LIVING BETWEEN THE EXTREMES: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY OF HOW MID-LIFE WOMEN RECREATE THEIR IDENTITY AFTER A WORK TRANSITION

Open Access
Author:
Hess, Trina R
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Degree:
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
September 30, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Fred Michael Schied, Dissertation Advisor
  • Fred Michael Schied, Committee Chair
  • Eunice May Askov, Committee Member
  • Judith Ann Kolb, Committee Member
  • Sharon Louise Falkenstern, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • phenomenology
  • learning identity
  • work transition
  • women
  • mid-life
  • adult development
Abstract:
ABSTRACT This qualitative research study examined the "lived experiences" of learning identity during work transitions among three women (ages 35 to 55) who were not previously married. The research question was how do particular mid-life women who engage in a work transition re-construct the meaning of (or make sense of) their identity? Primary research questions included the following: * What effect does the work transition experience have on one’s identity? * What kind of feedback was received concerning the work transition? * How does one’s identity affect what the new work role means to the participant? * How are various aspects of identity re-negotiated over time in the new career in order to reconcile a more whole or complete sense of self within the new work environment? * What aspects of identity (formation, or re-creation) remain difficult, and are these struggles dependent on length of time spent in the previous career? * Does one need to define oneself differently in order to accomplish the tasks required by the new work role? Research questions asked how co-researchers described their work transition, as well as inquiring about the feedback participants received during and after the transition process. The study found that within the transition experiences the following themes emerged: finding one’s purpose in life; sensing unease during transitions; learning how to be in control through various means such as maturity, time, education, support/belonging, spirituality, hope and humor; passiveness with money, decision-making, and peer support; learning stereotypes versus learning one’s purpose; learning marriage and singleness messages; conflict in the family of origin; and progressive mothers versus being ‘just’ a housewife. Qualitative research guidelines developed by Moustakas (1990, 1994), van Manen (1997, 2003), and the Duquesne Studies (1979, 1985) were used extensively. This phenomenology explicated theoretical lenses of meaningful work, transformative learning and feminist perspectives. Data was gathered primarily through semi-structured interviews, and also journal entries. Understanding more about the "lived experiences" of particular groups of women will increase awareness and understanding of the individual and therefore increase the possibilities for improved adult services and support.