UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The relevance of career women’s homosocial relationships to their self-actualization Harris, Jean Vera


Recent feminist literature has celebrated women's capacities for growth-facilitating relationships (Bernard, 1976; Chodorow, 1978; Dinnerstein, 1976; Gilligan, 1982; Miller, 1976; Smith-Rosenberg, 1975). Miller (1976) has regarded affiliation as consistent with a redefined, enhanced and enlarged conception of autonomy. She posited that autonomy and affiliation have been defined in contrast to each other only because the former is a term derived from male experience, with masculine emphasis on independence and competition. Miller has maintained that women will define autonomy-in-relationship as interdependence rather than independence. This study is a beginning toward validating this theory and describing the nature of these growth-facilitating bonds, as well as examining the impact of the negative aspects of women's same-sex relationships, as posited by Rawlings and Carter (1977) and Caplan (1981). It provides some research support for the redefinition of Maslow's (1954) concept of self-actualization based on this female perspective. Twenty-three women psychologists, aged 35 to 68, were interviewed. All had scored as self-actualizing on the Personal Orientation Inventory (Shostrom, 1963). The interviews employed the critical incident technique (Flanagan, 1954) to elicit information on the subjects' relationships with other women that had facilitated or hindered their progress toward self-actualization, as they defined that concept. Most of the women interviewed experienced their relationships with other women as facilitating their self-actualization. The data they provided indicated that the cumulative impact of relationships was more significant than that of particular incidents. Therefore the 133 facilitative relationships they described were categorized into four basic types: 1. Inspiration. The subject is inspired by a model who she perceives to be more self-actualized than herself in some aspect, often related to the competency traits. 2. Affirmation. The subject feels appreciated, affirmed, accepted, respected, trusted, or loved, usually by an authority figure. 3. Challenge. The facilitator guides, advises, pushes, questions, confronts, corrects, or reproaches the subject, thereby prompting her to re-examine and change her behaviour in a direction that proves to be self-actualizing. 4. Mutuality. The subject participates in a mutual relationship characterized by similarity, involvement, openness, empathy, interdependence, caring, pleasure, growth, non-competitiveness, acceptance of conflict, and endurance over time. It was suggested that these four dimensions of facilitative relationships reflect a developmental progression with readiness for the latter (Challenge and Mutuality) being based on previous experience with the former (Inspiration and Affirmation). About one-quarter of the women, however, stated that relationships with women had not facilitated their self-actualization and that relationship with men, their spirituality, or their own independent efforts had been the significant factors. The implications of the findings for the counselling of women are discussed.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.