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Piper, ME 2017, 'The missed encounter : an autoethnographic a/r/tographic portrayal of diarized posttraumatic growth in the context of the mother-daughter dyad', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright ME Piper 2017


This thesis is an arts-based educational research inquiry that portrays a journey of diarised posttraumatic growth in the context of the mother-daughter dyad. Using an autoethnographic methodology enacted through the living inquiry of a/r/tography, a creative work was produced, namely an artist’s book titled M/other, which unravels the story of the researcher’s relationship with her alcoholic mother, from the impact of childhood trauma to its repercussions in the present day. Portrayed through the lens of loss, M/other contains in poetry, creative writing, photography and film, a narrative retelling of the lived experience of a ‘motherless’ daughter negotiating a fractured maternal relationship.

The research was guided by three central questions:

1) What is the connection between posttraumatic growth and creativity?

2) What is the relationship between posttraumatic growth and creative arts pedagogies in adolescence?

3) How can creative arts pedagogies, with particular respect to posttraumatic growth, contribute to educational practice?

Spanning the fields of psychology, social science, education and fine arts, this thesis proposes a connection between posttraumatic growth [PTG] and creativity. M/other is an account of posttraumatic growth lived in and through the creative process, supporting the posited proposition that creativity is growth. Tedeschi and Calhoun’s (2004) five specific life areas of PTG – deeper personal relationships, increased spiritual growth, appreciation of personal strength, acknowledgment of new opportunities, and an overall gratefulness for life – were used to focus the search for evidence of PTG in a thorough analysis of a collection of seven of the researcher’s adolescent diaries (1,140 pages in total). The diaries were found to indicate a strong presence of posttraumatic growth and specific excerpts were used as the inspiration for the poetic and creative writing in M/ other.

What The Missed Encounter proposes is a style of PTG called diarised posttraumatic growth [DPTG] where the confessional and daily writing of issues and traumatic events in a personal diary has the potential to promote growth and eudaimonia in individuals. The researcher found that her teenage diaries possessed an epistolary function as letters to her absent, and now deceased, mother. Their relationship survived because of the role of ambivalence and the researcher’s ability to create the mother she needed in the narrative of her journals. In light of this, The Missed Encounter advocates for an ideally daily engagement with diarising and creative practice as a strategy for eudaimonia and growth, particularly for individuals post-trauma.

Additional information

Please note: The artist's book M/other will take some time to download.