From Publishers Weekly
Josselson (psychology professor at Towson State and a practicing psychotherapist) says in her introduction that she hoped to do in text what Michael Apted did in film with his 35 Up series. In many ways, Josselson outdoes Apted in drawing together the experiences of women. Between 1971 and 1973, she interviewed 30 female college seniors then met with them again in 1983 and in 1993. Josselson's important account of a changing generation benefits from her excellent interview techniques, her insight into the ways women edit their autobiographies and the fortuitous timing by which her study tracked the arc of a burgeoning women's movement. The data yields some interesting observations: that childless women (close to half those in the study did not reproduce) found equal satisfaction in other types of connection, and that "Even into midlife, identity is cast against the background of their mothers." Josselson's main point is that, at different times, women recount their life stories in different ways. Many in later life claimed that college had been an active and life-changing experience, while at the time their interviews made them seem passive and uninvolved. At 33, Andrea believed it was acceptable to have extramarital affairs; at 43, married to a different partner, she recalled that the affairs made her feel guilty. The writing is not always perfectly fluid, and as Josselson herself points out, the sample of 30 is far from heterogeneous (the one black participant died after the first round of interviews, leaving only white women) but the information presented here is invaluable.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
An academic study of how a group of women coming of age at a time of great social change have shaped their identities. Finding that Erik Erikson's description of identity formation did not seem to fit her own experience, as a young psychologist Josselson (Towson State Univ.) set out to explore how women accomplish this task. She first studied her subjects, a group of middle-class white women, during 197172, when they were college seniors. Using a framework devised by psychologist James Marcia to study identity development in late adolescents, she divided the young women into four groups according to the pathways they seemed to be taking toward adulthood: Guardians, so named because they are protectors of their heritage, cling to the familiar and accept authority; Pathmakers, who are more independent, carefully choose a goal and work toward it; Searchers, idealistic questioners of both themselves and their world; and Drifters, who live in the present moment, counting on life to just happen. Josselson recontacted the women 12 years later and then again 10 years after that, when they were about 43 years old. Here she examines each group separately and provides psychobiographies of several representative women in each segment. After examining their differences, she turns to their similarities and finds that most, although having begun their adult lives in widely dissimiliar fashion, have by midlife arrived psychologically at similar places. For women, Josselson contends, identity rests on a sense of competence or effectiveness in the world, and on a sense of connection with others. In her final chapters, she considers how these issues play out in women's lives, concluding that the most visible revisions women make as they mature are in how these goals are expressed. The psychobiographies make for tedious reading, and Josselson's style is too textbookish to have wide appeal, but her ideas should generate discussion among those interested in theories of identity. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.