Citation
Welfare, self-esteem and feminist insights

Material Information

Title:
Welfare, self-esteem and feminist insights
Creator:
Zisman, Joni
Place of Publication:
Denver, Colo.
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
117 leaves : ; 28 cm

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Degree:
Master's ( Master of Social Science)
Degree Grantor:
University of Colorado Denver
Degree Divisions:
Humanities and Social Sciences Program, CU Denver
Degree Disciplines:
Social Science
Committee Chair:
Everett, Jana M.
Committee Members:
Bookman, Myra
East, Jean

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Welfare recipients -- Employment -- United States ( lcsh )
Single mothers -- United States ( lcsh )
Self-esteem in women ( lcsh )
Autarchy ( lcsh )
Autarchy ( fast )
Self-esteem in women ( fast )
Single mothers ( fast )
Welfare recipients -- Employment ( fast )
United States ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 111-117).
Thesis:
Social science
General Note:
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Joni Zisman.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
40326418 ( OCLC )
ocm40326418
Classification:
LD1190.L65 1998m .Z57 ( lcc )

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Full Text
WELFARE, SELF-ESTEEM AND FEMINIST INSIGHTS
by
Joni Zisman
B.A. University of Colorado, 1991
M.S.S. University of Colorado, 1998
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Social Science
1998


This thesis for the Master of Social Science degree
by
Joni Zisman
has been approved
by
Date


Zisman, Joni Rae (Master of Social Science)
Welfare, Self-Esteem, and Feminist Insights
Thesis directed by Professor Jana Everett
ABSTRACT
The political road to the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 generated a renewed
discourse on public assistance programs and then participants. Specifically,
single parents who are overwhelmingly women, and aid to assist them, have been
the targets of welfare reform. Across the country public and private efforts to get
welfare recipients to work as quickly as possible are beginning to address the
inevitable questions: Why arent they able to financially support their families
without public assistance, and what do they need in order do so? The range of
answers and perspectives from which to explore these questions is vast and
complex but also vital to the creation of supportive services to help TANF
recipients achieve self-sufficiency. Psychological constructs such as self-esteem
are frequently alluded to as factors in obtaining economic self-sufficiency. In an
attempt to better understand the how best to assist welfare recipients in finding
good jobs, The Center for Womens Employment and Education (CWEE), a
private, not-for-profit job training program for welfare recipients, implemented a


program evaluation component. As part of the evaluation project, a quantitative
pre- and post-self-esteem measure was administered to program participants.
Upon analysis of the data, it was agreed that the data, although statistically
significant and indicating a positive relationship between the program and
increased self esteem, had not produced a meaningful understanding of the
relationship between self-esteem and self-sufficiency. Invoking the perspectives
of postmodernism, feminism, and both quantitative and qualitative research
methods, this thesis aims to explore the construct of self-esteem and the
relationship between this construct and economic self-sufficiency from the
perspective of poor single mothers.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Signed|
Jana Everett


DEDICATION
Id like to dedicate this thesis to my mother, the first of many single parents to
teach me about possibility, hope, strength and self-esteem.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Id like to acknowledge the numerous women who have helped me re-
construct my own understanding of self, self-esteem, self-sufficiency and for
helping me to see my own perspective over the past three years. Specifically, Id
like to thank all of the participants of the Center for Women Employment and
Education, (CWEE) especially Donna Gonzalez from whom Ive learned so
much, as well as the staff, especially Kimberly Shepard, Laurie Harvey, and
Angela Jones for all their support and help.
Id also like to thank Drs. Jana Everett and Myra Bookman for challenging
me and introducing me to so many new and useful concepts, for their support
throughout this project, and for their guidance as feminists, and to Steve Koester
for sharing his expertise.
Thanks also to Jean East for all of her assistance, to Owen Murdoch for his
willingness to help me and be an un-official committee member, and to Beth
Sanchez for being an intellectual and spiritual sounding board.


CONTENTS
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.......................................10
Feminist Theory and Praxis..................... 10
Welfare Reform...................................12
Center for Womens Employment and Education......14
Self-Esteem......................................23
Research Methods.................................24
Arrangement of the Thesis........................25
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE............................26
AFDC/TANF....................................... 26
Self-Esteem and Welfare......................... 34
3. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES............................38
Feminism: A Brief Overview...................... 38
Ethical Considerations.......................... 40
Feminist Interpretations of the Welfare State... 42
Feminism and Knowledge Production
47


What is Self-Esteem?
49
THE QUANTITATIVE APPROACH.................................... 51
Theoretical Issues.................................. 51
Hypotheses.......................................... 52
Research Participants............................... 52
Research Design..................................... 55
Measurement......................................... 56
Results............................................. 58
Discussion.......................................... 61
5. THE QUALITATIVE APPROACH............................... 64
Theoretical Issues...................................64
Research Design......................................67
Sampling.............................................70
Current Recipient Focus Group.................71
Former Recipient Focus Group.................72
Setting..............................................73
The Data.............................................74
Discussion......................................... 75
Construct: Self, Putting Self First...........76
Construct: Influence of Others
80


Construct: Kids
81
Kids and Money......................83
Construct: Money, Welfare and Work........84
Construct: Goal Setting...................91
Construct: CWEE...........................93
Construct: Encouragement..................96
6. CONCLUSION..........................................97
APPENDIX................................................... 103
BIBLIOGRAPHY
104


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Now I work for what I got,... and thats just self-esteem to me, working hard,
seein what you accomplished.
For this thesis, I embarked upon the project of developing a better
understanding about self-esteem and the often alluded to and little explored
relationships between self-esteem and welfare receipt, and self-esteem and work.
Because I work at a not-for-profit job training program for single parent recipients
of welfare, my specific area of interest was welfare reform. This thesis is the
result of this project, and the research I conducted was designed to better
understand if and how self-esteem can assist women in keeping their families out
of poverty without the assistance of government sponsored programs. To explore
these questions, I employed techniques from positivism and postmodernism, and
both quantitative and qualitative research methods, using feminism as my
theoretical guide.
Feminist Theory and Praxis
Traditional views on the relationship between theory and praxis in modem
social discourse see the two as distinct venues for change. Apart from the fixed
10


binarism that seems inherent in this relationship, the problem is augmented by the
idea that the goals of one can seem too disparate from those of the other to blend
the useful tenets each has to offer (Patai, 1991). I argue that the relationship
between the high theory located within the walls of the academy and practical
activist work being done at a grassroots level is complex, and that one can often
seem inaccessible to the other. However, if we operate based on the notion that
social theory exists only in theory, or that practice is defined only by visible
activism, theory becomes nothing more than gibberish and practice can in the end
refute its own goals.
The use of postmodern discourse has been one way that social theorists
have attempted to address the gap between theory and praxis. Through the use of
tools such as deconstructionism the social world can be viewed in ways that
abandon the dualistic approach that tends to problematize the relationship
between theory and praxis. Postmodern feminist theory in particular has offered,
among other benefits to the social sciences in general, innovative ways of
beginning to bridge this gap. Feminist postmodern discourses provide interesting
frameworks for using an explicit, albeit broadly defined theoretical lens, or
ontology, to expose grand systems of belief, (East, p. 3 in press) in this case
patriarchal beliefs that are manifested in the management of the welfare state, and
grass-roots, practical strategies employed to challenge these manifestations by
helping women escape poverty. Feminist theory attempts to open new space for
placing womens voices at the center, and not in margins, of social discourse.
I have spent the last three years going through a process of change,
transition and growth, as a researcher, an academic, a woman, a feminist and a
social activist. The process of writing this thesis is also the process of reflecting
upon how my thoughts about poor women, welfare, self-esteem, feminism(s),
and social activism have changed. As a result, my work and my research
11


questions, designs and instruments have also changed along the way. I borrowed
from theoretical perspectives and research paradigms that allow for changes in
methodology, and that view the researcher as a research participant as well as an
observer. While I was once interested in whether and how self-esteem affected
self-sufficiency, I now wonder what self-esteem and self-sufficiency really mean.
I am perhaps ending this process with more questions than I originally had, and
while empirical science may seek a more deductive approach to understanding
social behavior, there are also existing frameworks that regard the emergence of
new questions as the development of new knowledge. The unfolding of a new
ontology has helped me see how theory and practice can be used in partnership
with one another for the betterment of the human condition.
Clearly reframing the binary theory/praxis, locating a crossroads of sorts
between the two, and including womens voices in the center of social science is
beyond the scope of this masters thesis. However, borrowing from postmodern
feminist theory and from the experiences Ive had over the past three years
working for a local grassroots agency where, because womens voices are the only
voices, they are at the center, I will examine the psychological construct of self-
esteem in the context of welfare reform.
Welfare Reform
The political road to the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) (P.L. 104-193) of 1996, more
commonly known as welfare reform, has generated a renewed discourse on
public assistance programs and the people who seek this assistance. Specifically
12


welfare reform has singled out one parent families, which are overwhelmingly
headed by women, and public assistance programs designed purportedly for their
benefit. In the state of Colorado, as of October 1,1997 ninety-five percent of
single parent households that received a cash grant were headed by women
(Colorado State Department of Human Services, 1997).
The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, which
replaces Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), changes the welfare
state in the United States in a number of significant ways. First and foremost, the
new law eliminates the entitlement to AFDC/TANF, meaning that states
determine eligibility for cash assistance. Secondly, the law provides states with
block grants partially based on meeting their work participation rates. In other
words, a state that fails to place recipients in work related activities will be
fiscally penalized in the forthcoming year. This could feasibly cause conflicting
goals, resulting in departments of social services weighing work participation
rates equally if not above the needs of the individual recipients. Lastly, and
perhaps most relevant to this thesis, the PRWORA places strict time limits (5 year
lifetime maximum and 24 consecutive-month limit) on receiving assistance.
People have a total of sixty cash grants available to them over their lifetime,
limited to no more than twenty-four consecutive months of receiving assistance
and not participating in a work related activity.
The ramifications of the new law will not be fully understood in Colorado
until recipients time clocks begin to wind down and people find themselves with
no governmental recourse for financial assistance. The implementation of welfare
reform on July 1, 1997 has had departments of social services, welfare recipients,
service providers and community members anxiously wondering how to get
people to work as quickly as possible. With the impending time limits and
vanishing entitlement, welfare recipients must find work more quickly than ever,
13


and practitioners must find ways to meet this increased need and explore varying
strategies for helping recipients transition into the work force.
Across the country people involved with public and private efforts to get
TANF recipients to work as quickly as possible are beginning to ask the little
explored questions, why arent single mothers able to support their families
financially and what do single mothers need in order to successfully go to work
full time? The range of answers and perspectives from which to explore these
questions is vast, complex, and vital to the creation of supportive services to help
as TANF recipients find work. For those interested in helping single mothers beat
the clock, something immediate and pragmatic is needed, from (among others)
researchers and practitioners.
Center for Womens Employment and Education
I have had the opportunity to observe hundreds of single-parents work
toward achieving self-sufficiency while working at the Center for Womens
Employment and Education (CWEE) over the past three years as both the
Transition and Evaluation Specialist. The agency is a Denver based non-profit
that has been in business since 1982, and got its start from a model program
based in San Antonio, Texas. In 1972, a grass-roots organizer and nun named
Lupe Anguiano organized hundreds of welfare recipients who then protested the
welfare system by refusing their welfare checks and demanding job training and
jobs. The community responded, including local employers, government
agencies, and private funding sources. CWEE grew out of this grass roots model,
and continues to maintain its philosophy (Harvey, 1993). CWEEs mission is to
14


provide realistic programs to help single parents avoid, get off, and stay off of
welfare through developing the skills and attitudes necessary to obtain continuous,
meaningful employment.
The programs funding currently comes from both public and private
funds, roughly half of the total budget from each source. The public funding
comes from the Mayors Office of Employment and Training (MOET), which are
funds filtered down from the soon to be defunct federal Jobs Training Partnership
Act (JTPA) funds. The other half of the budget comes from grants from
foundations and corporations, and donations from individuals and philanthropic
organizations. The agency provides a wide range of services to constituents,
including outreach, job skills training, soft skills training, computer training, job
search, and one-year follow-up. Participants are required to dress professionally
during their time at CWEE, and there is a boutique of donated professional
clothes available at no cost to all participants.
The agencys niche lies in training people for primarily clerical, customer
service and other office support jobs. CWEEs staff and board of directors realize
that this is just one of many venues for finding meaningful work and supports
other community-based organizations (CBOs) in their job training and placement
efforts by referring women who choose other career paths, such as the trades, to
training elsewhere, and by participating in numerous coalitions of CBOs. Laurie
Harvey, the agencys Executive Director for the past 13 years has established and
encouraged the procurement of relationships with other agencies such as
Departments of Social Services in Denver, Adams, Arapahoe and Jefferson
counties, other non-profit and community based organizations too numerous to
list here, mental health and substance abuse treatment centers, and the criminal
justice system to name only a few, and private sector employers. As a result,
15


