An academic study of how a group of women coming of age at a time of great social change have shaped their identities....


REVISING HERSELF: Women's Identity from College to Midlife

An academic study of how a group of women coming of age at a time of great social change have shaped their identities. Finding that Erik Erikson's description of identity formation did not seem to fit her own experience, as a young psychologist Josselson (Towson State Univ.) set out to explore how women accomplish this task. She first studied her subjects, a group of middle-class white women, during 1971-72, when they were college seniors. Using a framework devised by psychologist James Marcia to study identity development in late adolescents, she divided the young women into four groups according to the pathways they seemed to be taking toward adulthood: Guardians, so named because they are protectors of their heritage, cling to the familiar and accept authority; Pathmakers, who are more independent, carefully choose a goal and work toward it; Searchers, idealistic questioners of both themselves and their world; and Drifters, who live in the present moment, counting on life to just happen. Josselson recontacted the women 12 years later and then again 10 years after that, when they were about 43 years old. Here she examines each group separately and provides psychobiographies of several representative women in each segment. After examining their differences, she turns to their similarities and finds that most, although having begun their adult lives in widely dissimiliar fashion, have by midlife arrived psychologically at similar places. For women, Josselson contends, identity rests on a sense of competence or effectiveness in the world, and on a sense of connection with others. In her final chapters, she considers how these issues play out in women's lives, concluding that the most visible revisions women make as they mature are in how these goals are expressed. The psychobiographies make for tedious reading, and Josselson's style is too textbookish to have wide appeal, but her ideas should generate discussion among those interested in theories of identity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996