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Title: Girls in transition, self in relationship in early adolescence : a study of girls aged 11-13, their faith and spiritual growth in Baptist churches
Author: Phillips, Anne J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2680 5704
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2009
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Girls at puberty are undergoing a major transition, from child to woman, which impinges on every aspect of their identity, growing in relationship to self, family, peer group and God. In this thesis, I explore that identity as constructed in theology and psychology, as well as sociology and philosophy, reviewing a wide range of resources in those fields. The most important resource, however, was the voice of girls themselves. Through empirical research - group and individual interviews with seventeen girls about their gendered self-awareness, and their relationship with God - I gathered a body of data in which they spoke of themselves, their faith, and their nurturance within a Baptist Christian context. In my analysis, I interrogated the texts to elicit and pattern their responses in relation to their physical and spiritual growth. I also analysed the way they constructed theological argument, and asked how their environment helps or hinders their faith journey. From that interpretation, I suggest categories for understanding girls' faith, which derive from dialogue with psychology and philosophy, and a range of theologians whose work resonates with the theological reflection the girls engaged in. Throughout my writing, I also dialogue with scripture. In Baptist ecclesiology, authority for faith and practice lies in Christ as revealed in scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit: I conclude from reflection on pre-pubertal biblical girls that their presence and spiritual insight in scriptural narrative speaks of their distinctive place in salvation history, and of God's commitment to rebirth/resurrection. This grounds my advocacy of girls as an overlooked group, especially by feminists, within theology and church. In analysing examples of girls' theologising, I uncover inchoate theological depth and acumen, which, if nourished and nurtured appropriately, may, I suggest, give a secure foundation to a faithing which in a secular age is a daunting life choice, placing them in a vulnerable position in relation to their peer group. I offer the image of the womb as an analogy of the optimal relational environment for the girls' nurture as they approach the liminal place of birth into adolescence and womanhood, a process which carries with it grief for the loss of childhood, made sharper by the sexualised nature oftheir gendered identity which they know will circumscribe their future. The 'wombing' qualities the nurturing environment needs are those of 'holding' and 'letting go', while 'remaining in place' for them, categories drawn from Robert Kegan's work and developed for a Christian context by Carol Lakey Hess. Gestation and birth can be assisted relationally through informed mentoring. I argue, therefore, that churches must develop a greater awareness of the profound transition that puberty creates for a girl, and reflect on and grow the quality of their own life to become appropriate holding environments in which girls can flourish as Christian disciples.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Not available Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available