CWEE is well connected, well known and well positioned as a model for welfare
reform.
The program is divided into four main components. The Career
Opportunities for Realistic Employment (CORE) portion of the program is held
Monday through Friday, from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM for six weeks. In this
segment, participants spend two hours per day working on basic reading, writing
and math skills for the business world, and two hours learning basic computer
skills. The other four hours per day are spent on interest, skill and personality
assessments, researching the local labor market, resume construction and writing
cover letters, job shadowing people working in their field of interest, and
practicing interview skills. For those who need it, they also spend this time
focusing on personal growth and development in their individual area of need. An
Obstacle Assessment is completed by each participant to suggest possible
obstacles to employment. Program staff, with the involvement of other
community based organizations, act as advisors for issues that can impede
employment, such as inadequate housing, legal issues, time management skills,
self-esteem, domestic violence, and substance use or abuse.
Every Wednesday afternoon is dedicated to spending time resolving these
obstacles, and participants with similar obstacles resolve them together, with the
assistance of program staff, case managers, or counselors. CWEE also works
closely with Project Wise, a local non-profit that offers counseling and support for
women of low incomes who are transitioning from welfare to work. Project Wise
was founded in 1995 to help single mothers empower themselves. Dt. Jean East,
who also co-conducted the qualitative research in this thesis and is a member of
my committee, is a co-director along with Sue Kinney, of Project Wise and
supervises interns from the University of Denver social work programs. The
interns generally run the groups on site at CWEE, which are available to women
16


in all phases of the program. The groups are designed to help build self-esteem
and to offer support during this time of change.
Once participants successfully complete CORE, they can apply for the
Advanced Computer Training (ACT) curriculum. Again, students spend forty
hours per week over a six week period of time learning general computing skills
in Microsoft Office products1 2, primarily MS Word and business skills such
as proper format of memos and letters, taking messages, and operating office
equipment. For those students who move through the curriculum more quickly,
training in MS Excel, MS PowerPoint and MS Access is offered.
Job Placement is the next phase of the CWEE curriculum. In this
component students work with CWEEs Employment Specialist to search the
local newspapers and other sources for entry level job leads in their area of
interest. Employers volunteer their time as guest lecturers and mock interviewers,
and because of the relationship CWEE has established with private sector
employers over the past fifteen years, literally hundreds of job leads are sent to the
office each week. The frustrations of looking for work are addressed, and the
Employment Specialist meets individually with all job search participants every
week. In addition to these employment related services, job seekers are
encouraged to participate in weekly support groups held by Project Wise, to
address their frustrations and fears with looking for work, and to share their
successes and aspirations.
Once employment is secured, participants, now alumnae are placed into
Project Transition, the one-year follow up component, and final phase of the
program. The Transition Specialist makes monthly phone calls to working
1 all Microsoft software was donated to CWEEs computer lab by Microsoft Corporation.
2 Because we also serve men, a large percent of whom graduate from the program, I realize that
technically I should use alumni, however because men comprise only 2% of CWEE participants, I
will use the feminine plural form.
17


alumnae to provide support and resources as needed. If an alumnae loses her job,
she invited back to the job search component until finding work again, provided
she was not terminated from her job for negative reasons. For those who are fired,
portions of the CORE curriculum are offered to help them resolve the issue that
led to their termination. During this phase of the program, staff also assists
graduates in securing child care subsidies and Medicaid from the Department of
Social Services until they are able to pay for these necessities on their own.
Participants for whom full-time work is not realistic are offered
internships, or volunteer experiences through the Community Work Experience
Program (CWEP). This program is often used for people who have little or no
prior work experience in their field of interest. This is also a viable option for
those who are faced with a mental illness or are in counseling for substance abuse,
depression, domestic violence or other personal issues. The CWEP resembles the
work-fare model, requiring that the recipient volunteer their labor twenty hours
per week in order to receive their TANF check. Participants who leave CWEE
and enter into CWEPs often report that being active is better for their self-esteem
than simply staying at home. In light of welfare reforms work related activity
mandate, the CWEP program will be expanded in Denver county, which I suspect
will have varied outcomes. Under the right circumstances, the CWEP is the
perfect solution for a person who is ready to go to work, but has a lack of prior
work experience. It can also be helpful for the person who has numerous
obstacles and needs time to work them out.
However the CWEP is not without its potential problems. There are fears
that the attempts on the part of Congress to make the workfare or CWEP position
exempt from federal worker protection laws will come to fruition, which could be
potentially disastrous to workfare participants safety. Cost is also an issue; it
costs anywhere from $700 to $2000 (Cooper, 1997) per person over a three to six
18


month period of time to administer a workfare program. The average cash grant
for a single parent and two children in 1995 was, at the low end, in the state of
Mississippi, $120 per month, and at the high end, $963 in Alaska. Colorado was
somewhere in the middle, at $357 per month (Urban Institute, 1997). Clearly,
workfare is not cheaper, and in many cases may be more expensive than the cash
assistance program. Apart from these problems, there is great concern that TANF
workfare participants will replace low wage laborers currently working.
Replacing low wage laborers with free labor will displace the working poor, and
create more workfare participants (Cooper, 1997).
The CWEP is just one alternative at CWEE, and we normally place people
in agencies with which we are familiar. Of the 30 CWEPs CWEE has placed
since 1996,21 or 70% are working in full-time, unsubsidized jobs (CWEE
Program Evaluation Report). Because of our success rate, I feel the CWEP can be
a great alternative, but only if the person builds marketable skills and is treated
like an employee, with the same expectations and respect as paid employees.
Whether through a CWEP or a direct hire, welfare recipients will need to
find work faster than ever before. Practitioners will need to work with researchers
and recipients to pinpoint the factors related to successful employment and try to
provide training services in these areas identified. Because I have seen people
reach their goals of providing for their families in spite of numerous obstacles,
and because many graduates often attribute this success at least partially to
increased self-esteem, much could be learned from a better understanding of self-
esteem levels both before and after program completion. To corroborate with
empirical data the notion that there is a relationship between self-esteem and
successful exits from poverty could prove to be useful for policy and program
recommendations.
19


CWEE realized the value of data collection even prior to learning that
welfare reform would bring with it an increased need to identify and report areas
of strength and improve areas of weakness. By implementing a thorough
evaluation process, CWEE now has the ability to use the data to determine which
particular aspects of its programming effectively meet the needs of single parents
moving into employment, and which aspects do not. Equipped with this
information, CWEE has created a system for identifying areas of need and making
modifications to the curriculum to ensure that programming accomplishes the
agencys mission. In effort to keep up with welfare reform, as well as to inform
staff of what aspects of our program are effective for whom, and what areas
require modification, in 1995 CWEE took the first step toward incorporating an
evaluation component into the program.
In 1995 CWEE received a grant from the Urban Institutes Transitions
From Welfare to Work small grants program to implement an Evaluation, Impact
and Response program evaluation model and data collection mechanism. The
purpose of collecting these data is primarily to determine whether we can attribute
our participants success in obtaining full time employment to our programming,
if so for whom, and in what ways. While program evaluation is the main goal of
this project, data relevant to non-programmatic factors possibly leading women
from welfare to work, such as self-esteem, are also collected.
Successful CWEE graduates frequently discuss increased self-esteem as a
predominant factor in their ability to exit the welfare rolls and find meaningful,
well-enough paying work. In an attempt to explore this idea more empirically, we
began to administer a pre- and post- self-esteem measure to program participants
as part of the program evaluation project. A quantitative approach to exploring
the idea of self-esteem affecting self-sufficiency was chosen for a number of
20


reasons, most notably feasibility, staff resources, perceived validity and reliability,
and the recommendation of Ph.D. consultants on the program evaluation project.
Upon analysis of the data, we found a statistically significant, positive
relationship between program participation and levels of self-esteem. However,
the findings did not help us better understand the relationship between self-esteem
and economic self-sufficiency. I attribute this to three main factors: the methods
employed; a misunderstanding of the meaning of self-esteem in this particular
context; and the instrument used to measure self-esteem. In this case the construct
of self-esteem stripped of context is useless, and quantitative methods did not lend
themselves well to understanding contextually derived meanings in this instance.
Since 1996, when data collection for the Urban Institute funded program
evaluation component began, CWEE has provided job training and supportive
services to 317 single parents, 310 (or 98%) of whom were women. Other
demographic data on CWEE program participants from January, 1996 to
December, 1997 are displayed in the tables below:
Ethnicity Number Percent of Total
HfepaHie/Lafiaa 145 45.74%
Biack/Afncafl American 91 28.71%
Wfcte/Aaglo 54 17.03%
American Indian / 14 4.42%
Unknown 10 3.15%
Asian American . 3 0.95%
Table 1.1 Ethnicity
21


Highest Level of Education Completed Number Percent of Total
&igb School Graduate 136 42.90%
123 38.80%
Uakaowa 24 7.57%
17 5.32%
SaausCoBege 12 5.36%
CoSegr tJraduate 2 0.63%
Assotiftteglteg*** 2 0.63%
Voeafieaai Education 1 0.32%
Table 1.2 Highest Level of Education Completed
Mean Median
NtaaherofCldidrai 2.15 2
Table 1.3 Number of Children
Marital Status Number Percent of Total
Hn£e, never worried 170 54%
Separated 72 23%
Divorced 48 15%
lMaw*w 24 8%
Widowed 3 1%
Table 1.4 Marital Status
Main Source of Income Number Percent of Total
AFDC & Food Stamps 248 78.23%
Vahaovin 24 7.57%
Food Stamps Only 30 9.46%
Aj^licaB4teAFj>C 4 1.26%
3 0.95%
i'aewplojweat 3 0.95%
2 0.63%
1 0.32%
Family 1 0.32%
Child Support 1 0.32%
Table 1.5 Sources of Income
22


Of the 317 single parents who started the program since January, 1996,
240, or 78% completed. Of those graduates, 168, or 70% are already working.
An additional 39 participants are still in a training component of the program. We
estimate that at least 27, or 70% of these students will be working by February of
1998. The average placement wage of CWEE participants starting work in 1996
was $6.90 per hour, and the median wage was $7.50. In 1997 as of December 1,
the mean starting wage has been $8.02 per hour, with the median wage being
$8.00. This translates to approximately $16,702 annually, which is twice the
amount a single mother with two children received with full TANF and Food
Stamp benefits, only $7488. What we need to understand from these data are,
what is it about CWEE that helps women achieve this success? How can we
assist those we are not currently able to help? What are the factors that contribute
to success in finding work?
Self-Esteem
Psychological constructs such as self-esteem and self-efficacy have been
noted by social scientists as having a relationship to welfare receipt and economic
self sufficiency, the ability to persevere after performance failure, and finishing
school (Goldsmith, et al 1997; Goodman et al, 1994; Krause, 1996; Kunz &
Kalil, in press; Prause & Dooley, 1997). Some social scientists have asserted that
being on welfare itself can have deleterious effects on a persons self-esteem
(Mead, 1992), and feel that efforts should be focused on welfare prevention as a
path to psychological well being. While this approach may be effective for some
23


people, to offer the elimination of welfare as a means of promoting high self-
esteem is preposterous as an intervention strategy. What cannot be overlooked is
that single mothers who receive welfare are more susceptible to a disproportionate
likelihood of experiencing depression than their working, low-income
counterparts (Kunz, et al, in press). If this is true, and if, as the literature suggests,
there is a relationship between working and high self-esteem, (Goldsmith, et al.
1997; Prause et al., 1997) psychological health and self-esteem need to be
addressed in conjunction with other types of welfare reform efforts such as job
training.
Drawing on the theoretical framework of postmodern feminism, I argue in
this thesis that the notion of self-esteem as was measured on the quantitative scale
used at CWEE is not comprised of the same elements that welfare recipients
themselves use to construct their own sense of self-esteem. In other words,
whatever it is that we measured on the Texas Social Behavior Inventory (TSBI)
does not accurately reflect the notion of self-esteem that recipients point to as
being at least partially responsible for their ability to transition into full-time work
outside the home and still maintain their households and care for their children.
Research Methods
I used both quantitative and qualitative methods in this project, although
that was not the original design. The project was initially going to involve only
quantitative methods, which were selected for a number of reasons. Most
research conducted in psychology invokes the empirical method and utilizes
24


quantitative methods concurrently. As our evaluation project was still in its
infancy at the time we selected the method and instrument to measure self-esteem,
we opted for what we perceived as the mainstream, safe and reliable method.
We administered the TSBI to all CWEE students participating in the program
evaluation project (83% of all participants) using a Pre-test Post-test design. The
TSBI was first administered after enrollment but prior to starting the program
(Time I), and then again at program exit (Time II). I hypothesized that Time II
self-esteem scores would be higher on average than Time I scores. While my
hypothesis was substantiated by the data, I learned little from the data about why
CWEE is good for self-esteem or how self-esteem can be increased.
I began to question the construct of self-esteem as was measured by the
TSBI, which led me to believe that perhaps the approach I was taking was
backward. I had decided what self-esteem meant prior to conducting the research,
and then measured it, instead of first figuring out what our program participants
were talking about when they discussed their self-esteem. Qualitative research
offers a variety of ways to use inductive approaches to answering research
questions, and a grounded theory approach is perhaps the most common of these
techniques (Strauss & Corbin, 1994). It allows for alternative perspectives and
ideas about a topic that may have different culturally constructed meanings, from
the perspective of the informant and not just the researcher. I conducted two
focus groups to look into the construct of self-esteem a little further.
25


Arrangement of the Thesis
There are a total of six chapters in this thesis. The first chapter was the
introduction you just read. The next chapter will provide a review of the literature
on both AFDC/TANF and self-esteem. Chapter 3 is dedicated solely to theory,
feminist theory in particular. In this chapter I provide the reader with a brief
overview of feminism in general, address some areas of tension in feminism and
then discuss feminist interpretations of welfare and social science. This provides
the theoretical framework for the entire thesis. Chapter 4 includes the quantitative
methods, research design and analysis section of the thesis. I explore various
angles of the data from the TSBI and attempt to derive meanings useful for
CWEE. In Chapter 5 I discuss the qualitative methods, design, and data for
further investigation of the topic of self-esteem and CWEE and self-esteem, work
and welfare. Chapter 6 is a brief conclusion, advocating for more cross-over
between theoreticians and practitioners.
26


CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter will provide an overview of Aid to Families with Dependent
Children (AFDC) and the new program that replaces AFDC in lieu of welfare
reform, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). I will focus primarily
on employment related issues for recipients of this public assistance program,
such as realistic employment opportunities, job training efforts, child care, and
reasons recipients do not work. Practitioners interested in helping recipients find
work have looked not only at job related skills, but also personal factors related to
successful job entry, such as self-esteem and depression.- The literature on self-
esteem and welfare receipt, while sparse, tends to support the idea that being on
welfare contributes to low self-esteem and depression. In this chapter I explore
the existing literature relating welfare to self-esteem, and I also challenge the
construct of self-esteem used by the social scientists cited in the literature review.


