Family of origin ritual behavior and its impact on never-married women's current sense of meaning




Mize, Leslye King

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The purpose of the research investigation was to understand the essential features and structures of ritual as experienced by 26 women in their families of origin and how this may have impacted their current sense of meaning. This understanding was facilitated by a review of theoretical perspectives, primarily phenomenological. Further, the study utilized findings from previous research in the areas of ritual, gender differences (primarily femininity), and self-meaning. A goal was to explore the possibility of a link in these areas through the feminist concept of affiliation (Gilligan, 1982).

Ritual scholars describe the ritual experience as the experience of being connected to the whole (Rappaport, 1975). Feminist scholars view the identity of women through a sense of belonging (Gilligan, 1977). One's self-meaning is derived from being connected to others, according to Frankl (1959); an experience he calls self-transcendence. The present study utilizes these concepts to formulate a method for understanding the inner world and dynamics of consciousnesss of the women in the study.

This qualitative design yielded descriptive data and offered a holistic approach to the problem under investigation. The unit of analysis was the individual, and it afforded the investigation the opportunity to understand the individual's perspective of the world.

The indepth interviewing method was used to collect data. Subjects were asked to describe their experiences of different types of rituals and were probed for information concerning the properties of the rituals chosen. The raw data were transcribed verbatim then analysed for significant statements and common themes.

The experiences of the subjects were classified into groups of information: level of ritualization and level of will-to-meaning. The level of ritualization (high to low) was compared to the level of will-to-meaning (high, moderate, low) for common patterns as well as underlying similarities and differences.

The results of this investigation indicated a central theme of high ritual experience impacting high will-to-meaning. Further, ritual was a female-centered experience that added significantly to women's ability to recognize current affiliations. This, in itself, is the major issue for women in experiencing will-to-meaning.



Health and environmental sciences, Social sciences, Women's studies