Date of Award

8-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ben Rafoth, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Lynne Alvine, Ed.D.

Abstract

Working mothers are stressed, juggling various roles and responsibilities both at home and at work, which can result in life imbalance. Writing has the potential to help working mothers to more effectively manage the challenges that cause this imbalance. Previous research and studies have shown that engaging in personal narrative writing can have physical and psychological healing effects, enhance problem-solving, lead to self-discovery, and build social connections, all factors that could potentially provide support to working mothers. This qualitative study explored the specific effects that personal narrative writing could have on the lives of working mothers. Initial data collection included autobiographical samples from each participant, in which she described her current issues as a working mother, her coping methods, and her previous experiences with personal writing. Over the next five months, participants were asked to write at least two times per week, at least 20-30 minutes per session, or longer if she felt compelled or simply chose to do so. Participants were interviewed four times: once before they began the study writing, once during the five-month study period, and twice during the post-study periods, during which each participant was also invited to share some of her personal writing as data sources. Analysis of the collected data enabled five themes to emerge: 1) writing can relieve stress; 2) writing can impact problem-solving and memory; 3) writing can impact concepts of identity and self; 4) writers desire to control writing practices; and 5) a relationship exists among motivation, perceived value of writing, and stress relief. From these themes, five recommendations related to establishing balance within the composition classroom were made: 1) balance personal and social elements in composition research; 2) balance personal and social elements in composition instruction; 3) balance personal and social elements through online networks; 4) balance mind and body in composition instruction; 5) balance writing with elements of personal value. From this last recommendation, a Linked Value Balance Model was proposed, which can have applications both for working mothers and within the composition classroom.

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