AFDC/TANF
The current discourse on welfare reform and single motherhood is visible
in the political arena, the mass media, and scholarly literature, as well as in daily
conversations throughout the United States. Recipients are targeted as agents
responsible for draining the national budget because they are too lazy to work.
And while so much attention is being paid to the welfare or single mother
question, in the literature there is a noticeable lack of practical solutions to this
social problem. The most obvious solution to the problem is to assist those who
can work in obtaining full-time employment. This notion drove the passage of
welfare reform in 1996; however, the debate on how to achieve this goal is
perhaps more controversial than the welfare question itself. The new law
encourages work through a fear based model, imposing strict time limits and
lifetime caps on receiving assistance.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act
(PRWORA) of 1996 changes the welfare system in the United States in a number
of fundamental ways. First of all, the federal entitlement to individuals was
eliminated with welfare reform. In practical terms, this means that the main
responsibility for the administration of welfare has been transferred from the
federal to state governments. States can now determine eligibility criteria,
establish benefit levels, design work programs, and make all decisions regarding
supportive services, such as child care assistance. States now have total authority
in deciding whether legal immigrants, convicted drug felons, and additional
children bom to TANF recipients will be eligible for assistance.
Funds will be allocated to states in the form of block grants, which replace
the open-ended annual reimbursement of expenses from the federal government to
28


states under AFDC. These funds will be allocated with significant federal
restrictions, most critical in relation to the topic of this thesis being time limits:
families can receive TANF no more than 24 consecutive months without
participating in an approved work activity and 80% of all households will be
limited to receiving a maximum of five years worth of TANF over their lifetime.
Other important changes are that assistance will be denied to families who refuse
to cooperate with paternity establishment, unless they fall under the good cause
exemption category, most often used for survivors of domestic violence, and no
assistance will be provided for parents under the age of eighteen who are not
attending school or living in an adult supervised setting (Mayors Welfare Reform
Task Force, 1997). These strict time limits and the elimination of the entitlement
reflect the philosophical underpinnings of Congress, which I will contend in
Chapter 3 have more to do with maintaining the patriarchal structure and less to
do with balancing the federal budget. This is perhaps most succinctly stated in the
second line of the actual law, (P.L. 104-193) which states that marriage is the
foundation of a successful society (emphasis mine). There have also been efforts
to help recipients find meaningful work, or understand why they are not working,
that are not driven solely by the idea that marriage is the glue of society. The next
section will explore the literature that attempts to explain why single mothers
receiving assistance do or do not work.
The Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program was initiated in
1988 under the Family Support Act as a way to remedy the welfare problem by
emphasizing education and training related to employment. The success of JOBS
programs in different states has varied; in some instances it was successful in
reducing long-term dependency, in others it failed (Gueron, 1995). The welfare-
to-work mentality of simply rectifying the situation by getting recipients jobs
makes a number of assumptions, such as; a) there are jobs, b) welfare recipients
29


are qualified candidates and c) the jobs recipients can secure pay well enough to
sustain a familys basic needs. This mentality also fails to consider women with
children who have special needs and require more of their time, or women who
take care of elder family members, which can also require single mothers to leave
their jobs.
Contrary to the opinion of some factions of the public, AFDC and Food
Stamps alone are insufficient means to sustain a family headed by a single parent.
Kathryn Edin (1991) conducted a study in which she documented the income and
expenses of AFDC recipients. Through interviewing recipients in Chicago, she
learned that an overwhelming number of respondents combined other sources of
income with AFDC in order to make ends meet. These alternative sources of
income included assistance from family and friends, child support (in some cases),
working under the table for cash, as well as various forms of participation in the
underground economy, in extreme cases even using theft, drug selling and
prostitution as a means of survival. Her results indicate that AFDC and Food
Stamps alone are far from adequate income to sustain a household. In fact she
found in her sample of AFDC recipients that after paying for rent and food, they
had an average of $10 left each month for all other expenses (Edin, 1991).
More recent data presented by the National Organization for Women
(1995) shows that in 1995 the national average monthly grant allocation for a
parent with two children was $393. This size family also qualifies for an
additional $252 a month in food stamps, bringing their monthly income to a total
of $645 a month. Because only 10 percent of AFDC families receive housing
subsidy (NOW Home Page, Feb. 6,1995), housing assistance is not worked into
this figure. If one were to break down the total monthly income into a weekly
budget for this family of three, it would be as follows (allowing for an average of
4.3 weeks in a month): food $58.61; housing $69.77; utilities $5.25; all else
30


$16.38 (National Organization for Women, Home Page, 1995). While these data
reveal the extreme poverty in which recipients and their children live, they are still
seen as lazy and trying to get something for nothing, often being accused of
having more children to increase their monthly cash allowance, even though this
has been disputed by many researchers (Rank, 1994; Smith and Stone, 1989).
While these perceptions are well documented, the literature suggests that
recipients are by no means living in luxury.
Apart from the fact that AFDC is an insufficient means to provide for a
family, the stigma associated with being a recipient can be denigrating. Mark
Rank (1994) used qualitative methods to study the perceptions that recipients have
about welfare. The study included, among other topics, questions regarding
recipients perceptions of how they are viewed by the public. Predictably,
recipients were painfully aware of the stigma associated with receiving AFDC,
and often went out of their way to avoid being identified as recipients. Sherri
Caldwell (1990, p. 25) noted in a discussion of her observations of assisting
welfare recipients through job training, that ...the most important thing I had to
teach these women, [...], was how to create a positive self-image. I was told ahead
of time that my students would need far more nurturing and praise than the
average student... I find this comment patronizing, because I dont know what
the average student is. The statement does, however, illustrate the stigma
attached to welfare receipt.
What then, is the incentive to stay on a system that works so poorly, keeps
people in poverty, and denigrates those who rely on it? Perhaps, as the literature
suggests, it is less an issue of desire to work (or lack thereof), and more one of the
realities of the job market, the economy, and the additional expenses of being
employed. In Edins (1991) study, respondents estimated that they would need to
earn between $7 and $10 per hour to be completely independent of the system.
31


Their estimate has been corroborated by social scientists (Jenks and Edin, 1991).
Data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey of 1984-85 revealed that the
working single mothers expenses were much higher than those of the non-
working single mother. The additional expenses were noted as health care,
clothing, transportation and child care, totaling $2800 (1991 dollars) annually for
the working single mother. In order to achieve the standard of living of welfare
recipients, who receive Medicaid benefits, a working single mother would need to
earn, according to 1991 calculations, between $7.50 and $9.00 per hour (Jenks
and Edin, 1991). Yet estimates predict that the average welfare recipient can
expect to earn approximately only $5.15 per hour (Edin, 1991).
Child care is the most costly of these expenses, and Jutta Joesch (1991)
examined how the cost of child care effects the paid work behaviors of AFDC
recipients. As Joesch noted, two-thirds of AFDC recipients have children under
the age of 5, meaning that full-time child care is an important factor to consider
when preparing for work. Although there are programs that provide child care
subsidies, Joesch noted that government assistance actually decreased as the cost
of child care increased over time. Joesch further substantiated this point by
conducting a study to assess the impact of rising child care costs. She found that
when the cost of child care increases by 10 cents per hour, the mother would need
to work an additional five hours to maintain the same income level, and increasing
child care by $ 1.00 per hour would equal an additional 25 hours of work for the
mother. In short, Joesch (1991, p. 164) noted that there is a substantial negative
relationship between welfare mothers work efforts and the price of child care.
Even for those who can afford to pay for child care, child illness accounts for
absenteeism from work. These absences certainly affect the number of paid hours
a mother can work, and in some cases absence leads to job termination.
32


Labor market trends over the past twenty years have illustrated a gloomy
outlook, not just for welfare recipients and the working poor, but for the middle
class as well. Danziger and Lehman (1996) attribute these economically stressed
trends to structural changes, and identify the shrinking need for unskilled workers
in the labor force. Increased global competition, declines in the unionized work
force, and fewer jobs in manufacturing and production have also contributed to
this job scarcity. Furthermore, the jobs that are available for lower skilled
workers tend to pay low wages. Because of the relatively low education level of
AFDC recipients on the whole, their job prospects in many cases do not look
good. According the Bureau of the Census Survey of Income and Program
Participation (SIPP), between June and September of 1993, only 38 percent of
AFDC recipients had completed high school (Bureau of the Census, 1993).
Danziger and Lehman (196, p. 34) suggest that far fewer than half of all welfare
mothers have characteristics that would enable them to earn their way out of
poverty without help.
Carol Dawn Peterson (1995) used existing research and data from SIPP to
identify factors that do lead single parents to welfare exit. She found that the
recipients who were most likely to quickly exit the welfare system had 12 years or
more of education, had worked 6 months or more prior to receiving AFDC, and
had children no younger than 6 years old. This data, although useful for purposes
of understanding the welfare population, does not lead to anything substantive in
the way of policy recommendations related to welfare reform.
In spite of the gloomy outlook for recipients, there is a body of work,
albeit sparse, that provides useful information and hope. The federal government
has made several attempts to implement programs that encourage work, not
welfare. In the 1980s, the Work Incentive (WIN) Program targeted single mothers
with school aged children as those who needed to look for work while receiving
33


public assistance. Discouraged by the low success rate, the Job Opportunities and
Basic Skills (JOBS) Training Program was initiated in 1988 as a part of the
Family Support Act. The mandate created through WIN was extended to women
with younger children and emphasized education and training related to
employment. While some contend that JOBS itself failed, Judith Gueron (1995)
attributes the low success rates to a number of specific factors, including a lack of
consensus of the ultimate goals, insufficient resources to make it work, and other
programmatic reasons. Gueron does not, however, attribute the disappointing
success to recipient characteristics or front-line staff of the JOBS programs
themselves.
The Institute for Family Self-Sufficiency (1994) makes a number of
recommendations to JOBS administrators that the Institute believes would
enhance the success of the program. The findings of their survey of JOBS case
managers in 22 states suggests that smaller case manager-to-client ratios are
related to recipients successfully completing job-readiness training. This research
also suggests that a contradictory message is imbedded within the federal goals:
increased size of caseloads and increased quality of service delivery. They
recommend a menu of case management approaches, most notably including low-
cost, minimal contact with job-ready participants, allowing case managers more
time to provide the harder-to-serve population with more intensive services.
Federal goals forcing case managers into enrolling those participants who are
faced with more obstacles into employment and training programs when those
faced with fewer obstacles would probably enter into work more quickly, was
identified by the Institute as a major flaw in the design of the JOBS program.
According to many experts, collaboration between government agencies
and community based organizations often leads to increased success for welfare
34


exit (Harvey, 1993; Institute for Family Self-Sufficiency, 1994; Rodriquez, 1993,)
JOBS programs and AFDC/TANF recipients and their families could benefit from
the creation of comprehensive resource directories, as some states have done.
Furthermore, if in fact a higher self-esteem level is associated with better
functioning, as indicated by numerous social scientists, (Goldsmith, et al. 1997;
Goodman, et. al., 1994; Krause, 1996; Kunz and Kalil, in press; Prause and
Dooley, 1997), then incorporating self-esteem building components into
employment and training programs might combine with job training skills toward
achieving higher success rates.
Self-Esteem and Welfare
While the majority of academic literature I found on self-esteem and
women is related to body image, body weight, and perceived attractiveness, there
is a small body of literature relating self-esteem in women to other domains, such
as school and work. Social research in general related to women is relatively
sparse compared with that of men, especially women of color and poor women
(Bing and Reid, 1996). What does exist relating self-esteem to self sufficiency
among women suggests that an increase in a womans level of self esteem is a
factor that contributes to successful welfare exit (Kunz and Kalil, in press). The
literature suggests a positive relationship between adequate employment and self-
esteem (Belle, 1990; Kunz and Kalil, in press; Nichols-Casebolt, 1986). In a
study conducted on the relationship between self-esteem levels and depression
35


