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Title: The development of resilience in two cohorts of older, single women, living on their own, in a small rural town in Australia
Author: Irwin, Pamela Margaret
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 4208
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Australian rural women are stereotypically perceived as stoic, self-reliant, and used to handling adversity. Since this iconic portrayal of resilience is traditionally (and contemporaneously) located in the harsh countryside, it is surprising that there are few articles examining this environment, person, and resilience nexus. This thesis addresses this omission by exploring the development of resilience in two cohorts of single, older women, living on their own in rural Australia. Accordingly, an ethnographic study was conducted in a small Australian town in 2012. Documentary evidence, participant observation, and interviews captured the separate and intersecting environment and person related contributors to resilience, mediated and moderated through situational relations over time. The results revealed the persistence and reinforcement of rural historical cultural stereotypes about older women, and the systematic exclusion of younger women retirees who chose to move to the town but did not fit these embedded cultural norms. When confronted with a societal attitude that socially constrains their social identity and role, and boxes them in, the older old women pragmatically accepted their situation, and successfully adapted to their new circumstances. For them, resilience is a reactive response to regain and maintain equilibrium in their lives. Conversely, the late middle-aged retirees were boxed out from actively participating and contributing to the community; for these women, resilience is equated to resignation and endurance. And as there is a symbiotic relationship between a town and its residents, this community represents a constraining force, both in terms of its stalled response to sociodemographic and structural change, and its passive indifference to the older women as exemplars of resilience. In effect, the community exerts an oppressive, dampening effect on the women's agentic resiliency; thus contradicting the prevailing literature where resilience is widely portrayed as a positive and active agentic concept.
Supervisor: Leeson, George W. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Older women--Australia--Social conditions ; Gerontology--Australia ; Resilience (Personality trait) ; Community psychology ; Australia--Rural conditions ; Australia--Social conditions--21st century