Rethinking reproduction: The role of one private, Catholic, and all-girl high school in the identity development of the young women who attend
St George, Karyn
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This research is a qualitative study examining the identity development among high school females in a private, Catholic, and all-girl setting. Focusing on the school space, it explores the role of the school in the formation of the participants' identities. Through the messages received and negotiated in the school, as well as through school and family values and expectations, the girls in this study struggle to define who they are and who they are expected to become. Conducted over the 2002-2003 academic year, the study draws data from participant and non-participant observation, in depth interviews, focus groups, and document analysis. Through interviews and focus groups, the voices of 20 junior participants, three faculty members, and one administrator were included as they reflected on their experiences within the school space. The theoretical framework for this dissertation is grounded within a number of relevant studies, including research on identity formation as well as racial, class, religious, and gender constructs. This study addresses how these categories intersect and overlap as students negotiate the messages they receive within a particular educational location. Moreover, this research study examines how different educational locations work to (re)produce certain behaviors, values, and expectations as they socialize students into larger social constructs. This study advances current literature as it reinforces and challenges what we already know about identity development in schools. This study focuses on identity construction within a particular school setting as it intersects and overlaps with race, class, gender, and religion. How students negotiate their own sense of self as they make sense of the messages they receive in the school space is highlighted in the study. The data suggest that students in this particular space negotiate their racial, classed, spiritual, and gendered identities within a framework of expectations and limitations, ultimately reproducing their current and expected location.