TITLE: Gendered dreams, gendered fears:
                    Young women's and men's visions of their future selves

INVESTIGATOR: Hilary M. Lips, Ph.D., Center for Gender Studies, Radford University
Funding and Support: A two year grant from the Saint Albans Foundation;
                                the Radford University Foundation and the Department of Psychology

Project Overview

Young women's self-esteem appears to drop and their vulnerability to depression rises as they enter adolescence, perhaps because, as some have argued, they begin to apprehend the restrictions, constraints and limiting expectations embedded in the feminine role. It is likely that, at this time, their sense of their own possibilities begins to shrink.  This project focuses on the extent to which such possible selves are gendered: different for women and men and shaped by cultural gender expectations. It also examines the timing of the development of such differences.

Past research carried out at the Radford University's Center for Gender Studies has shown among university students that, although these young women are as academically talented as the young men, they are envisioning a future in which they are less often "in charge" than men are - and then apparently actualizing this vision by the choices they make with respect to academic programs, job applications, etc. The current project was designed to explore further these issues. 

The project entailed three aspects: 

1) the investigation of the timing of the divergence of possibilities for young women and men.  This includes the administration of the academic self-view surveys to groups of students in high school, as well as to groups of university students at each level (freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior) to see if it is possible to identify a time when the set of possible selves begins to diverge for young women and men.

2) the investigation of students' specific fears and hopes about their futures. This includes the administration of a questionnaire about such hopes and fears to a large sample of university students. As well, these issues are examined in interviews of a sample of high school and university students.  Portions of the interview are designed to find out the kinds of issues they about which students are concerned with respect to their futures and the outcomes that they hope for.

3) the investigation of the kinds of everyday experiences that students encounter that wear away at or enhance their sense of possibility in various academic and career domains. This aspect involves daily diary studies in which students are asked to report on their experiences of events (e.g., comments by teachers or peers, seeing something on television, trying something that succeeds or fails) that lead them to doubt or feel confident of their possibilities in particular domains.  In addition, these issues are addressed in the interviews with high school and university students, with a particular emphasis on their perceptions of incidents in which they have been encouraged or discouraged from pursuing their goals.

Design, use of questionnaires and interview protocols

i) Hopes-Fears Questionnaire

Through extensive pilot testing, a new questionnaire to assess the life outcomes that university students most hope for and fear has been designed.  The  Possible Futures Questionnaire  provides a list of possible outcomes (gleaned from many discussions with students and the testing of various preliminary versions of the list) and asks respondents to rate how much they fear the negative outcomes and how important to them the hoped-for outcomes are. The final version of this questionnaire was cleared through the university=s Institutional Review Board for administration to university students. We are in the process of developing an html version of this questionnaire for web-based use.

ii) Interview Protocol

A outline protocol for a qualitative interview was developed through informal discussions with students.  This interview focuses on students' future plans, the factors that influenced their decisions to try to follow or avoid certain career paths, and their hopes and fears for the future.  It has been pilot tested on several students and has been cleared for use by the university's Institutional Review Board.  The research team first gained experience in the use of the this interview protocol and then began formal interviews. Transcriptions of all interviews were completed.

iii) Daily Diary Questionnaire

Through discussions and pilot testing with students, a questionnaire for use in the Daily Diary study was developed.  This questionnaire asks about interactions and events that have occurred over the past two days that have made the respondent think differently (in either a positive or negative way) about his or her abilities or potential.  Respondents in this study are asked to complete the questionnaire twice per week for a period of four weeks. It is currently placed on the Center=s web site, [ Daily Diary Online ] so that participants could complete it by logging in and submitting their information on-line.  The questionnaire was approved by the university's Institutional Review Board.

