Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

John E. Pérez

Second Advisor

Laurel Wainwright

Third Advisor

Ester R. Shapiro


The goal of this qualitative study was to gain a greater understanding of the spiritual lives of former street boys who successfully transitioned off the streets of La Paz, Bolivia. The street child phenomenon is an alarming and escalating worldwide problem as every day children around the world are turning to the street due to a variety of challenging home circumstances. In doing so, they expose themselves to a countless number of life threatening circumstances that can lead to an unfavorable fate. Despite the need to learn more about what interventions have the potential of helping street children, few studies have focused on identifying what has helped former street children successfully transition off the streets. A previously conducted study with children in Bolivia found faith and relationships were key resilience factors that enabled these particular children to transition off the streets into a permanent residential home program (Huang, 2008). In order to develop a greater understanding of the nature and function of street children's spirituality within the context of the adversities they have endured, children from a residential program in La Paz, Bolivia, were invited to participate in this study. Nine boys, ages 11- 14, who had graduated from the program's transition home to a permanent home, assented to this study. Individual interviews lasting 30-45 minutes were conducted and transcribed in Spanish. Participants were invited to share stories concerning their spiritual lives and what their spiritual experiences meant to them. Participants were also invited to take photographs of places or things that were spiritually meaningful to them and discuss these at an additional meeting. The study employed a phenomenological approach to the data analysis. Narratives were coded and then analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Data reduction was completed by inductively identifying what emerged as important themes that held across stories. Data analysis was conducted using NVivo 8 software. Findings revealed themes that centered on forgiving and being forgiven as well as praying when distressed. Children spoke of believing their needs will be met, and feeling connected to a higher power and to adults. These qualities were associated with a positive self-view and an ability to utilize positive coping strategies, a process connected to their rehabilitation.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Thesis is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this thesis through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.