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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Who I am I must become: Sense of self of single, child-free professional women in the retirement transition
by Cabral, Barbara Ann, Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2014, 335; 3680142
Abstract (Summary)

One important new global sociological phenomenon of the 21st century is the rise of elite single professional women worldwide, who have important roles as trailblazers. The Civil Rights and Women's Movements disrupted historical power systems and altered race relations, the workplace, women's lives, marriage patterns, and transformed retirement for this generation of retirees. Empirical research about always single, child-free professional women (ASCFPW) is scarce due to their minority status and the social bias toward married women; The lived experience of this minority population is often overshadowed in studies by the greater percentage of single-again women—widowed, divorced, or separated women with very different life experiences—with whom they are traditionally grouped in research. Simultaneously this population is increasing and can be role models for majority women who become single again as they age. The respectful acronym and neutral terminology of ASCFPW (always single, child-free, professional woman) is used; traditional research labels of "never married" and "childless" are negative, and ostracizing, therefore eschewed in this report.

This qualitative, multiple case investigation focuses on the lived retirement transition for seven ASCFPW in the first five years of retirement. How does the sense of self of the ASCFPW evolve from her career to a meaningful retirement lifestyle that integrates service, activism or creative praxis (activism in the arts, or a woman's unique creative strategy for service to her community) while embracing her new learning and evolving identity? How does the loss of professional identity at retirement impact the ASCFPW whose career was a significant part of her sense of self, salient roles, and life focus?

Their partial life history interviews reveal intelligent, engaged women who excelled in their careers then create a meaningful retirement lifestyle that includes community service, social activism, or creative praxis. Their narratives' data yield meaningful findings to add to existing older women's retirement literature on wholistic retirement planning, career patterns, professional identity versus work identity, the sense of self, new learning, and other surprises. Both transformative learning theory and adult development models are discussed as relevant. Recommendations for future research and retirement education curriculum are included.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gozawa, Joanne, Kasl, Elizabeth
Commitee: Cruikshank, Margaret, Gozawa, Joanne, Guajardo, Guadalupe, Kasl, Elizabeth
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Integral Studies with a Concentration in Learning and Change in Human Systems
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 76/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Aging, Adult education
Keywords: Loss professional identity, Never married professional women, Retirement planning, Retirement transition, Sense of self, Single senior professional women
Publication Number: 3680142
ISBN: 978-1-321-51913-6
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