Psychological resilience theory and the capacity to cope with adversity, trauma, tragedy, and threats (Anthony & Koupernik, 1974; Garmezy, 1973; Masten, Best, & Garmezy, 1990; Werner, 1982) has received growing recognition as an area of considerable theoretical and applied importance. This sequential explanatory mixed methods study seeks to advance the discussion regarding how some women who experienced one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) (Felitti et al., 1998) coped with adversity. Specifically, the study looked at how these women decided to pursue a path to leadership. The study was divided into two phases. Initially, women who were in leadership programs or leadership roles were asked to take an electronic survey which included the existing Psychological Capital Questionnaire for Research, (Luthans, Youssef, & Avolio, 2007) combined with a shortened version of the ACE questionnaire (Felitti et al., 1998). The first phase measured individual psychological capital, identified whether ACEs existed, and revealed whether leadership training or education was pursued. Women who self-identified as being willing to be interviewed were asked to participate in the qualitative phase of the study using Giele's (2002) life-course themes: "identity, relational style, drive and motivation, and adaptive style" to further probe the data collected. Findings included key influencers cited by the women that helped them move from adversity to leadership. The development of a conceptual model grounded in the research was also proposed adding additional findings to overcoming adversity, positive adaptation, resiliency and leadership.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Life change events; Leadership in women; Businesswomen; Leadership -- Psychological aspects

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Weber, Margaret J.;