Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 9 Issue 4 (July/August 1999), Pages 247-319

Threatened identities: the experiences of women in transition to programmes of professional higher education (pages 273-288)


The aim of the research described in this article was to investigate how women experience the transition to programmes of professional higher education. The investigation took place in a school of a British university where the professional areas chosen were social work and health care education. Most of the participants were new to the higher education system and were entering as mature students, but a few were making educational transitions and had previous involvement in higher education. As the central focus was an investigation of subjective accounts, a phenomenological perspective was adopted and the methods used were mainly qualitative. A multiple methods approach to data collection was taken. The investigation took place over two phases, covering the period of transition to programmes over two consecutive years. Anxieties were commonly experienced by participants in the transition to their programme. Breakwell's (1986) theory of threatened identities seems useful in understanding the emerging issues. Anxieties could be explained in terms of threats to identity ‘principles’; however, these arose from the social context and coping with them is not always psychologically based. Issues which appear to assist the transition are highlighted. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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