Applied Psychology OPUS

Trauma, Meaning-Making, and Identity in Young Women of Color

Mercedes J. Okosi

The qualitative research study aimed to investigate mechanisms through which young women of color in New York City process traumatic events through meaning making and develop autonomous-oriented identities.  The sample consisted of 16 Black, Latina, Asian, and otherwise nonwhite women age 15 to 23 at a youth social service agency.  Using grounded theory and phenomenological analysis, semi-structured psychosocial interviews were conducted and analyzed for pertinent themes and meaning units.  These were motivational factors and active processes that allowed the young women to achieve resilient outcomes.  Major meaning units in the process of meaning making and identity development included future orientation, ability to adjust to negative life events, capacity for self reflection, emotional catharsis, isolation from negative environment or people, passion for sport, passion for career, and necessity to provide for children.  The process of meaning making and identity development for young women of color was fragmented due to the chronic nature of their exposure to trauma.  Findings support the positive role of community organizations as social capital and suggest strength-based approaches to trauma recovery.