among urban, African American, low income mothers, Sherryl H. Goodman
(1994) and her colleagues findings corroborate the theory that a high level of self-
esteem is essential both for personal satisfaction and for effective functioning.
That economic self-sufficiency is related to both personal satisfaction and
effective functioning is an area current literature and research regarding welfare
exit lacks. One aim of this thesis is to attempt to bring this question into the
forefront of the welfare reform discourse. The practical implications of the effects
of level of self-esteem on success in work in the context of welfare reform must
be better understood so that practitioners can address this relationship in an
attempt to prepare recipients for work.
According to the literature, poor people in general do seemingly suffer
from psychological distress at a higher rate than people with higher
socioeconomic status. Specifically, women who are unemployed, raising children
alone and/or lacking social support display high levels of depressive symptoms
(Kunz and Kalil, in press). In fact, the rate of high levels of depression among
poor or unemployed people are roughly twice that of people with middle incomes,
Belle (1990) reported rates being 29% to 48% versus 17% to 20% respectively.
For women in particular, living in poverty and needing assistance from the state
can have harmful effects on ones sense of self. The literature suggests that
many women and girls living in a sexist society often internalize such
oppressions (Catham-Carpenter and DeFrancisco, 1997).
Apart from the relationship between poverty and mental health, welfare
use and psychological wellness also appear to have a relationship. While few in
number, existing studies relating welfare use to psychological distress suggest that
welfare recipients specifically are disproportionately more likely to suffer from
depression than people not receiving assistance (Kunz & Kalil, in press). Further
support of this point can be found in Nichols-Casebolt (1986) who conducted
36


research comparing low-income mothers who did not receive welfare to those
who did. Her results indicate that welfare recipients consistently scored lower on
self-efficacy and self-satisfaction scales than their working counterparts. Prause
and Dooley (1997) conducted a study relating self-esteem to employment,
underemployment and unemployment among school leavers. Their results
indicate that self-esteem scores for unemployed and underemployed research
participants were lower than for the employed participants.
Again, the meaning of self-esteem as understood by the researcher will be
reflected in the instruments that she creates, and therefore in the data that she
collects. This does not necessarily mean that the research subjects actual level
of self-esteem is reflected in the data because it is possible that the subject sees
self-esteem very differently than does the researcher, and may attribute her level
of self-esteem to constructs not measured by the researchers instrument. I feel it
is important to look at my own understanding of self-esteem, both when I began
this project and now.
The definition of self-esteem that was used throughout the quantitative
research design planning and data collection phases of this project was taken from
Coopersmith (1967), as noted in Goodman, (Goodman, et.al. 1994, p. 261) as the
evaluation people make and maintain about themselves. Level of self-esteem
indicates the extent to which an individual perceives him or herself to be capable,
successful, and worthy. A relatively high self-esteem is considered essential both
for personal satisfaction and for effective functioning. According to the Inter-
American Foundation, self-esteem is a personal recognition of self-worth and
human dignity, and sense of one's potential to live a better life and contribute to
society (IAF, 1997). April Chatham-Carpenter and Victoria DeFrancisco (1997
p. 165) define self-esteem as ...ones feeling about who one is. These
definitions are consistent with what the general literature on self-esteem suggests
37


(Rosenberg, 1965; Tarafodi et. al., 1997; Zimmerman, et. al 1997). Also included
in the definition of self-esteem used in this project are aspects of worth and
social interaction, from Helmreich and Stapp (1974, p. 473).
The practical implications of the notion that self-esteem and psychological
health are related to work and/or successful welfare exit must be further explored,
especially in light of the passage and implementation of welfare reform. If, as is
conjectured here, a belief in ones self and abilities is related to securing and
maintaining economic self-sufficiency, welfare-to-work efforts must address this
issue. But first the question what is self-esteem must be explored. Operating
from the belief that the self, as well as self-esteem, are socially constructed ideas,
I must take a closer look at how the idea of self-esteem has been construed and by
whom.
38


CHAPTER 3
THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES
In this chapter I will invoke the insights offered by both postmodern and
feminist ontologies, or lenses, to provide the framework for this thesis. By
looking at feminist reads on what has often been referred to as the patriarchal
welfare state, (Abramaovitz, 1996; Gordon, 1990, 1992; Orloff, 1993; Pateman,
1988) I will discuss ideas not only about the alleged institutional oppression of
women, but also about the different feminisms and feminist interpretations of the
welfare state. I will also explore feminist critiques of the production of
knowledge in the social sciences, specifically psychology. Finally, I will use a
postmodern, feminist eye to explore the construct of self-esteem.
Feminism: A Brief Overview
I have used the terms feminist, feminism and feminist theory in this thesis
thus far without providing my understanding of what they mean. There are
numerous definitions of feminism, and they span the continuum from radical ideas
to more mainstream or conservative thoughts on feminism. Here I provide only a
few observations from other feminists that reflect the meaning feminism has for
39


me. These definitions of feminism were found in Amazons. Bluestockings and
Crones: a feminist dictionary, (Kramarae & Treichler, 1992).
Feminism is:
... a desire for a truly general conception of humanity
Joan Kelley (p. 158).
A method of analysis as well as a discovery of new material. It asks new
questions as well as coming up with new answers. Its central concern is
with the social distinction between men and women, with the fact of this
distinction, with its meanings, and with its causes and consequences.
Juliet Mitchel and Ann Oakley (p. 159).
It is a mode of analysis, a method of approaching life and politics, a way
of asking questions and searching for answers, rather than a set of
political conclusions about the oppression of women.
Nancy Harstock (p. 158)
" A philosophy based on the recognition that we live in a male dominated
culture in which women remain unacknowledged, and where women are
forced into sex roles which demand that they be dependent, passive,
nurturant, etc. Men too must assume sex roles [but these] are not nearly
as crippling as womens.
Irish Journal of Irishwomen United (p. 159)
Most succinctly stated and reflective of my understanding of this
perspective, from a bumper sticker of all places, is feminism is the radical notion
that women are people. I like this idea, although it is clearly over-simplified,
40


because it covers a broad range of issues without lumping all women into a single
category, apart from the category people. Diversity in feminism is as prevalent
as it is in any discourse, setting, or social sphere. Feminists differ in our race,
class, sexual orientation, culture, and gender as well as in our opinions about
feminism, what gender is, and what feminist goals are, or should be, and there is a
proliferation of literature that addresses these issues (Childers & Hooks, 1990;
Collins, 1991; Higginbotham, 1992; Mohanty, 1991; Patai, 1991; Young, 1995;).
Most relevant to this thesis is the discourse related to privilege, and the notion that
feminisms and feminists, such as myself, are not exempt from relations of power.
Ethical Considerations
As a middle income, heterosexual, White woman with a college education
and no children, working with and studying single mothers with low incomes,
roughly eighty-five percent of whom are women of color, I see the world and the
women at CWEE from a different vantage point even though as women we share
certain experiences. Western, White feminists have been criticized for failing to
recognize our position in dominant culture (Mohanty, 1991; Patai, 1991), and in
turn unwittingly reproducing some of the same oppressions that as feminists we
are working to eradicate. Discourses on the poor woman or the third world
woman have tended to homogenize and objectify large numbers of diverse
women with complex lives. This homogenization of women who are not
privileged in Western culture is based on the assumption that all women are
struggling in similar ways, against similar oppressors. But all women are not
41


united as sisters in the fight for equality. There is not one fight, and privileged
feminist scholars are not the saviors of all women. Feminists, even when
genuinely concerned with the status of women all over the world, cannot simply
enter into other peoples cultures and lives to determine whether or not they are
oppressed or empowered, dictate what needs to be done in order to improve
the conditions of their lives, and then speak on their behalf. It produces false
knowledges, and frequently re-enforces stereotypes and allegorical assumptions.
The differing voices creating this discourse in feminism can lead one to
wonder if there should there be feminism at all if we are all so different, if our
experiences as women are so disparate, and if we can actually do more damage
than good if were not careful. When considering race, ethnicity, class, sexual
orientation, and myriad other ways in which women differ, it is difficult to
determine whether or not women constitute a collective of people with common
concerns and interests. Yet there are clearly inequities based on gender in
virtually every culture, across class, race and so on, and feminism seeks to even
the playing field, regardless of other social differences.
Iris Young (1995) is one feminist theorist who has unpacked the issue of
addressing women as a single group. She borrows from Jean Paul Sartre the idea
of seriality. This philosophy attempts to distinguish between a group and a
series. According to Sartre, group members are unified, recognize themselves
as a part of that group, and share many of the same values and goals of the other
members. A series is different from a group in that ...members are unified
passively by the objects around which their actions are oriented (Young, 1995,
p.199). These objects or actions will change for different group members at
different times, and thus the nature of the series itself will change. So while all
feminists do not sympathize or empathize with, or even respect or understand
every other female, there are some experiences and objectives that we do share in
42


common. Feminism to me is not so much a way of life, or a social or political
theory about women as it is a method of analysis that is commonly used to
illuminate and remedy inequities based on gender and attempt to improve the
status of women and girls of all races, cultures, sexual orientations and so on.
As different as we are, there are common threads shared by women that
are strong enough to frame a theory of systematic, structured and institutional
oppression, and these common threads lie in the notion of women as a series, and
not as a group. Framed in this way, it is not essential that women remain a fixed
group. I use Youngs theory as a basis for discussing the serial of single mothers
with low incomes in this thesis. In her words (1995, p. 199)[t]he unity of the
series derives from the way that individuals pursue their own individual ends... in
response to structures that have been created by the unintended collective result of
past action. In this case, the collective result of past action is the welfare state.
Feminist Interpretations of the Welfare State
Welfare reform is a feminist issue for a number of reasons. First and
foremost, 95% of all TANF households in the state of Colorado are headed by
women, and according to Census data from 1992, 86% of the 11.5 million single
parent families nationally were headed by a woman (18th Annual Report, Chapter
1). A second reason that welfare reform is an issue of feminist concern is that the
welfare state was designed to keep the patriarchal family intact, even in the
absence of a head of household. The goal of ADC at the time of its inception
was to keep mothers out of the work force, encouraging them to stay at home to
43


perform domestic duties and raise children. The program was based on the
premise that a womans place is in the home and a mans place is in the rest of the
world, which are assumptions that feminism challenges.
Much has changed over the past sixty years, including the role of women
in our society, the family structure, and the philosophy of the welfare state. Since
the number of women in the work force has tripled since the 1950s, the goals of
the welfare system have become fraught with conflicting interests (Gueron, p. 7).
Because the primary focus of TANF is to prevent children from living in poverty,
income assistance is provided directly to their parents, yet public opinion
reinforces the belief that parents should work and financially support their
children. When there is only one parent, it is almost always woman, yet in the
context of the patriarchal family, women should not work. This conflict of
interests has created a debate regarding how best to meet childrens needs while
defining what public assistance should look like, and whether the United States
should give a hand out or even a hand up to families living in poverty.
Welfare reform was the battle cry of President Clintons first election
campaign and of the 104th Congress. TANF is the outcome of this political
struggle, and the program has been restructured to fit within the current political
framework. TANF is only one of the income maintenance programs whose roots
lie in the Social Security Act of 1935. The programs that were initiated as a result
of this act can be collapsed into two general categories: social insurance and
public assistance (Gordon, 1992). The social insurance programs tend to be
viewed more generously and have been traditionally more popular. An example
of a social insurance program is Unemployment Insurance, not generally seen as a
part of the welfare state, and not at all affected by the PRWORA. Public
assistance programs on the other hand, such as ADC, now TANF, are stigmatized,
44


and this program was for all intents and purposes the lone target of the most
recent restructuring of the welfare system.
Linda Gordon (1992) highlights the distinct gender and race split between
recipients of social insurance programs, who are primarily white men, and public
assistance programs, overwhelmingly serving minorities and women. This
division corresponds with the fact that public assistance programs are by far less
popular than social insurance programs. A survey regarding public opinion of
welfare spending in the United States in 1986 found that roughly 42 percent of
those surveyed felt too much was spent on welfare, while only 22 percent felt
the amount was too little (Shapiro & Young, 1989).
A feminist read on welfare reform points out that the values that led to the
enactment of the PRWORA do not accurately represent the reality of what is
occurring with families throughout todays society. Here are some of the basic
tenets behind welfare reform:
It is the sense of the Congress that (1) marriage is the foundation of a
successful society; (2) marriage is an essential social institution which
promotes the interests of children and society at large; (Contract With
America; PRWORA).
Welfare reform is the political manifestation of patriarchal judgments
being made about women who have and/or raise children on their own. It is not
family, or community, but marriage that is necessary for our society to succeed.
Distinct gender roles accompany this idea of the American patriarchal family, and
for women this role has been played out in the home, doing housework, raising
children, and caring for their husbands over the past several decades. Although
representations of women have continued to change over time, beginning in the
late 1940s women were portrayed as wives and mothers for whom, [housework
45


