Dreams of traditional/nontraditional women: Do they reflect a new story?
Handlin, Diane Grunau
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This study looks within sex to try to identify aspects of women's story that have been left out of approaches which compare women to men. Dreams are a valuable means of studying differences among women because they offer relatively uncensored information on how sociocultural factors are influencing women today. Handlin (1991), looking at degree of traditionality and field dependence, developed a jury system to assess degree of traditionality with the intention of identifying differences among women which would circumvent social desirability biases and move beyond reliance on social stereotypes. The jury defined traditionality as the degree to which Ss were found to have "choice" in their lives, i.e., the ability to implement internal needs in external life. A nontraditional woman could be a homemaker if she "chose" to stay at home, while a traditional woman could be a career woman. The current study was designed to see if dream content, as differentiated by degree of traditionality, would reflect contemporary woman's story. The Ss were 100 women between the ages of 22 and 79. Each S kept a two week dream diary from which 3 dreams were randomly selected for analysis of manifest dream content. Ss completed 7 sets of research protocols in order to ascertain their degree of traditionality, their level of psychological well being and their tendency to give socially desirable responses. Quantitative analysis revealed that, contrary to what was predicted, traditional women had significantly less hostility in their dreams. As predicted, nontraditional women, who had the lowest waking depression scores (BDI) of all the Ss, had significantly more aggression in their dreams. Contrary to prediction, women in the middle did not have significantly more dream anxiety, but had the highest level of waking anxiety (STAI) and depression (BDI). Qualitative analysis of the dreams revealed that traditional women are more embedded in the patriarchal culture. They also have significantly higher social desirability scores. The nontraditional women seem to be doing adaptive dream work, creating a new story for themselves, as well as having dreams which reveal more adventures, challenges and risk-taking.