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I grew up in an abusive family wherein some family members continuously manipulated and exploited me. And around 10+ years ago I engaged with some violent resistance.

Later I reflected on this experience, engaged with the issue academically, and wrote on some non-academic (but intellectual) magazine to discuss deeper issues of family relationships in modern society and knowledge production.

I would like to mention this experience and the writing about it, to show my capability to engage with personal issues academically, disseminate the reflected knowledge to wider public and to grow up from it.

Will this draw bad impression among the admission committee?

(Background information: I am applying to a social sciences programme)

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    Your topline asks about a "personal statement", but you have it tagged statement-of-purpose. These are very (very) different. Please clarify where you might want to include such statements.
    – Buffy
    Apr 27, 2022 at 13:01
  • Will you be continuing to work on abuse in your social sciences program? Apr 27, 2022 at 20:44
  • Is there any risk you might be taking by not mentioning the past events you’re describing? For example, do you have a criminal record that you are required to declare as part of your application, and which therefore it might make sense to explain as a preemptive measure?
    – Dan Romik
    Apr 27, 2022 at 21:37

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You mention yourself that your past is controversial. The answer to your question is in the definition of that word:

controversial: giving rise or likely to give rise to controversy or public disagreement.

This means that different people (including prospective employers) will have different opinions about it: some may see your past as an experience beneficial to your research, but others could be afraid that it might have negative effects on your work.

The answer is therefore: It depends on the employer. So what should you do? I have some advice, but not everybody may share this opinion:

Although your past may serve you as an inspiration to your research, I do not believe that your personal experience is, or should be, relevant to your ability to produce sound scientific results.

You can demonstrate your (writing) experience by referring to the articles, but I see no benefit in mentioning your "controversial past" anywhere in the application: it is not relevant to the application but it is relevant to the articles you have written in the past, so keep it there. During a job interview you can discuss your articles or your past in more detail if it becomes relevant.

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I would not.

The reason is that the personal involvement will not make you a better researcher - if there is any impact at all it may cloud your vision and the perception on the scientific merit of your efforts. Such a statement is IMHO going to increase the fear of bias in your work.

The second point is that being subjected to abuse as a child may be perceived to be more unstable and more prone to having psychological problems, associated with all the prejudices which society may have.

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  • Proponents of participant observation and/or action research would not agree that 'the personal involvement will not make you a better researcher'. Apr 27, 2022 at 20:15
  • @DanielHatton: Wow, there is a significant Difference between using participant observation willingly as a tool and being motivated by an personal bad experience,
    – Sascha
    Apr 27, 2022 at 22:46
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I will warn you that it could, not every admissions committee is as open-minded as they should be.

For example, I disclosed my health issues and that was fairly questioned by the admissions committee but luckily my advisor was supporting my application was there and shut them down.

So if this is an important part of you, that you feel you need to be open about then go for it, but just know it could hurt your chances of getting in. (Making people aware of my health issues before going somewhere was important to me which is why I took the risk of putting it in, I did not want to get stuck somewhere where people would look down on me for them).

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