID: 0000-0001-8366-5857


Sema is a researcher, educator, and clinician who emphasizes systemic change at the level of the individual, the family system, and broader social systems, actively bridging transgenerational and historical events and situations with presenting concerns. In her clinical work, Dr. Bruno takes an embodied, decolonizing, multicontextual, and client-centered approach. Her decades-long work dedicated to helping clients process and work through issues relating to trauma, abuse, gender identity and non-conformity, career advancement, non-monogamy, radical co-parenting, classism, racism, and sexism has shown her that family systems and individuals are incredibly resilient when they have the appropriate support, resources, and tools made available to them. Although trained in several clinical models, Sema most often utilizes socioculturally attuned family therapy, emotionally focused therapy (EFT), Satirian and other experiential models, Core Energetics, and trauma-informed care while reaching into other schools of thought for continued reference. Her research interests include class and classism, decolonization, gender, co-parenting, and body-centered approaches to therapy, to name a few.