Dissertation Title:

Attributes of Symbolization in Foster Youth Motivation for Post-Secondary Education: A Narrative Exploration


Mai Lai Breech

Date, Time & Place:

May 19, 2021 at 11:00 am


The purpose of this research study is to examine a population of former foster youth who successfully attained a post-secondary education after having aged-out of the child welfare system (CWS). The goal of this study is to determine whether a deeper understanding of this specific population may lead to better educational outcomes.  C. G. Jung (1964) had postulated that growth may occur when an individual works with symbols and follows the symbols wherever they lead. Accordingly, the study explores whether a former foster youth’s capacity to utilize and incorporate symbols for psychological growth positively affected their motivation to procure higher education.  The findings of this study suggest that foster youth alumni can develop the capacity for symbolic creation during adolescent years by nurturing character traits that include being creative, curious, and resilient, reading avidly and being in community.  These developing character attributes were observed to have been compensatory, counteracting the excessive adverse one-sidedness created by complex trauma.

  • Program/Track/Year: Clinical Psychology, OP, 2016
  • Chair: Dr. Oksana Yakushko
  • Reader: Dr. Paula Thomson
  • External Reader: Dr. Barry Miller
  • Keywords: Former Foster Youth, Post-secondary Education, Higher Education, Motivation, Images, Symbol, Trauma