Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Identity construction and maintenance in domestic violence shelters
by Paull, Jessica Lynn, Ph.D., Kent State University, 2013, 282; 3618854
Abstract (Summary)

Abusive relationships often minimize and devalue women's identities on a regular basis, leaving them with a diminished self-concept. As a result, domestic violence shelters have been recognized as sites of identity repair and construction, as well as an emergency refuge for women and their children. However, shelters are microcosms of the larger society, and the inequality and bureaucracy that exist in society are often replicated in the shelter community. It is within these complex communities that shelter residents and staff construct and maintain their identities. My research takes a symbolic interactionist approach to explore identity building and maintenance within domestic violence shelters, and considers how the delicate balance between ideology and practice, in addition to inequalities that exist within the shelter environment, influence identity construction. More specifically, I consider (1) How do inequalities of sex and gender, sexuality, class, and race and ethnicity, affect identity formation? (2) How does the balance between feminist ideology and the structure of formal organizations affect identity formation? (3) How does identity construction take place within the shelter setting? Which identities are constructed, and why? How are the identities constructed by shelter staff different from those of the residents? and (4) How do women in shelters manage stigmatized identities? Using a grounded theory approach, my data was collected at a domestic violence shelter in Ohio, where I engaged in participant observation for a period of three and a half years and interviewed 31 residents and 15 staff members. I found that while domestic violence shelters are sites of identity repair, the presence of inequality and the difficult balance between feminist ideology and practice influenced identity construction not only for residents, but for staff members as well. However, the type of interactions that occurred largely influenced the identities that were constructed; as a result, staff and residents' identities varied significantly, both in their construction and their maintenance.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Stacey, Clare, Feltey, Kathryn
Commitee: Drauker-Burke, Claire, Feltey, Kathryn, Stacey, Clare, Taylor, Tiffany, Updegraff, John
School: Kent State University
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 75/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Individual & family studies, Social structure
Keywords: Domestic violence, Identity construction, Shelters, Societal inequality, Victims
Publication Number: 3618854
ISBN: 978-1-303-87373-7
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