Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Educating women for development: From welfare dependency to a practical nursing career

Ruth Dworkin Sherman, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Using the qualitative methodology of grounded research, this study sought to discover whether or not internal developmental changes are fundamental to the transformation process of moving from welfare dependency to self-sustaining, economic self-sufficiency among welfare dependent mothers who enroll in highly structured academic and career related training programs to become practical nurses. To realize their goal of welfare independence, subjects entered a grant-funded, community college Career Access Program in Nursing which offered a progressive hierarchy of career ladder steps including Patient Care Assistant training, Developmental and Academic coursework, and Licensed Practical Nurse preparation. Utilizing eight welfare dependent mothers as subjects and an interview protocol modeled on developmental principles, the researcher tracked the transformation process as indicated by changes in self-identity, movement towards autonomy, and cognitive growth, and analyzed situational, economic, and other demographic themes. Within the context of the study is an analysis of the potency of gender, class, and socioeconomic status on issues of female dependency and empowerment; the impact of age and stage on readiness patterns of welfare dependent mothers; and the relationship of gender related themes of affiliation and interdependence on women's career choices, maternal relationships, and learning preferences. The study's most important finding emerged within the realm of psychosocial change. The results indicated that a welfare dependent mother's ability to reconstruct her gender role to encompass a self-identity which is both psychologically and economically autonomous is core to her successful transformation process. This dissertation presents a "process model of change" which depicts four discrete, invariant, domain specific stages of change which are embedded within the transformation process: Precondition, Transition, Reconstruction, and Independence. This model subsumes the multiple changes acquired by the subjects in the external arena of skills and knowledge competencies, as well as within the internal domains of psychological and cognitive functioning. This model contains constructs from which intervention strategies may be developed aimed at reducing welfare dependency through education and empowerment, as well as for evaluating the effectiveness of intervention programs proposed to promote long term, economic self-sufficiency among welfare dependent women.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Womens studies|Welfare

Recommended Citation

Sherman, Ruth Dworkin, "Educating women for development: From welfare dependency to a practical nursing career" (1992). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9233163.