Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Degree

Spring 2015

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Sociology

First Advisor

Freda B. Lynn

Abstract

In daily life, individuals participate in multiple social roles. According to sociological theories of the self, the social roles individuals participate in are fundamental to individuals' self-concepts. For example, one's role as a mother, lawyer, volunteer, and student are important aspects of one's overall self-view. Additionally, these role-based identities provide behavioral guidance and have important implications emotions and psychological well-being. However, little is known about how the relationship between the meanings of the various identities an individual participates in impacts identity processes and mental health. Additionally, although identities are thought to be embedded in different social groups (e.g., work, family, and church), and these role-based groups are viewed as essential in identity development and role-performance, little is known about how the structure of social networks impacts identity processes.

The purpose of this dissertation is to lay the theoretical scaffolding for a more holistic view of the multiple-identity-self. I highlight four key weaknesses in current treatments of multiple identities. First, the potential impact of the relationship between identity meanings on emotions and interaction is often glossed over or ignored by current research in identity theory. Second, current theoretical treatments of the self-structure do not incorporate the fact that individuals are able to reflect on themselves as a general social object. Third, in the absence of a theory of self-structure that ties identity meanings together, identity theory's ability to make long-term predictions about mental health outcomes is severely limited. Fourth, although one's identities are embedded in multiple social groups, the structure of social relations within and between an individual's social groups is given very little attention in current theory and research.

Overall, my findings suggest that 1) participating in social roles that align with an individual's view of themselves "as they truly are" (i.e., core self meanings) is associated with reductions in depression, 2) working parents who participate in occupations that are viewed as incompatible with their parental identity report lower levels of psychological well-being, and 3) the impact of network density is depends on whether or not one belongs to a self-affirming social environment.

Public Abstract

In daily life, individuals participate in multiple social roles, such as mother, doctor, churchgoer, student, and volunteer. Attached to each of these roles are cultural meanings and expectations that individuals tend to internalize into their self-concept. For example, mothers are generally viewed as warm and caring and lawyers are generally viewed as somewhat cold and tough. According to sociological theories of the self, these role-based identities provide behavioral guidance and have important implications for emotions and psychological well-being. Further, since these role-based identities are embedded in various social groups (e.g., the role-identity of doctor is embedded in one’s work-based social group), social ties to role-based others are important sources of socialization as well as one’s overall commitment to a given identity.

The purpose of this dissertation is to examine two key questions: 1) how does the relationship between identity meanings impact the self and psychological wellbeing and 2) how does the structure of social networks (i.e., the pattern of ties between one’s social contacts) factor into the linkages between identity processes and mental health? Overall, my findings suggest that 1) participating in social roles that align with an individual’s view of themselves “as they truly are” (i.e., core self meanings) is associated with reductions in depression, 2) working parents who participate in occupations that are viewed as incompatible with their parental identity report lower levels of psychological well-being, and 3) the impact of network density is depends on whether or not one belongs to a self-affirming social environment.

Keywords

publicabstract, Identity, Self, Social Networks

Pages

viii, 106 pages

Bibliography

Includes bibliographical references (pages 84-91).

Copyright

Copyright 2015 Mark Henry Walker

Included in

Sociology Commons

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