Date of Award

1999

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Dawn T. Robinson

Abstract

Social positions and social relationships are important in structuring self-concept. The self is often viewed as composed of identities related to the social positions an individual occupies. These identities are generally conceptualized as being organized hierarchically based on the individual's relative commitment to each. I contribute to this work by developing an Identity Management Model in which I propose three strategies (compartmentalization, amalgamation, and reprioritization) individuals use to manage completion among identities. In this model, I identify characteristics of (a) the identities, (b) the social environment and (c) the individual's social network that are likely to influence which strategy is used in a particular situation. I then formulate hypotheses regarding the effect of specific characteristics. For example, I hypothesize that (1) the greater the density of an individual's social network the less likely he or she is to compartmentalize master identities; (2) the amalgamation of identities is more likely for those identities that are broad in scope and potentially relevant in a wide range of social settings; and (3) the amalgamation of competing identities is more likely when the individual has access to reference groups or role models who have amalgamated similar identities. I tested some of the propositions using data collected from 269 women sociologists using a mailed questionnaire. I found support for the proposition that individuals have multiple identities to which they are highly committed. I also found that the number and value of relationships linked to an amalgamated identity could be used to predict involvement in behaviors related to the amalgamated identities. However, the relationship between commitment and behavior was not equally strong for all types of identities. Commitment appears to be strongly related to behaviors associated with identities that are both voluntary in nature and flexibly defined. Of the identities I examined, (academic, woman, mother, and feminist), commitment and behavior were most strongly related for the identity of feminist. This difference between more and less voluntary identities may provide an important key for understanding why previous tests of Identity Theory have had only weak to moderate success in predicting behavior.

ISBN

9780599636088

Pages

150

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