Freedom to Be One's Self: Appalachian Women's Perspectives on Empowerment
Lawson, Aleta Mae
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FREEDOM TO BE ONEâ S SELF: APPALACHIAN WOMENâ S PERSPECTIVES ON EMPOWERMENT By Aleta Lawson Dr. Cosby Steele Rogers, Chairperson Human Development (ABSTRACT) This study explores what constitutes empowerment among a small group of Appalachian women and the developmental and cultural factors that they believe contribute to such empowerment. Twelve women completed in-depth interviews and questionnaires about their lifespan development with regard to cultural context and progression through Eriksonâ s Psychosocial Stages of Development. The purpose of the study was to explore womenâ s perceptions of what empowerment is for them and how this is influenced by their developmental histories. This study is a unique contribution to the literature in that it focuses on empowerment from a developmental perspective and seeks to identify factors in lifespan development and cultural context that affect empowerment, focusing on a frequently marginalized population, Appalachian women. The data were examined within an Eriksonian framework in relationship to how successful development through Eriksonâ s psychosocial stages affects empowerment. Qualitative analysis of the results indicated that the participants felt that developmental and cultural factors did contribute to the degree of empowerment women experience as adults. The results also indicated that the Appalachian environment and culture supported their empowerment. The findings also reveal a positive relationship between the degree of empowerment experienced by the women and their successful resolution through the eight psychosocial stages of development. The findings further indicate that the experience and definition of empowerment may be as diverse as women themselves. However, the consistent theme found for all of the women in this study was that the essence of empowerment is experienced as a form of inner strength. The conclusion of this study is that, whether one perceives empowerment to come from internal or external factors, from oneâ s upbringing, oneâ s culture, oneâ s God, or oneâ s spirit, the essence of empowerment is experienced as the freedom to be oneâ s self, in all oneâ s glory.
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