Exploring the Self-in-Relation Theory: Women's Idealized Relationships-of-Choice and Psychological Health
Date of Award
Doctor of Education
Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology
Dr. Edward L. Trembley
Dr. Alan Hovestadt
Dr. Robert Wait
The self-in-relation theory (e.g., Kaplan, 1984; Kaplan 6 Klein, 1985; Miller, 1984, 1986, 1988; Surrey, 1985, 198?) asserts that women's development is based on relationships. According to the Stone Center theorists (Kaplan, 1984; Miller, 1988; Stiver, 1986-1989, 1986- 1990; Surrey, 1984), psychopathology in women can stem out of non-growth-fostering relationships which leave women feeling a profound sense of disconnection and loss. Similarly, psychological health develops out of growth fostering relationships. This study investigates the connections between women's relational experiences, their idealized relationships-of-choice, the health of their families-of-origin, and current psychological health.
Thirty-eight women were interviewed and given psychological measurements in order to assess the correlations between these variables. A scoring system was devised in order to assess the data both qualitatively and quantitatively. Statistically significant results were obtained in the correlations between relationship ideals and relational experience and between family-of-origin health and psychological functioning.
Results indicated that women's relationship ideals develop out of experience, and that both positive and negative experiences can lead toward the development of growth-fostering ideals. Negative family-of-origin experiences do not limit women from developing healthy ideals as later experiences may alter earlier held relational images. There was no significant difference in ideals for women of different age groups or marital status. Finally, the study showed that women do indeed seek out the five growth-fostering factors which Hiller (1986) defined as zest, connection, sense of worth, empowerment, and knowledge as well as Surrey's (1985, 1988) concepts of mutual engagement, mutual empathy, and mutual empowerment.
Fishman, K. Heidi, "Exploring the Self-in-Relation Theory: Women's Idealized Relationships-of-Choice and Psychological Health" (1992). Dissertations. 1931.