became] a medium of expression for ...[their] femininity and individuality
(Coontz, 1992). In reality, many women were unhappy about leaving the jobs
they occupied during World War II when they were welcomed into the workplace,
and then quickly shifted back into the proverbial kitchen as soon as the war ended,
yet portrayals of the happy homemaker prevailed in representations of family life.
The image of the 1950s sitcom White family, happily living in the serenity of the
suburbs was not an accurate representation of the way things were for most
Americans. In fact, during the mid to late 1950s poverty was a way of life for
25% of American families, and there were no Food Stamp or housing subsidy
programs to assist poor families (Coontz, 1992). Many of the values that led to
the passage of welfare reform are based on, as Stephanie Coontz (1992) put it,
the way we never were.
Western culture sends the message that women aspire to be mothers and
homemakers. While this may be true for many women, motherhood is tied to
gender in a way that accepts absent fathers and blames mothers for the breakdown
of the family. Feminist literature on representations of motherhood invokes pop
culture along with academic research as a way of pointing out the unspoken
expectations of people in our society based on gender (Coontz, 1992;
Lichtenstein, 1994; Sulieman, 1994). Feminists are challenging the idea that
women are made to bare and nurture children. Women are unquestionably
expected to raise children, regardless of their economic situation or lack of
support from the other parent of their children. Fathers, on the other hand, are not
expected to take as active a role in raising children. This became apparent to me
at CWEE whenever a father came through the program. All of the women who
attended class with a man, as well as all of the staff (including myself) let the
fathers know how wonderful we thought it was that they were raising their
children on their own. Yet women dont tell each other that, and it is equally
46


wonderful when women raise their children alone. Welfare reform has solidified
the notion that a womans place is in the home, all that has changed is that it is
also in the workplace now, too. But society does not expect men to double their
workday.
Yet it continues to remain true that both a man and a woman are necessary
to conceive a child, and many fathers today abandon their parental
responsibilities, while others are financially unable to provide for their families.
In 1989 the average annual income from child support for a single parent family
living in poverty was $1,889 (Census Bureau, 18th Annual Report). Although
there is some discussion of child support enforcement laws getting tougher, more
commonly criticized are the parents who do not abandon their children, but
require public assistance. These parents are overwhelmingly women.
Apart from the issues discussed above, many feminists have explored the
idea that the welfare system was designed to ensure a womens economic
dependence. Mimi Abramovitz (1996) offers a thorough discussion of different
feminist interpretations of the welfare state. Some feminists, liberal feminists in
particular, call for the state compensation of womens unremunerated and
important work in the home, while radical feminists see the welfare state as a
symbolic patriarchal replacement for a husband, and socialist feminists extend the
radical feminist notion to include social as well as spousal control. And even
though these critiques of the welfare state are divergent and have potentially
contradictory outcomes, the one area of agreement seems to be that welfare is not
good for women.
Seth Koven and Sonya Michel (1990) point out that women had more to
do with the creation of the welfare state in several countries, including the United
States, than historians give them credit for. Large state welfare programs began to
emerge at a time when womens reform efforts were strong, and frequently the
47


two efforts influenced each other. Known as matemalists, many feminists during
this time lobbied for the welfare and rights of women and children, and these
efforts were often taken over by the state. Matemalists struggled for gender equity
in other ways, and ...often challenged the constructed boundaries between public
and private, women and men, state and civil society (Koven & Michel, 1990).
It is important to recognize womens roles in the creation of the welfare
state as well as feminist work that often goes unrecognized. The invisibility of
women in social discourse is a problem for a number of reasons. For one,
disregarding womens roles undermines their work outside of the home and
minimizes their contributions. Secondly, if the underlying assumption about
women and the production of knowledge or the creation of a bureaucracy is that
we are uninvolved, it must also be assumed that women are passively letting men
oppress us, which is not necessarily true. Womens roles in the maintenance of
the patriarchy cannot be overlooked any more than womens struggles against the
patriarchy. And at the same time, we must realize that womens voices have been
grossly excluded from social, political, and economic discourse.
Race was not discussed in Koven and Michels paper, and Linda Gordon
(1994) points out that it was only the women who had access to any sort of
political power at the time, White, middle-class women, who contributed to the
creation of the welfare state. While many welfare activists were Black, they were
not consulted in the creation of the welfare state. If as feminists we are trying to
re-present history, or herstory more accurately, we cannot set the parameters of
our inquiries around only gender. It is a complicated theory.
48


Feminism and Knowledge Production
The theoretical perspective for social science and knowledge production in
general has been based upon the unspoken understanding of a White, male norm.
Many of the consequences of this narrow bias have been injurious to women and
people of color, and feminists psychologists have been addressing this bias for
decades now (Chodorow, 1974/1989; Gilligan, 1970, 1993; Goldberger, et al.
1996; Hare-Mustin & Marecek, 1988,1990; Mitchell, 1974). Carol Gilligan and
Nancy Chodorow are probably the most well known feminist psychologists who
have deconstructed some of the canons of psychological theory, such as
psychoanalysis and moral development. Gilligan (1995, p. 121) contends that the
dominant key in psychology [has been] the separate self; the psychologically
healthy individual acts alone and is autonomous. Yet in her own work listening to
girls and womens voices tell her about themselves, Gilligan found that women
tend to think in terms of connection, not separation, and she argues that this
characteristic of staying in relationship has been pathologized by male biased
psychological theories.
Rachel Hare-Mustin and Jeanne Marecek (1988) remind us that there are
both dangers and benefits in focusing on gender differences in psychology. On
one hand, women are not men and psychology has been criticized for imposing a
male norm onto females or viewing females as a male aberration. On the other
hand, by pointing out our differences we can ultimately, although unwittingly,
reinforce gender stereotypes that can be harmful to women. And, because
psychologys task is to produce knowledge about and explain human behavior, it
has the power to pathologize, legitimize and even institutionalize gender biased
knowledge. Psychological constructs when well received can become common
49


knowledge such as women are more nurturing and men are more logical,
therefore women should stay home and nurture the children while men go out and
use their logic to run the world and bring home the bacon. The cultural and
political implications of such common knowledge have partially driven welfare
reform efforts.
Many feminist psychologists contend that psychology has either silenced
women or given them a male voice. The psychologists who have contributed to
this silencing have been women as well as men, and we cannot overlook womens
roles in the silencing or oppression of women. And so instead of treating women
in psychology as men, or as deviant, we must begin to develop new ways of
understanding meaning, and understanding all people, male and female, who vary
in our race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, and so on. We still have a lot of
work to do in this area, and women with less access to economic resources have
perhaps been least involved with psychology and social science research (Bing &
Trotman, 1996). We need to hear from women themselves, and listen with female
biased ears if we are to learn about how women behave.
What is Self-Esteem?
The age of modernity, which brought us empirical science, functions based
on the idea of a naturally existing, objective, essential truth about human
behavior. While still dominant in the social sciences, empiricism is limited in its
ability to accept and perceive diverse views on the nature of things. In this
50


thesis, the nature of self-esteem is what I am questioning. Postmodern
interpretations of social life challenge the notion of naturally existing things, such
as a self, or in this case, a quantifiable and measurable, essential level of self-
esteem. Kenneth Gergen states that ... as one becomes increasingly aware of
multiplicity in perspective, things-in-themselves disappear from view (Gergen,
1991, p. 112). Thus, a single definition of self-esteem, especially the elements
that combine to create ones sense of self, are far more complex than a snap-shot
methodology can reflect, as even a methodology is a framework constructed by a
researcher and therefore is limiting. Over the past two years of exploring the idea
of self-esteem among welfare recipients, I can honestly say that I know far less
about what self-esteem is now than I did at the beginning of my journey.
Researchers seem content to report that self-esteem levels change or stay the
same, have a relationship with employment, or are affected by gender, but without
ever questioning the idea of self-esteem itself. The modem idea that the term self-
esteem corresponds directly with and is accurately representing a naturally
occurring component of human existence is still prevalent in psychological
studies. Theoreticians have grappled with the idea that self and sense of self are
not fixed, but again, the gap between theory and practice remains wide.
One way in which the notion of self-esteem is problematized is the idea
that the self is not a fixed being with an essential nature. Selfhood is a topic of in-
depth study in psychology and social psychology that aligns with postmodern
views of the world. By rejecting the idea of a fixed self, social scientists can
avoid the context stripping that so frequently misinforms research. According to
M.B. Smith, ...psychological accounts of selfhood have to be framed in historical
context if they are to be scientifically adequate; they cannot be timeless like the
laws of physics (p, 27). I understand this to mean that, without considering the
51


cultural or contextual factors in the lives of people, we cannot understand their
psychology, or in this case, their self-esteem.
52


CHAPTER 4
THE QUANTITATIVE APPROACH
In order to explore whether or not there is a relationship between CWEE
and self-esteem and job entry and self-esteem, we originally used a quantitative
research design. We administered the TSBI as a Pre-test Post-test and compared
the two data sets. Upon analysis of the data, we realized that, although
statistically significant, the results did not help us understand how CWEE helps
with self-esteem and for whom.
Theoretical Issues
To determine whether or not a relationship between increased level of self-
esteem and employment attainment exists, this research project was initially
guided by principles from a positivist perspective and a quantitative methodology.
Through the positivist lens, my aim was to utilize empirical science to explain a
social phenomenon and prove a point: that CWEE and work are good for self-
esteem. I believed that by following the rigor of empirical science, I would
discover some truth about the relationship between self-esteem and welfare
53


receipt and exit. According to Lastrucci (cited in Bernard, 1994, p.3), science is
...an objective, logical, and systematic method of analysis of phenomena, devised
to permit the accumulation of reliable knowledge. And because our aim was to
systematically accumulate knowledge, we chose this methodology. Using
quantitative methods was beneficial for a number of reasons; it enabled me to
attain a greater sample size while being constrained by limited staff and financial
resources, the instrument I used was deemed reliable and valid according to
standards set by the scientific community, and I was familiar with the method.
Hypotheses
With a positivist approach in mind, I constructed two hypotheses for this
project: 1) that the CWEE program would cause an increase in self-esteem scores
among program participants between Pre- and Post-tests, and 2) that program
participants who had higher levels of self-esteem upon completing CWEEs six-
week CORE curriculum would be more successful in finding full-time
employment and exiting welfare than those who had lower self-esteem scores. As
I will discuss in greater detail in the data analysis section of this chapter, the
second hypothesis became problematic for a number of interesting reasons.
54


Research Participants
All participants who started the CWEE class between January 1 of 1996
and August of 1997, volunteered to participate in the research project, and who
completed both the Pre- and Post-test are included in the study. Of the 263
possible who entered the program in the time frame stated above, 217, or 83%
provided informed consent to participate. Of this group, only 83 alumnae had
completed both pre and post self-esteem measures, and comprise the entire
sample. Problems getting Post-test data from participants, especially those who
left CWEE and did not get jobs, are part of the reason the sample is small, as well
as staff learning curves with alerting me when people left the program at the time
we first implemented the evaluation project, and the fact that none of the 24
participants in the first class of 1996 were administered the Pre-test. Of the 83
people in this sample, 62 are currently working, 4 are doing CWEPs and the other
17 left CWEE for reasons other than work.
In order to be eligible for the CWEE program, people must be single
parents with custody of at least one child under 18 years of age, not living with the
other biological parent of at least one child in the home, low-income, and
unemployed. Low-income is defined by whether prospective participants are
currently receiving or are eligible and in the process of applying for AFDC or
Food Stamps, now TANF. Eligibility status is verified by CWEE staff prior to
enrolling participants into the program. That participation in the CWEE program
is voluntary is a threat to external validity, and therefore the results may not be
generalizable to all single parent TANF recipients. It is likely that people who
volunteer to go through a job training program have different characteristics than
those who do not. A threat to internal validity is the lack of a comparison group.
55


Without comparing CWEE participants to people either involved in another
training program, or not involved in any sort of training, it is not possible to
attribute CWEEs programming to changes in self-esteem levels. We selected a
design that did not use a comparison group because of both ethical considerations
and limited resources. While this is still problematic, it is still possible to look at
changes in CWEE participants before they start the program and after they
complete it. Demographic information on the CWEE participants included in this
study is provided in the tables on the next page:
56


Ethnicity
Percent of Total
Hispaak/Latina 36%
Black/African American 34%
WhiteSAngis 25%
American Indent 5%
Table 4.1 Ethnicity
Highest Level of Education Completed Percent of Total
Hud* School <*radu*te 48%
39%
Unknown 9%
Sura* CoBcge 3%
oBe^ Graduate 1%
Table 4.2 Highest Level of Education Completed
Number of Children Mean Median
|m|:? 2.2 2
Table 4.3 Number of Children
Average Age Mean Median
29 29
Table 4.4 Average Age
Marital Status Percent of Total
Single, net er married Separated Divorced iM |g§ III SMS 55% 25% 18% 1%
Table 4.5 Marital Status
57


