The Portrayal of Abused Characters in Adolescent Novels: A Content Analysis

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Curriculum and Instruction

Date of Award

Spring 2021


This content analysis used a critical lens to analyze the portrayal of characters victimized by abuse in adolescent literature. Child abuse is an issue prevalent around the globe (Berkowitz, 2017). The study analyzed ten adolescent novels published over a period of sixteen years to determine character traits and themes. The analysis was conducted to provide information on how literature portrayed victims. The researcher identified aspects of authenticity and explored methods empowering characters to overcome to promote strength, empathy, acknowledgment, and advocacy.The overarching questions guiding the study included: What adolescent literature for grades 6-12 is available from 1999 to 2015 portraying characters victimized by physical and sexual abuse during their youth? This question was answered by researching novels meeting the criteria for the study and organizing them in a chart. What methods or support systems do characters utilize to overcome or cope with the effects of abuse? What are the underlying themes? Do the texts depict realistic interpretations? How are these interpretations developed? These questions were answered using a questionnaire (Rudman, 1995), Power Continuum questions (Botelho & Rudman, 2009), and across-text comparisons. The theoretical framework included various theories but was based on Critical Literacy (Foucault, 1972). Foucault found that readers utilized background experiences to connect with and gain better understandings of pertinent issues related to the world around them. Reading about abuse, promotes social awareness and justice leading to social transformation (Freire, 2000). The findings were significant, providing evidence of authenticity, potential to help bring about change, and offering support to adolescents affected by abuse.


Juan Araujo

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction | Education | Elementary Education