Catalysts that help middle-aged women address education-based regrets

Debra M. Hohnecker (2008)

This qualitative study utilizes interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore catalysts that facilitated middle-aged women's capacity to address education-based regret through their return to school. Through semi-structured, face-to-face interviews, eight female participants between the ages of 47-52 discussed the nature of their regrets, experiences that facilitated their capacity to initiate their return to school, perceived obstacles, and assigned meanings related to educational pursuits during midlife. Data analysis culminated in the identification of six superordinate themes; themes that best represent the women's experiences related to their education-based regret. Results indicate that education-based regret was intense and persistent, limited perspectives interfered with an earlier capacity to address education-based regret, and a decade age-marker or life stage prompted reflection related to unmet educational aspirations. In addition, results suggest that a midlife self-discovery process prompted a positive shift in self-perception, specific personal strengths and personality characteristics facilitated educational pursuits during midlife and the capacity to address midlife education-based regret through a return to school was a meaningful, exceptionally rewarding experience. Since women who fail to address education-based regret during midlife report greater psychological discomfort (Jokisaari, 2004) and increased physical complaints (Stewart & Vandewater, 1999), it is important to identify those catalysts that facilitate one's ability to address education-based regret during midlife. A further understanding of such catalysts will help psychologists to plan effective treatments designed to facilitate positive change in relation to education-based regret for middle aged women.