EGO DEVELOPMENT IN MEN AND WOMEN AND PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC SELF-UNDERSTANDING
KELLEY, VIRGINIA RUTH
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This research sees the psychotherapy experience as a naturally-occurring developmental situation, and subjects' descriptions of that experience as data for the exploration of the descriptive relevance and clinical usefulness of theories of adult ego development. The study examined two interrelated propositions derived from a neo-Piagetian structural-development conception of stages in ego development extending into adulthood: (1) (from the work of Robert Kegan): a sequence of stage structures, parallel to development in levels of social perspective-taking, mediates or "shapes" patients' ways of organizing the understanding of major life-issues; (2) (from the work of Kegan and Carol Gilligan): stage-structural development takes different paths in men and women, according to a formulation of separate and connected social realities.;Kohlberg Moral Judgment Interviews, used as an independent measure of levels of social perspective, and interviews about their experience of change in therapy were conducted with 13 women and 11 men. Therapy interviews were analyzed for level of stage-construction of life issue and for sex differences in mode of social reality and issue content, using methods adapted or developed for this study from the relevant literature.;The descriptive relevance of Kegan's theory was demonstrated by statistically significant correlations between subjects' levels of construction of problems and insights with their Kohlberg scores. Subjects also organized their accounts of change in a way compatible with Kegan's theory of an ongoing ego-developmental process by describing their "former selves" at levels lower than their current levels of social perspective-taking. A few instances of apparent developmental lag or regression were also noted.;The conception of different social realities for men and women, giving rise to different adult developmental issues, was confirmed by statistically significant findings that men's interviews tended to be classified as agentic, or separate, and their major issues were the self and society or the achievement of connection with others; women's interviews tended to be classified as communal, or connected, and a major issue for all women was the affirmation of a separate identity within a connected social reality. These patterns were different for some homosexual subjects.
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