Candidate: Herdley O. Paolini
Doctor of Philosophy
Although God representation
has received some attention in the literature, most research has focused
on God representation formation, not function. In addition, much literature
examining God representation has focused on psychiatric cases; very
little has been studied about God representation in the general population
and the course of normal development. Several authors have noted the
need in particular for research, which would employ qualitative methodology
(Horowitz, 1970; MacDargh, 1986; Marcellino, 1996; Richards & Bergin,
1995; Tisdale, Key, Edwards, Brokaw, & Kemperman, 1997).
In the current research, phenomenologically-based qualitative methodology (Moustakas, 1994) was used. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten women who reported an awareness of their God representation and who could engage in conversation about their lives in relation to self, others, and relationships as identified by the women in responding to a written announcement and screening interview conducted by the researcher. Interviews were tape-recorded and lasted approximately one and half hours each.
The results of the current research revealed that all participants' God representations seem to relate to their early relational experiences. The quality of the participants' experiences with significant others early in their lives was seen in direct relationship to the quality and dynamics of their God representation. Secondly, the participant's God representations seem to relate to providing meanings that support the participant's sense of self. The God representation was seen as supporting and reinforcing the experience of the self as it evolves and develops. Thirdly, the participants' God representations seem to change as changes were experienced in self and other representations. It is hoped that the results of this research can provide a source of information to helping professionals and other interested parties regarding what appears to be a most important object relation: that of a woman and her private God.
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