Zena Ouzounian, Psy.D., is a 2019 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara

Dissertation Committee

Brett Kia-Keatin EdD. Committee Chair

Susan Ferrant, PhD., Committee Member

Darice Orobitg, PhD., Committee Member


Childhood witnessing of domestic violence, parental violence, trauma, character development, adulthood relationships, inter-generational transmission of violence, phenomenological research, coping, adverse effects

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This phenomenological research study explored the experiences of five adult participants who reported witnessing domestic violence between their parents during childhood. Through the process of open-ended interviews, this work added further support to the existing understanding of the impact that childhood witnessing of parental violence can have on one’s adult behavior and relationships. Thus far, child witnesses to parental violence receive little attention, perhaps due to the lack of tangible evidence that they have been harmed. Existing studies in the field primarily make use of quantitative methods to examine negative outcomes of such experiences. This study identified similar themes among the five participants regarding their childhood experiences. Personal views and the potential needs of the former witnesses were highlighted by specific descriptions of the past experiences which may have led to the negative outcomes in their lives, such as sense of indirect victimization, posttraumatic stress, psychological distress, affected self-esteem/confidence, and relational difficulties. Furthermore, the adult participants described certain commonalities of unfavorable experiences during childhood-- fear, sense of endangerment, limited ability to predict daily routines, receiving poor modeling of communication and coping, poor relational connections, maladaptive coping, and difficulty understanding their environment. The burden of these experiences led to harm in their adult lives and relationships. Participants shared similar beliefs about the lack of support they received during childhood and expressed the need for therapeutic intervention as a form of resolving some of the embedded learned behaviors and coping skills from the past. This dissertation is available in Open Access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and OhioLink ETD Center,


ORCID: 0000-0003-4845-6376