Social-psychological dimensions of low-income and middle-income women's achievement of psychology at the doctoral level

Grace Seibert-Larke (1993)

This study accesses the personal knowledge concerning the achievement process of women from both low-income and middle-income backgrounds who have successful careers at the doctoral level in psychology. The lives and work of high-achieving women in psychology who gained professional status between 1894 and 1967 were reviewed revealing a pattern of denial of opportunity combined with obstacles generated out of gender role behavior expectations, both of which interfered with fulfillment of their professional roles. Resources important to overcoming these barriers to achievement were also reviewed. Most of the early generations of psychologists were from middle-income backgrounds due to the strength of the class-related barriers. Eccles' (1989) and Farmer's (1985) theoretical models describing social-psychological based variables and processes provided the context for understanding women's academic and career achievements. This exploratory study utilized a qualitative interview method to investigate the lives and work of ten (five middle-income, five low-income family backgrounds) post-1967, doctoral-level psychologists who have achieved at high levels in psychology. Findings illuminate the similarities and differences between these middle-income and low-income women in the barriers to achievement and resources which were important to overcoming these obstacles. Most of these ten gifted women identified a key resource in their paths to academic and career achievement which was a series of relationships with teachers, mentors, and friends who understood the complexity of integrating multiple-role commitments. Further research is suggested to investigate generalizability of the new findings about resources important to women's achievement.