88%
9%
3%
Table 4.6 Sources of Income
Research Design
To study whether self-esteem increased after participation in CWEE, and
to see if those who obtained jobs had higher self-esteem than those who did not
find jobs, a static group comparison was used. Because of the limitations of
having no control or comparison group, data was collected measuring self-esteem
levels prior to program entry, and then again at program exit. This pre-
experimental design was also chosen to compensate for a lack of resources, such
as additional staff and funding necessary to conduct a truly experimental design,
as well as to alleviate the ethical problems associated with random assignment.
To measure the dependent variable, the instrument we used was the Texas Social
Behavior Inventory (TSBI), an instrument used to measure self-esteem, for both
the Pre- and Post-test.
Time I The first self-esteem measurement was self-administered when
prospective participants were determined to be eligible for the CWEE program,
prior to the first day of class. An explanation of completing the measure properly
was given and any questions the respondents had were answered.
Time II The second administration of the TSBI was also self-
administered and occurred at the time of program exit. Reasons for program exit
included work, unpaid work experience, termination due to inactivity or refusal to
58


comply with program expectations, referral to substance abuse treatment,
incarceration, relocation, pregnancy, physical or mental health conditions that
inhibit further participation, or self selection out of the program.
Self-esteem measures were all scored by computer in a custom made
database program in Microsoft Access. These scores were compared both over
time and between employed versus unemployed program alumnae to see whether
self-esteem levels increased after completing the CWEE program, and then to
determine whether or not higher self-esteem was related to the attainment of paid,
full-time employment. Data was analyzed using SPSS for Windows, ver. 6.1.3.
Measurement
The independent variable in this study was participation in the CWEE
CORE program and the dependent variable was the level of self-esteem. Changes
in level of self-esteem were measured using Pre- and Post-test data from the short
form of the TSBI (Helmreich and Stapp, 1974). This instrument was chosen due
to its brevity and because the language used is appropriate for this population.
This ratio level measure of self-esteem has been in existence since 1969, and has
been tested for measurement validity, among both women and men, and was
recommended by Ph.D. consultants employed by CWEE through the Urban
Institute grant. Because the TSBI has been noted as an objective and valid
assessment of self-esteem (Helmreich and Stapp 1974), I was initially concerned
that the main internal validity issue would be impression management, or the risk
of respondents answering in a way they think is correct, as opposed to what they
59


really feel is characteristic of themselves. This threat to internal validity was
controlled for as much as possible by providing a thorough verbal and written
explanation stating that there are no right or wrong answers, and that both
anonymity and confidentiality would be maintained. Because of other possible
threats to internal validity such as history and maturation, making differences in
Pre- and Post-Test scores, or changes in self-esteem with no control group with
which to compare, we will not necessarily be able to attribute self-esteem changes
to the CWEE program. History refers to the occurrence of events in their lives
outside of the CWEE program or unrelated to work, that contribute to a change in
self-esteem level are not easily accounted for in the data analysis. Maturation
refers to internal factors in the women that might lead to changes in self-esteem
scores, independent of their participation in CWEE.
The TSBI produces one large factor, or self-esteem score (Helmreich &
Stapp, 1974, p. 473). Each of the 16 phrases, or items on the short form has five
response options which range from not at all characteristic of me to very
characteristic of me (see Appendix). Scoring each item with 0 (zero)
representing responses associated with lower levels of self-esteem, and 4 (four)
higher levels of self-esteem, and totaling all 16 items, the final score can be
calculated, with a minimum possible score of 0 (zero) and a maximum of 64.
Self-esteem scores were then compared over time, to identify changes in self-
esteem between Time I and Time II. I had also hoped to be able to compare
scores between groups of those who entered into work and those who do not, but,
again, limitations of the design did not yield the results needed to make these
comparisons. Please see the Discussion for more specifics and possible solutions
for future research of this nature.
There were two aspects of the dependent variables I had initially hoped to
explore; 1) change in self-esteem scores from the beginning to the end of the
60


CWEE program, and 2) higher self-esteem among those with jobs compared to
those without jobs. Because, as I now know in retrospect, the second hypothesis
was not adequately measured by this research design, the data provides very little
information about causality in the relationship between self-esteem and job entry.
However, data were collected for both the first (Pre- and Post- self-esteem scores)
and the second (outcome after program exit) dependent variables. The
measurement used to address the first hypothesis, apart from participation in the
CWEE program, are the self-esteem Pre- and Post-Test scores. To test the second
hypothesis, I intended to measure self-esteem either by program participants who
complete the CWEE program attaining full-time employment, earning an hourly
wage of at least $7.003, entering into a CWEP or other volunteer work experience,
or not finding work at all.
Results
To test my hypotheses, I conducted a t-test for paired samples to test the
means for statistical significance. First I tested for significance for the entire
sample (n=83), not differentiating between whether or not the graduates obtained
work. The data are displayed in the tables on the following page:
3 In one study conducted by Catherine Edin (1991), welfare recipients estimated they would need
to earn approximately $7.00 per hour, and this has been corroborated by empirical data as the
amount needed to become economically self-sufficient (Jenks and Edin, 1991), but also takes into
consideration the support services available to Denver county welfare recipients, namely
subsidized child care and Medicaid.
61


Time N Mean Score SD C5
Pre-Test 83 40.94 6.92 .000
Post-Test 83 44.67 6.36 .000
Table 4.7 Pre- and Post-Test Means Using the t-test
These data indicate a statistically significant increase in self-esteem scores
from the start to the finish of the CWEE program, as well as upon completion.
Data demonstrating this change are displayed below:
Mean Increase N SD t-value 2-taii Si<2.
3.7262 83 6.171 5.53 .000
Table 4.8 Difference in Pre- and Post-Test Means Using the t-test
After looking at the entire samples self-esteem scores, I then looked at
those who left for work and those who left for other reasons. I received Post-Test
data from 85% of all participant who gave informed consent and left for work.
The tables below display the data for the group who left CWEE for work:
Time N Mean Score SD P<
Pre-Test 62 40.75 6.70 .000
Post-Test 62 44.66 5.64 .000
Table 4.9 Pre- and Post-Test Means Using the t-test if Left for Work
62


Increase in self-esteem level was statistically significant for this group as
well, and the table below displays the data:
Mean Increase N SD t-value 2-tail Si.
3.9032 62 6.264 4.91 .000
Table 4.10 Difference in Pre- and Post Means using the t-test if Left for Work
I received post-test data on only 32% of those graduates who left for
reasons other than work. While the sample was too small to be statistically
significant the data are presented in the tables below:
Time N Mean Score SD P<
Tx*£**i 19 41.42 6.88 .060
Post-Test 19 44.31 5.63 .060
Table 4.11 Pre- and Post-Test Means Using the t-test if did not leave for work
I then looked at the data for all CWEE participants, whether or not I had
both Pre- and Post-test data on them, but did not perform any statistical analysis
due to the 2 groups not necessarily being comprised of the same members. The
average self-esteem score for the 178 participants who completed the pre-test was
41.09. The average post-test self-esteem score for the 103 who completed the
post test was 44.18. While the post test scores are higher, of the 103 who
completed the post-test only 83 had also completed the pre-test, which was due to
the first class of 1996 not having the TSBI administered.
63


Breaking the numbers down by outcome, but again, looking only at
averages and not performing any statistical analysis, similar scores were
calculated. Of the 84 participants who left for work and completed a Pre-test, the
average score was 40.64. The average Post-test score for those in this group who
also completed the post test (n = 75) was 44.66, showing an average increase of
4.02 points. We collected Pre-test data on 68 people who left CWEE for reasons
other than a job, and their average Pre-test score was 42.1, which is interestingly
almost 2 points higher than the average score for those who left for work. The
average Post-test score for the 19 of these 68 who left for reasons other than work
was 43.31, which, although the sample size is far too small to render reliable
results, shows an increase of only 1.21 points, as compared to the 4.02 point
increase in the group that left for work.
Discussion
This study showed that single parent welfare recipients self-esteem scores
on the TSBI increased a statistically significant amount after being involved with
the CWEE program. These data corroborate my first hypothesis, which was that
CWEE has a positive influence of peoples self-esteem levels. Due to the high
attrition rate for the group of women who did not obtain work after completing the
CWEE program, the second hypothesis, that a relationship exists between level of
self-esteem and the ability to find work, was not able to be tested conclusively.
These data tell little about the influence self-esteem has on finding work
and the differences in self-esteem levels between single parents who do or do not
64


find work. And clearly, there are several areas in the research design that could be
improved to yield more useful results, such as re-thinking the use of a control
group. We decided not to use a control or comparison group in this study for
ethical reasons. Because CWEE is a job training program, we felt that it would
compromise the mission of our agency to withhold the provision of services to
benefit a truly experimental research design with random assignment. Yet we are
now left with data that tell us little about how CWEE influences peoples self-
esteem and even less data relating self-esteem to job entry. So while the data
show that our program affects self-esteem in a positive way, with no comparison
group the information is of limited use. If the study were to include women in
other training programs, or not involved with any training program at all, we
would learn much more about whether or not and how CWEE helps women raise
their levels of self-esteem.
Another way this research design could be improved would be to reduce
the attrition rate, especially for those who did not find work upon completing the
program, or did not complete the program at all. Without these data, we are
unable to make the necessary programmatic modifications to help serve those who
do not find work more effectively. By only receiving data from people who are
successful, we learn little about how to help people who struggle more with
finding full time work, and this is where future service delivery strategies will
need to be targeted as peoples TANF time clocks begin to wind down.
Without a better sample of graduates who did not find work, we lack the
data to compare self-esteem levels between groups of people who got jobs and
people who did not. Thus it is impossible with the current data to determine a
relationship between work and self-esteem. But this is not to say that the
relationship does not exist, it could be that the flaws in this research design, or the
method itself are impeding us from observing the relationship.
65


Lastly, the TSBI itself is perhaps measuring something different than
CWEE participants talk about when they refer to their self-esteem. I organized
the 16 questions on the TSBI (see Appendix) into 7 general categories that seem
to comprise the construct of self-esteem according to Helmreich & Stapp4.
In table below are the categories and number of questions related to each category:
Category n of Related Questions
7
Influence of otherVoa others 3
2
Physical Appearance 1
Responsibility 1
fhoaoB Slaking 1
Table 4.13 TSBI Question Categories
The majority of the questions on this instrument, 7 out of 16, or 44% relate
to introversion and extroversion in my opinion. In order for a person to score
highly on the TSBI, they would most likely need to be an extrovert, yet this is not
necessarily related to self-esteem from the perspective of all welfare recipients.
Areas such as goal setting and self-confidence may be more important to welfare
recipients levels of self-esteem, and this instrument has only 2 self-confidence
questions and 1 goal achievement related question. To understand more about
what self-esteem means to CWEE participants, and to see whether they feel a
relationship exists between self-esteem and work and self-esteem and CWEE, I
41 was never able to find any literature in which Helmreich & Stapp addressed what self-esteem is
66


decided to supplement the quantitative data by using a qualitative research
method.
directly, so I realize that I could be misinterpreting their understanding of self-esteem.
67


CHAPTER 5
THE QUALITATIVE APPROACH
To better understand the meaning that self-esteem has for CWEE
participants, I selected a focus group methodology. I thought the added benefit of
group interaction might bring to the surface ideas about self-esteem that had never
occurred to me. The groups were both very informative and the discussions lively
and enlightening. The ideas focus group participants had about self-esteem were
not reflected in the TSBI data because the construct of self-esteem was based on
areas not touched upon by the quantitative instrument.
Theoretical Issues
I used a qualitative technique for learning from welfare recipients about
their ideas and constructs) of self-esteem for three main reasons. First of all,
challenging the assertion that empirical methods, when used properly, can produce
truth discovery without changing that being studied allows the researcher to
explore the meanings attached to the behaviors being studied, and not just the
behaviors themselves. The world in which people live is filled with what a
68


quantitative researcher may see as confounding variables, but that with a
qualitative approach, the researcher can see as information, context, and social
construction.
Claims of objectivity and truth discovery in the positivist tradition have
been questioned since its inception. Ferdinand C. S. Schiller was among the many
humanists who began to challenge the assumptions underlying positivism in the
19th century. He contended that, as social constructions, truth and reality could
not exist naturally, out there, but rather are constructed by human beings
(Bernard, 1994), and thus when we employ methods of information gathering that
ignore the idea of social construction, the knowledge we produce becomes
questionable. This epistemological perspective is threaded throughout postmodern
discourse, and also serves as an ontological guide for much qualitative research.
Another important reason I chose a more open-ended way of learning
about self-esteem comes from my theoretical perspective as a feminist. Feminist
rejections of the notion of an objective reality illuminate the gendered
construction of social science and the influence this has on gender inequity in the
production of knowledge. As Fiona Wilson (1992: 886) stated, ...modem,
Western science has been a masculine endeavor since its establishment and has
involved both the male appropriation of methods for acquiring knowledge and the
creation of a new male hierarchy to administer and improve that knowledge.
Wilsons statement is strong, and some might argue that assigning a
gender to a research method is reductionist and simplistic. I agree that, as a
mostly male social construction until very recently, social science has a very
narrow lens through which to view people who are not privileged, in this case,
White, Western, educated and male. Using a methodology from the positivist
tradition requires the researcher to define the parameters and disregard the context
in which a particular behavior or construct occurs. Because privileged men have
69


