Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




This research was conducted to examine how life role patterns influence self-esteem, happiness, satisfaction with life and mental adjustment of middle-aged college-educated women. Considerable research has concluded that middle-aged women have lower self-esteem, higher rates of adjustment disturbances, and less satisfaction and happiness in their lives than either men or women in other age groups. Two hypothesized explanations for these findings were explored. One hypothesis was related to socialization sex-role theory. According to this theory, girls are encouraged to follow the traditional lifestyle of wife/homemaker/mother to the exclusion of other achievement focused activities. This exclusion results in reduced well-being for middle-aged women because society places less importance on the family roles. A second explanation is that the traditional female role prohibits women from feeling competent and thus reduces their self-esteem. Self-reports of happiness, satisfaction, levels of stress, mental health and measures of self-esteem and achievement motivation from middle-aged college-educated women were analyzed with respect to four life role patterns: Career (occupation/job, but no marriage/family), Concurrent (both occupation/job and marriage/family at the same time), Sequential (both occupation/job and marriage/family but at different times), and Homemaker (no occupation/job but marriage/family). The results indicated that: (1) the Concurrent and Sequential combination roles related to higher self-esteem at middle age than did the Career and Homemaker single roles, (2) despite lower esteem, Homemaker women at middle age were no less happy, had no greater stress, or lower levels of mental health than women who had lived their lives in the other roles, (3) middle-aged women, across all groups, were no less happy or satisfied than they reported themselves to be at earlier periods in their lives.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Rita Lundt Frevert



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

213 pages