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ERIC Number: ED513893
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 273
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1096-0889-2
Love and Literacy: What Happens in Couples when the Woman Learns to Read
Garland, Rebecca J.
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Harvard University
Approximately fourteen percent of English-speaking Americans are functionally illiterate. Given this high figure, it is important to understand the barriers that undereducated adults face when they decide to return to school to improve their literacy skills. This qualitative study examines spousal support as one of these barriers. Through semi-structured interviews with twelve heterosexual couples where the woman is enrolled in an adult literacy program, explore my participants understandings of the relational dynamics that enable the woman to persist with her schooling. I address the following research questions: (1) How do women literacy learners and their partners understand the woman's pursuit of literacy education? (2) How do women literacy learners and their partners describe support? (3) How is support negotiated between women literacy learners and their partners? Because of the dearth of existing research on this topic, I apply a grounded theory approach to my data collection and analysis. I identify three issues that partners face that make it challenging for them to support each other through the woman's transition from home to the literacy classroom. These are: past negative childhood experiences in school, past experiences with violence, and established gender role patterns that can make the woman's pursuit of education destabilizing to the relationship. Through an analysis of these three challenges, I conclude that literacy learning is an enormous undertaking that holds within itself the possibility to alter not only a couple's material circumstances but their interaction patterns as well. The transformational potential of literacy may affect status arrangements within the family and lead to stresses that make it difficult for partners to support each other. In learning to read, the woman is challenging systems of power that would keep her dependent, and couples are often unprepared to deal with the feelings that are evoked as she unwittingly confronts these power structures within her own family. Based on these findings, I present a preliminary theory of spousal support that emphasizes the importance of mutuality. I conclude with recommendations for classroom interventions and suggestions for future research. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Adult Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A