Perceptions of the present and future: an assessment of relational experiences, social support, and personal resources by women sixty-five and older
Streff, Maureen Beirne
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The purpose ofthis study was: (1) to examine the perceived levels of mutuality and social support in the lives of a sample of Caucasian American women and African American women 65 and older; (2) to compare their perceived levels of mutuality with already measured perceived levels of mutuality ofyounger and middle aged women; (3) to learn ifwomen 65 and older whose primary sustained commitment is to vocation, community and spiritual development experience a relational dimension; ( 4) to learn if women 65 and older who have contact with their emotionally close network of family and friends report an increase in perceived social support; and ( 5) to inform health care providers and educators of the stated needs of these women 65 and older regarding their health care. The data sources included: a demographic information form; two valid and reliable instruments, The Mutual Psychological Development Questionnaire (MPDQ) and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS); and semi structured interviews. The quantitative and qualitative data show evidence of self-perceived psychological growth in relation with others (as suggested in previous research with younger and middle age women) as well as self- perceptions of social support. Women's heterogeneity, including their specific differences in health, education and economic status, established the necessity of focusing on the contexts of their lives. Treatment of the data included a cohort analysis because their life changes depend to a degree upon their historical circumstances and their location in the social structure. The quantitative data analysis revealed statistically significant findings: (1) The scores of the MPDQ of women 65 and older reflecting the mutuality they report experiencing with family member and friend are positively correlated with the MSPSS. (2) The women 65 and older were found to have a higher score on mutuality in the same sex dyads than do the younger and middle age women in the Genero et al. study (1992). The qualitative component ofthe study corroborated the fmdings that themes of mutuality and social support were consistently present in this population of women 65 and older.
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