Data Collection

Data collection with academic self-view scale
The L.A.S.S scale for assessing students' academic self-views, a scale already developed and administered to upper-level university students, was administered to a series of first-year classes at the university, in order to obtain data on freshmen and sophomore students [ LASS Online ]. With these new data, we now have information on over 1500university students, spanning the levels of freshman to senior.  This makes it possible to examine patterns of divergence and convergence of women's and men's views regarding their current and possible academic self-views across levels of university experience. The data were entered into computer files and have been analyzed.
Data on the L.A.S.S have also been collected from two high school samples from Tennessee, one from upper New York State and one from southwest Virginia. We are currently negotiating with several other school boards to try to find an additional sample.  The data was also entered into computer files and has been analyzed.

Data collection with Hopes-Fears scale
The Hopes-Fears Scale has been administered to 300 Radford university students from a variety of classes in psychology, business, sociology, and biology.  These data were entered into computer files and analyzed
.

Interviews
All interviews were completed, transcribed and qualitatively analyzed using NVIVO and other programs.

Results Summary
   
The results of these studies have been presented at several conferences and form parts of several papers and publications.  In addition to what is indicated here, please see the relevant aspects Dr. Lips' Complete CV for further details concerning the dissemination of the body of work


A Few Critical Sources for the present study:

[i].  See:   Kessler, R. C., McGonalgle, K. A., & Zhao, S.  (1994).  Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in the United States: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey.  Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 8-19 and  Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Girgus, J. S.  (1994).  The emergence of gender differences in depression during adolescence.  Psychological Bulletin, 115(3), 424-443.

[ii].  See:  Gilligan, C.  (1990).  Joining the resistance: Psychology, politics, girls and women.  Michigan Quarterly Review, 29, 510-536.  See also Pipher, M.  (1994).  Reviving Ophelia: Saving the selves of adolescent girls.  New York: Putnam; and Rogers, A. G.  (1993).. Voice, play and the practice of ordinary courage in girls= and women=s lives.  Harvard Educational Review, 63(3), 265-295.

[iii].  See:  Lips, H.M.  (1996).  Linking students= current and possible selves to teaching and learning. (Abstract).  International Journal of Psychology, 31 (3/4), 173;  Lips, H. M.  (1998, June).  Gendered possibilities: Young women's and men's visions of their future power and competence.  Invited plenary address, Canadian Psychological Association convention, Edmonton, Alberta;   Lips, H. M.  (1999, March)  Gendered possibilities: Academic choices and pathways to power.  Open Humanities Lecture, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand;  Rogers, M., & Lips, H.  (1999, March).  Gender and patterns of academic possibilities.  Paper  presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, Savannah, GA.

[iii].  See:   Kessler, R. C., McGonalgle, K. A., & Zhao, S.  (1994).  Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in the United States: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey.  Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 8-19 and  Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Girgus, J. S.  (1994).  The emergence of gender differences in depression during adolescence.  Psychological Bulletin, 115(3), 424-443.

[iii].  See:  Gilligan, C.  (1990).  Joining the resistance: Psychology, politics, girls and women.  Michigan Quarterly Review, 29, 510-536.  See also Pipher, M.  (1994).  Reviving Ophelia: Saving the selves of adolescent girls.  New York: Putnam; and Rogers, A. G.  (1993).. Voice, play and the practice of ordinary courage in girls' and women's lives.  Harvard Educational Review, 63(3), 265-295.

[iii].  See:  Lips, H.M.  (1996).  Linking students' current and possible selves to teaching and learning. (Abstract).  International Journal of Psychology, 31 (3/4), 173;  Lips, H. M.  (1998, June).  Gendered possibilities: Young women's and men's visions of their future power and competence.  Invited plenary address, Canadian Psychological Association convention, Edmonton, Alberta;   Lips, H. M.  (1999, March)  Gendered possibilities: Academic choices and pathways to power.  Open Humanities Lecture, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand;  Rogers, M., & Lips, H.  (1999, March).  Gender and patterns of academic possibilities.  Paper  presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, Savannah, GA.



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Last Updated: September 26th, 2009