The Search for Autonomous Intimacy: Sexual Abuse and Young Women's Identity Development

By M. Sue Crowley | Go to book overview

Chapter 7: Epilogue: Theoretical Implications and Conceptual Frameworks

In the concluding chapter a conceptual framework is offered in the form of a diagram that is comprised of a set of working hypotheses. These hypotheses combine elements of many different theories and integrate research findings on both gender and ethnic differences in identity development. In their own words, Ada, Chloe, and Letitia described many of the key concepts found in research and theory on adolescent identity, self- concept development, and sexual abuse. Narrative accounts are situated within the broad conceptual framework that is developed throughout the chapter. Incorporating various opposites, such as intimacy-autonomy, connection-separation, affiliation-differentiation, the framework is designed to reflect their experiences and the ways in which those experiences may highlight processes of identity formation for many young people, not only victims of sexual abuse. Within the framework, seemingly paradoxical processes exist in interwoven patterns of relationship to one another. The development of emergent, fluid, yet coherent identities is perceived as a dialectical endeavor whose goal is the understanding of one's self through the mutual interplay of separation and connection. Whether we call it autonomous intimacy or intimate autonomy, the process of identity formation in adolescence and beyond is multifaceted, fluid, and emergent.

In offering such a conceptual framework, I am attempting a synthesis of information across time ( Erikson to the present) and methodologies (quantitative and qualitative) that links both theory and research. It is at best an incomplete formulation. What value it may have will be determined by clinical and developmental research in time to come. Much the same could be said for my understanding of identity development itself: an ongoing, incomplete conceptual framework for situating one's self in society.


Conclusion

In the end, identity is many things: Identity is what you look like, identity is who your friends are, identity is where you come from, identity is the accent with which you speak, identity is in the clothes you wear, identity is the place you inhabit in a complex web of social and political terrains. Identity emerges on different planes of existence and meaning, simultaneously personal, social, cultural, and political. Obviously, we are not all equally challenged to confront these complexities of identity in

-9-

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