Summer 2020



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Vivian Johnson

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Constance LaCombe

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Irina Makarevitch


This qualitative research study is based on interviews with twelve adults who dropped out of high school before earning their diploma. Participants were asked several semi-structured open-ended questions. The Primary research question is: How do adults earning their high school diploma describe what stopped them from graduating on time? The participants shared stories of family trauma. The Secondary research question is: Who did you trust in your family or at school to ask for advice or help with any issue? Nine of the twelve participants responded they would not trust a parent, teacher, counselor, or school social worker to advise them about anything. The probing question is: Trade places, be a parent, a teacher, a social worker, a school counselor. What would you have done differently? Participants had some difficulty responding. The responses to the open-ended questions created opportunities to probe for descriptions of relational trust in association with family and teachers. Relational trust is defined by Rumberger (2011) as a “reciprocal social exchange among all organizational members [that] include respect, personal regard to others, and integrity” (p. 247). The root of an individual’s sense of trust is identified and explained by scientists in the fields of biology, neurology, and psychology. They present evidence that a child's sense of trust in adults is set by their relationship experiences between conception and age three, prior to entering Kindergarten. Specifically, it is the strength of the gestational maternal-infant relationship that scientists determine the quality of mental and physical health throughout life. Did Congress acknowledge the importance of scientific evidence when in February of 2018, passed H.R. 253: The Family First Prevention Services Act? This act philosophically changes public welfare services, to keep families together rather than separating children from parents during times of crisis, trauma, and rehabilitation. The title IV-E funds are directed to bring life skills counselors and coaches into the family home. A federal follow-up study would be necessary to learn if H. R. 253 is implemented aggressively to fairly evaluate the outcomes.

Research Methodology

Ethnography, Focus Group, Interview, Narrative (portariture)


At-risk Students, Early Childhood, Grades/ Student Performance, Social Justice








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