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December 12, 1996
Book by Southampton Professors Examines Self-Esteem, Gender

Contact: Jane Finalborgo or Joe Dionisio
(516) 287-8313

Self-identity is an evolving, dynamic process that continues into later adulthood for men and women, according to a new book published by two professors at Southampton College of Long Island University. Deborah Y. Anderson and Christopher L. Hayes have released Gender, Identity and Self-Esteem: A New Look at Adult Development, based on research they gathered in the last two and a half years at the College's National Center for Women and Retirement Research.

A primary discovery is that one's self-identity evolves well into later adulthood. This finding directly contradicts theories based in the 1940s and 1950s claiming identity is crystallized at later stages of adolescence. The book may encourage psychologists and sociologists to re-examine what constitutes growth and identity. "We are constantly changing as we grow older," said Hayes, a Psychology Professor and Director of the Master's Program in Gerontology. "We can always find the ability to reconstitute our identity, regardless of life's obstacles. This is a cutting edge perspective which says that age is not as relevant in the development of one's identity as original studies stated."

One case study cited in the book focused on "Marge," who quit high school half a century ago after getting pregnant. In a scenario typical of those who return to school in mid-life, education brought a self-awareness of her own potential. Marge got her B.A. at age 50, and at 70 earned her doctorate from UCLA.

"She found inspiration through educational life-ties," said Dr. Hayes. "This finding is a boon to my young students as well. It lets them recognize they don't have to accomplish their goals all at once. Too often they feel that windows of opportunity come once in a lifetime." Gender, Identity and Self-Esteem: A New Look at Adult Development (Springer Publishing Co.) also asserts there are more similarities than differences between the sexes. "Life-ties such as friendship, marriage, education and work have equal significance for men and women," said Hayes. Gender-specific personal stories bring the text to life and help illustrate the major findings of Drs. Anderson and Hayes.

Dr. Anderson, NCWRR's Associate Director of Research, is Assistant Director of the Gerontology Master's Program, and has a doctorate in Developmental Psychology and Gender Studies. In 1993, she and Hayes co-authored Our Turn: Women Who Triumph in the Face of Divorce. She was a member of the NCWRR research team that designed two national surveys for financial institutions on gender, financial knowledge and pre-retirement planning. In 1988, Dr. Hayes established NCWRR, the nation's first academic unit to focus on the pre-retirement needs of mid-life women. Under his leadership, it has received over $2 million in governmental and corporate support. He has authored many articles and books on aging. Each author is available to the media. Please call the Public Relations Office at (516) 287-8313 for interviews or photographs.

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