been those formally involved with academia and social research until very
recently, the production of knowledge and methods for acquiring this knowledge
resonate with their experiences in the world. And while this perspective is real
and should not be excluded from social discourse, it is not universal and does not
hold the same meaning for all people. In an attempt to avoid confining my
informants to a researchers understanding of self-esteem, I used qualitative
research methods, allowing the informants to provide the parameters and the
construct.
The third reason that qualitative methods lend themselves nicely to this
project is that there is a lack of literature exploring what the construct of self-
esteem actually is. Quantitative methods make measurement of this vague
concept almost impossible in this case, because the questions on the survey
research instrument I used for the quantitative data collection are based on the
researchers construct of self-esteem, which I contend is neither an accurate
reflection of the true meaning of self-esteem, nor one shared by single mothers
who receive or have received welfare. I found no prior studies addressing the
construct of self-esteem as related to women and welfare, and qualitative methods
are useful when approaching a question where little information about a specific
topic exists (Morse, 1994). This allows the research to occur without prior theory,
and the theory comes from the research. Using this approach, called grounded
theory, the theory evolves through the process of data collection, not as a
precursor to the research process. According to Strauss & Corbin (1994, p. 279)
theory ...is not the formulation of some discovered aspect of a preexisting reality
out there but rather a means of exploring unknown or little known areas.
Qualitative research explores the meanings, variations and perceptual
experiences of phenomena (Crabtree & Miller, 1992, p. 6). In this way, multiple
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perspectives have the opportunity to be centered, not marginalized due to their not
fitting within the preordained theory derived by researchers.
Once I had determined that a qualitative method guided by grounded
theory was an appropriate direction to take, my next task was to explore the
various qualitative methodologies. There are between six and eight qualitative
techniques generally used in the United States (Hammersly & Atkinson, 1983)
and they range as much in terms of the depth of information they can generate as
in the ways information can be collected. While qualitative methods vary in terms
of the depth of the information gathered and resources required to conduct the
research, all qualitative methods attempt to build theory, not substantiate it. By
letting the framework emerge during the research process and not prior to it, as
grounded theory does, we can try to experience peoples worlds directly, and not
rely on the self-report data often used in quantitative, and even some qualitative
research methods.
Research Design
The method I chose for qualitative data collection is focus groups. A
focus group is ..an exceptionally good way to generate large quantities of rich
qualitative data relatively quickly (Murdoch and Agar, 1993). For the topic of
self-esteem, I felt the benefits of group interaction would add to the richness of the
data through discussions that would likely emerge and the connections that might
not be made in an individual interview. Because all focus group members were
single mothers who had transitioned from welfare to work, and had gone through
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the CWEE program, they had a lot in common. Having kept in contact with our
program alumnae through Project Transition, I had noticed some common themes
in the changes graduates had experienced, and thought these commonalties would
lead to interesting and provocative discussions during the focus groups. Other
advantages of focus groups are that, allowing for open responses provides the
opportunity for deeper levels of understanding, the influence of context on
meaning creation, and the flexibility for group members to compare and contrast
their own beliefs (Agar & MacDonald, 1995; Krueger, 1988; Morgan, 1988;
Murdoch & Agar, 1993).
In a focus group, the researcher takes on more of a moderator role than an
interviewer role (Krueger, 1988; Morgan, 1988). While I had informed all
participants at the time of recruitment that the topic would be self-esteem, and
while I had prepared questions prior to the groups, I was also ready to throw my
questions away and let the group members guide the discussion. Part of my role
as a CWEE staff member is to teach a course on criminal legal obstacles to
employment, such as Outstanding Judgment Warrants for unpaid driving-without-
insurance tickets. Because I had spent time in the classroom as a facilitator with
all invited focus group participants, I was at least somewhat familiar with the
group dynamics, and they were at least somewhat accustomed to my facilitation
style. I expected this to be an asset in both focus groups, and luckily, it was a
correct assumption to make, although I must admit, the level of familiarity could
have also manifested itself as a liability, especially if any group members were on
unfriendly terms, or did not like each other, or me5. Clearly, those who attended
5 About eight weeks after the focus groups were conducted, at CWEEs annual Holiday Party for
alumnae and their children, three women (all working graduates, two of whom attended the focus
group) got into a confrontation during which they degraded and yelled at each other. Apparently
they were arguing over money, and it almost became physical. When I approached them, they sort
of backed off and so I never heard the whole story. It is notable because they were supportive of
each other during the focus group.
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did so under the auspices of doing a favor for me, so I assumed that they would be
on friendly terms with me. I am grateful that, in both groups, members supported
and encouraged each other, even while disagreeing. This I attribute to their
commonality as CWEE sisters.
I conducted only two focus groups, one with current welfare recipients
who were training at CWEE, and one comprised of graduates of the program who
were working. Much could be learned from including CWEE graduates who did
not find work, and welfare recipients who did not attend CWEE or any other
training program. Because of resource constraints, I was limited in the number of
focus groups I could recruit, conduct, transcribe and analyze. There is still a lot to
be learned, but there was some useful and insightful information generated from
the focus group participants.
There were a total of sixteen focus group participants between the two
groups, with ten in the current recipient group, and six in the former recipient
group. Both focus groups were facilitated by myself and Jean East, with my pre-
defined role being that of the group mediator and Jeans that of the observer. We
had both agreed that Jean was welcome to ask any questions as they arose. The
point of the focus groups was to discuss self-esteem, what it is, and how it relates
to the life of a single parent, to receiving welfare and to working. There were a
total of seven questions we had prepared ahead of time that we intended to use as
a guide, and only in the event that the group conversation strayed from the topic
or, frankly, in the event that the group was a dud and had little to say.
Each focus group began with me introducing the nature of this project,
explaining the purpose of a masters thesis, and emphasizing that while the
information gathered might be used for CWEEs purposes, their participation was
a favor to me (and a chance to eat free pizza, which for some was the main reason
they attended). I informed the groups that I would be audio tape recording the
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focus groups to be transcribed by me later on. I then explained some hints about
being in a focus group, that Id appreciate people talking one at a time, both to
make transcription easier and to ensure that everyone was heard when they had
something to say. Already acquainted with all group members, although some
better than others, and because we had all been in a group setting together in the
past, I was able to discuss openly the need to respect each others opinions and
time to speak without fearing I would jeopardize my rapport with individual group
members. Informed consent was obtained after I read the entire consent form
aloud because I assumed that they all had different reading levels, and I didnt
want anyone to be embarrassed about how quickly they read the entire form, and
then asked if there were any questions. While I emphasized that confidentiality
and anonymity would be maintained and respected, only one focus group
participant choose a pseudonym, but no participants real name is used here.
Along with informed consent, I asked participants to complete a short, 1 page
demographics sheet.
Once informed consent was obtained and demographics sheets were
collected, I gave everyone a note card and asked them to write their definitions of
self-esteem on it. Once note cards were collected, they were put away and not
discussed further in the focus group. I then started each focus group with the
question what does self-esteem mean to you? and let the group guide the
discussion from there, as long as it stayed on the topic of self-esteem.
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Sampling
I used a convenience sampling technique to recruit participants for the two
focus groups. This form of sampling is useful in that it requires fewer resources
and less time, but can jeopardize the integrity of the information gathered in some
cases (Crabtree & Miller, 1992). I felt there were both pros and cons to the
uniqueness of my situation, being both researcher and CWEE staff member. My
biggest concern was still that, as a CWEE staff member, participants might want
to focus on their successes, on having high self-esteem, and on what they felt Id
want to hear. However, for this particular topic and given the reality of the time
and resource constraints, I felt that a convenience sample of women I knew was a
good place to start. As Mike Agar offers, albeit in an article about ethnography,
...because of the emphasis on high-rapport relationships, random sampling makes
no sense at all (1993, p. 524).
Current Recipient Focus Group
For the group of women currently receiving TANF, I announced in the
CORE classroom that I was interested in talking to anyone who would volunteer
about self-esteem for a school paper. I made it clear that the project was for me,
not directly for CWEE, and that their only reimbursement would be pizza and
soda. A total of twelve women volunteered, and ten actually showed up (one who
had not volunteered originally came at the last minute), and one was called away
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i
about 10 minutes into the focus group, so the total n for this group was 9. They
all volunteered their own time to participate, as the focus group was scheduled for
a time during the day when they were not in class. The demographics of the
attendees were as follows:
Ethnicity Number % of Total
African American/Black 3 33%
White/Anglo 3 33%
Latina 2 22%
Refused 1 11%
Table 5.1
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MaritaI Status
Number
% of Total
Single, never married 6 66%
Separated 2 22%
Divorced 1 11%
Table 5.2
The women in this group had an average 2.3 children, median being 2, and
the mothers average age was 29, median age was 24. The average highest level
of education this group had received was 11.75 (high school senior), and 6 of the
group members were high school graduates, with the other 3 having obtained their
GED. They had been on AFDC/TANF an average of 1.3 times in their life,
median being 1 time, and had received AFDC/TANF for an average total of 28.8
months during their lifetime, with the median length of time being 20 months.
Former Recipient Focus Group
Recruitment of the focus group comprised of working, CWEE graduates
was different in that I invited a group of approximately twenty alumnae to attend
in hopes that approximately half would be interested. Based on a qualitative
sampling technique, a good person to interview ...is one who has the knowledge
and experience the researcher requires, has the ability to reflect it, is articulate, has
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the time to be interviewed, and is willing to participate in the study (Morse, 1994,
p. 228). Using this as a guideline, I used the following specific criteria for
selecting focus group invitees: a) currently working full-time, b) someone with
whom I had a rapport, and c) diversity in terms of ethnicity, length of time
working, and levels of self-esteem, which was based on my recollection of
conversations with each person. Not surprisingly, those who actually attended
were people I know fairly well and am in touch with on a regular basis.
The demographics of the attendees were as follows:
Ethnicity Number % of Total
African American/Black 3 50%
Latina 3 50%
Table 5.3
Marital Status Number % of Total
Single, never married 4 67%
Separated 1 16%
Divorced 1 16%
Table 5.4
The average number of children women in this group had was 3.6, median
being 3, and the mothers average and median age was 29. The average highest
level of education this group had received was 10.5 (high school sophomore), and
2 of the group members were high school graduates, with the other 4 having
obtained their GED. They had been on AFDC/TANF an average of 2.9 times in
their life, median being 3 times, and had received AFDC/TANF for an average
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total of 12 months during their lifetime, with the median length of time being 6
months.
Setting
Both focus groups were held at CWEE, which was chosen for
convenience, familiarity and availability. While this may have added to the
problem of participants equating the research with CWEE, the other advantages of
holding the groups at CWEE took precedence. We used the orientation room at
CWEE, and we ate pizza prior to the beginning of the focus groups officially
starting. The group Current Recipient group was held during the day, and
therefore day care wasnt an issue. Because the members of the Former Recipient
group were all working, the focus group was held during the evening, and two
friends of mine, both elementary school teachers, volunteered to watch the
children of the focus group participants who came.
All of the members of the Former Recipient group were working in
various clerical or office support jobs. One works for an attorney, three in large
corporations, one in a medical office, and one at a non-profit. They had been
working anywhere from 3 years to 3 months, and were all happy with their jobs at
the time of the focus group. Some of them knew each other from CWEE
functions in the past, or from the CORE class, and some knew none of the other
participants.
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The Data
The two forms of data collected were the demographic data displayed
above and the actual discussions in the focus groups. Because this approach
utilized grounded theory, there was no outcome to measure at the data collection
stage of the game, and only in the recruitment of participants did any sort of
outcome measure apply (currently receiving welfare or working).
I transcribed both tapes from the focus groups, each lasting approximately
90 minutes in length. The transcription process was an excellent way for me to
become intimately familiar with the data, and proved to be a helpful means of
conducting preliminary analysis. Portions of the transcript in which focus group
participants interrupted each other or were talking at the same time are indicated
by double slashes (//) at the point the interruption occurred.
I had prepared approximately eight questions prior to the focus groups, but
was prepared to omit them and allow the groups members to lead the
conversation. However, I knew there were certain aspects of self-esteem that I
wanted to learn more about, such as how one can tell the level of self-esteem that
a person has, what self-esteem means, and what constructs contribute the
development of a persons self-esteem. The focus groups talked mainly about
these constructs, and I focus mainly on this aspect of self-esteem here.
Participants discussed different situations that aided or hindered the development
of high self-esteem in their own lives, and I combined similar themes from both
groups in this chapter.
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Discussion
In the focus groups, self-esteem was discussed in what I saw as three
different ways: measurement (how you can tell what someones level of self-
esteem is); construct (what contributes to ones self-esteem); and the mutability
of self-esteem (is it fixed or does it fluctuate). I then combed the data for
examples and discussions of each of these three components of self-esteem. Most
of the discussion in both groups centered around the actual construct of self-
esteem and not on measurement or the nature of self-esteem. While I had
determined prior to the focus groups that I wanted to discuss the elements that
contribute to ones self-esteem, the grounded theory emerged within each of the
areas I desired to touch on. So, for example, within the area construct of self-
esteem, while I knew it wanted to talk about the general area, the specifics
emerged during the research process.
Before I discuss these data, Id like to provide the definitions of self-
esteem that participants had, which are broken down into the two groups. Here is
what some of the participants in the group who were still in training at CWEE had
to say in response to my question, what does self-esteem mean to you?
