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Women's experiences of return to education: Perceptions of development of sense of self and *relationships with others

Muireann Bernadette McNulty, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Return to education is as an intervention in the life course that produces changes in sense of self and relationship. This study investigated the subjective experience of adult women who returned to school and completed an undergraduate degree after age 25. Thirteen women who returned to school and earned a Bachelor's degree were interviewed at least two years after graduation; their retrospective evaluations and understandings of changes initiated by return to school constituted a perspective missing from the literature. Analyses of interview themes were based on the principles of grounded theory. Relationships between codes representing participants' experiences were investigated to understand motivation before returning, experiences while in school, including stress, coping, and support, and evaluations at interview of change and stability in perceptions of senses of self and relationships with others. There was considerable support for the idea that education fostered developmental progression, rather than developmental stagnation or regression, in terms of increased capacity for independence and individuation, and in terms of increased capacity for relatedness and connection. Further, the perspective of retrospect and a qualitative approach added considerable richness and depth to understandings of experiences of return to education. ^

Subject Area

Social psychology|Women's studies|Adult education|Educational psychology|Developmental psychology|Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

McNulty, Muireann Bernadette, "Women's experiences of return to education: Perceptions of development of sense of self and *relationships with others" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9841896.