Latisha ... to me self-esteem means how I feel about myself and how I
think other people see me and the highest regard for myself and
persona.
Yvonne ...I think not only is it how you feel about yourself but your
abilities, if you feel you are capable of doing things, if you have
high self-esteem I feel youre more likeable to achieve better things
for yourself.
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Participants in the focus group of working graduates had extended the
ideas of the other group by adding concepts like pride and putting ones self first.
In their own words, they had this to say about the actual definition of self-esteem:
Shelly To me I think it means pride, to be proud of who you are and what
you are and... where your status is at...
Sonia Self-esteem to me means believin in yourself before you believe in
somebody else. And to have respect for yourself'/
Carla //And be positive//
Sonia //not some of the time, all the time
Carol Self-esteem to me is more who you are, and its like believing in
yourself, trustin that you can be whatever you want
Sandy Self-esteem to me is accepting the good and the bad ... and loving
you for you
Construct: Self, Putting Self First
From these data, the general feeling from both focus groups is that self-
esteem is about belief in ones self. There was not a lot of discussion about what
that means specifically in the context of the question, what does self-esteem
mean to you, however as the discussions ensued, they offered various insights
into what it is about belief in ones self that is important. The group of working
graduates spoke a lot about putting themselves first, yet there was only one
reference to this concept in the focus group of current recipients, and this
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statement contradicts what the working focus group participants had to say. The
only statement made on this topic in the current recipient focus group was made
by Laura, in the context of talking about how her failed attempts as a child at
getting her mother off of drugs had affected her self-esteem negatively. She said...
Laura ...Ill do somethin for someone else before Ill do it for myself.
Thats just the type a person I am... about my family, I mean
outsiders too, but Ill jump for my family before Ill jump for
myself.
Interestingly, there were at least thirteen separate references to putting
ones self first, or believing in ones self in the focus group with working
graduates, and in fact the group members all agreed that learning to put ones self
first is crucial when trying to balance work and family. During a conversation in
the working graduate group, Sandy shared a similar story to Lauras, as her
mother is also a drug addict, and Sandy remembers that finally one day it occurred
to her...
Sandy And Im try in to save the whole world and aint gettin nowhere
myself!
The conversation below provides rich data that best describes this change
that the working group noticed of putting ones self first and everyone else, even
their children, second. The discussion started with Carla, who was describing
how she was about to successfully complete a drug treatment program.
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Carla ... when I was down I had this guy that I really cared for and I
didnt wanna leave him because I didnt wanna hurt his feelings.
And a older sister told me that if you worry about someones
feelings before your own you have no self-esteem. And from then
on its like oh well!
Group [laughs]
Joni What do people think about that, do you think thats true? Do you
put other peoples feeling first?
Ana Oh yeah, thats the way it was with my ex-husband//
Sonia //You, ya have to think about yourself first//
Ana //Id do everything he told me to do, if I didnt do it right Id be
like, oh, sorry and lets go do this again, lets get it right...
Carol Try in to make him happy, instead of yourself
Sonia Thinking about him before worryin bout yourself
Ana I got rid of him, I mean, and that was all good, now its all good,
its all me
Carla Another thing that wasnt easy puttin [my son] second//
Joni //I bet//
Carla //it wasnt easy. ... and if moms not happy, noones happy
Sandy Thats what they taught us here [at CWEE], here was the first time
that I said, bein, if there was a fire and you had a thing of oxygen,
who would you give the oxygen to,... your baby or yourself? And
I was at home for so many years, I never even thought about Sandy
as a person, until I came here and I said, well my baby and she
says No! and I just started cryin [crying] I couldnt imagine
takin it first before//
Sonia //I think we all did that Sandy [laughing]
Shelly Yep, it was like, wait a minute!
Sonia And then she said, well how you gonna take care of your baby if
you cant take care of yourself!
Sandy Its so different, because before, um, it was either for my husband
or for my kids and I never mattered and thats why [crying] I think
things got so bad, because I didnt know how to really take care of
me, so, after I learned, its been a lot better. And Ive been through
some trials with the kids accepting me, different, and they changed
and I changed, but its for the better, I know it is.
Sonia Yep
Sonia And too you guys can imagine with me, 9 kids! God.
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Shelly You have nine kids?
Carla nine children?
Sonia I have nine children
Shelly [whistles6]
Sandy [to Shelly] I was like, she has nine,
Shelly I wasnt even lookin.
Sandy She goes, anybody that has nine kids dont need to be here
Shelly Yeah! my fault!
Sonia [laughing, not seeming to be bothered by the conversation]
Joni But that doesnt bother Sonia, right?
Sonia But it doesnt bother me, cuz Im gonna be me, regardless, and
nothin anybody says can take it
Sonia But you know the main thing you have to do, you have to think
about yourself first. Then ... after you think about yourself and get
yourself under control, you have to think about what next step you
have to take. Which child needs this first, which child needs that
first. You always have to look at self first because when you have
your inner strength, you know you can carry it on to the next
person.
Carol Its like a pyramid
Sonia Always cany it on to the next person, cuz as long as you keep your
strength up here [motions above her head] and self-esteem up here,
theres nothin you cant do.
I found this dialogue to be particularly powerful because they had all
realized at some point that it is all right for them to think of their own needs and
desires, and they didnt need to let other people bring them down. It is interesting
that the working group discussed this issue more than the current recipient group,
and I think this is an area for further research with welfare recipients.
6 At the beginning of the focus group, participants were eating pizza and filling out their
demographics sheets. I put enough room for the ages of 9 children on the form because of Sonia,
and when Shelly saw that, she made a comment, not knowing Sonia had 9 kids, about how anyone
with 9 kids shouldnt be at a focus group for working single parents. Nobody said anything about
Sonia at the time, but it came up in the context of this conversation.
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Construct: Influence of Others
This discussion led to a conversation in both groups about the influence of
other people, positive and negative, on the development of their own self-esteem.
There was a general feeling that when a person has low self-esteem, they tend to
bring the people around them down as well, although not all of the participants in
the working group felt that other people do have the power to bring them down:
Shelly ... people tryin to knock you down, that just makes them look
stupid.
Sonia you cant let em knock you down
Shelly Yeah! ...even today, you know when people, either downgrade me
or my kids or you know, call us down in certain ways, I just say
damn girl, just leave em alone, theyre just not all up there.
Sonia ... and I always tell my kids Took at me! People talk about me bad!
And what do I do? Turn my head and go the other way. I dont let
em bring me down.
Sonia entered the program confident, happy and unwilling to let anything
get her down, even being constantly berated or questioned about having nine
children. I have to admit that when I first heard we had a woman with nine kids in
the class I thought to myself shes never gonna make it! To date she has yet to
prove me correct, and I imagine that will remain the case. And I also see her as an
exception, I can honestly say that Ive never met anyone with such a positive
attitude, regardless of their circumstances. But the rest of the people in both
groups felt that others can influence their self-esteem, negatively and positively.
The groups talked about the roles of romantic relationships, parents, especially
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mothers, friends at CWEE, and CWEE staff in the development of their own self-
esteem.
Laura ... my self-esteem goes along with whatever happens to somebody
else...
Jean So the important people in your life influence your self-esteem?
Laura Exactly. Cuz I know I can take care of myself and I know how I
feel about myself, I feel great about myself, I know what I can
accomplish... what I have to do. But, if I see my grandmother sick
or somethin and shes feelin down or depressed then I get to
feelin down and depressed cuz I cant do nothin to help her...
Joni What are some examples of that... where thats helped your self-
esteem?
Laura ... usually and truly my self-esteem is pretty high, but if I have a
problem wit my mom or one of my babies fathers, or somethin
like that, then my self-esteem becomes low but, my, one a my
kidsll pick me back up, I... dont just go to ... havin low self-
esteem all the rest a the week or all the rest a the day, but for that
period of time brings me down cuz I cant do nothin about it.
Construct: Kids
All focus group participants had something to say about the roles their
children play in the development of their own self-esteem. Children generally
seem to have a positive influence on single mothers lives, except when the
mother perceives she is not providing the best for her children, which some
participants felt has a negative affect on their self-esteem. Eva and Shar both
discussed the issue of feeling like their children are lacking something.
Eva For instance, my son for the past three weeks has needed a hair cut
and I havent had the money, every time I look at him it just gets
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me down cuz I dont have the money for it. ... its not that he
needs it, but I just want him to have it,... and the more I think of it
...I really get down and then I start doubting myself as a good
mother.
Shar Thats the way it is with my baby, but its with his father. Like I
went to spend the weekend with my girlfriend, and um, her babys
dad spends the weekends with them and I was stayin with them so,
he would go over to [her friends son] and pick him up and kiss
him and love all over him and play with him and feed him and he
got up all night to feed him his bottles,... and when I woke up my
son was up and he had him out of the crib and them playin
together and he was watchin em, ..and... I think thats where my
self-esteem gets down cuz I cant believe that I did that to my son.
And I know its not all me, ya know, cuz Larry made the choice
that he dont wanna be there, but my self-esteem gets down
because I tried and I tried and I tried but for me, I cant provide a
father for my son right now, you know, and that gets me down,
thats when my self-esteem just drops.
But the majority of the conversations about children and self-esteem were
about the positive affect children have on their own self-esteem. In fact Shar told
wonderful story about being out with her son and how the attention made her feel.
Shar ... we went out to dinner last night... and [my son] was bein a
little terror, rippin up the table and everything on it, so I put him
down on the floor and, whew! He goes off, hes down the aisle,
and I just watched him and I went over and I sat down and kinda
let him do what he wanted to do, he wasnt buggin anybody, and
everybody was tellin me hes so cute, look at all that hair, oh,
how old is he? ... And that makes me feel so good cuz I know
hes really really smart. And just to see his little butt twitch when
he crawls
Group [laughs]
Mary ... you know how sometimes when youre feelin down, um, my
daughter lately, shes been... doin so, so good in school, she got a
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certificate for bein the student of the week and then ...they took,
remember I showed you that... they took the Iowa test, she got like
a 6.2 or//
Latisha//6.3//
Mary //she got a 6.3 on it and it was way above her average for bein in
the 5th grade, and I felt so good,... even though I was sick and I
was snififlin, my throat was hurtin, I was like, look, Latisha, look,
Tiffany got this on her test! so I was really excited about it...
Kids and Money. The participants in the working group also talked a lot
about how providing for their children, both materially and as a role model, also
influenced their self-esteem in a positive way.
Ana To me ... what starts my morning off is when my girls tell me
youre going to work, huh mommy? You look perty mom.... that
makes my whole day, and then when Im at work ... there could be
a fire under me and I wouldnt care... thats the coolest thing for
me though, when my girls tell me mommy you look perty today,
youre going to work, huh?
Sonia Its like, I tell my kids, see I have teenagers, you don't have
teenagers yet. I have to tell my kids bout yall think cuz I got a
job now Im a bank? What?
Group [bursts out laughing]
Sonia Cuz its like I want some money, I want, can I have $5, can I have
$ 1. Since I got a job am I a bank now or what?
Carol My kids have more now, they have more. Its like, I can even go
buy them some shoes. Go buy them a sweater that they wanted or,
or a jacket, you know and Im like no problem, you know?
[Laughs]
Sandy Yeah, its not like worrying, how you gonna get that jacket. Its
like I got you a jacket, you a jacket, you a jacket and you a jacket,
and I still got money? You want some pizza? [laughs]
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The current recipient group participants offered insights into life before
being able to buy jackets for all of her children and still having enough left over
for pizza. Stacey shared her feelings on this, and as the mother of seven children,
shes had to make her budget stretch a very long way.
Stacey With 7 kids,... I started with my oldest child... when I was 15, and
it was easy cuz I was gonna get name brand stuff, it was easy, and
8 years later was when I started gettin carried away with the rest of
those kids. Now it brings me down cuz I cant do like I used to do
with my other child, so they have to wear everybodys hand me
downs, which is not a problem cuz theyre clothed, but then my 8
year old cryin mom I want some Nikes and Im like well we
gonna get some Payless specials and they really, it hurts me to
have to tell em that I cant afford it at this point, but Im gonna, it
brings my self-esteem down...
Construct: Money. Welfare and Work
The conversation eventually led to money in both groups, however the
discussions were very different in each group. What was similar between groups
was that they connected money, taking care of their children and welfare, or
money, taking care of their children, welfare, and work very closely. When I
originally came up with the different themes that emerged under each general area
of self-esteem, I separated these parts of their lives as having influences on their
self-esteem, but I failed to see the connectedness of one to the others. As I
continue looking at and re-looking at the data, I realize the I cannot figure out
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exactly how to separate out what are four different concepts to me, but seem to be
closely related to the focus group participants. This would be another area of
further investigation that could teach a lot about how self-esteem works in the
lives of single mothers.
In the current recipient group, because welfare is their main source of
income, the conversation revolved mostly around welfare and buying groceries
n
with Food Stamps, and the new Quest Card that had just been implemented
weeks prior to the focus group. A few of the women in this focus group spoke
about being embarrassed to use the Quest Card or Food Stamps, but did not feel
this had an impact on their self-esteem because they knew they were taking care
of their children, which was more important then their pride.
Stacey ...Ive always hated goin to the store, I go real late at night cuz
people behind you, they do ... even with these Quest Cards, you
know what its about. And the worst people are the people on the
other side of that cashier, the cashier//
Joni //so that brings up ... how do you think that the world or other
people, like at the grocery store for example, or whoever, perceive
you when youre on welfare?
Mary Who cares
Laura They look down on us
Laura Who cares, because I, there have been some times where Ive been
in the grocery line and someone would smack their teeth or
somethin,
LatishaUm hmm
Laura And I will say somethin to that person, cuz its none of their
business. Im not smackin my teeth when shes writin that
check... and like my grandma would be on my food stamp card,
and she would never wanna go to the store, and I was like well
why wont you go to the store? whats the matter with those food
stamps?... she would act like she was embarrassed, but youre not 7
7 The Quest Card replaced Food Stamps and cash grants in October of 1997 and is used much like
a debit card.
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embarrassed when you pick up that fork and get to eatin! I mean
who cares what somebody else thinks cuz youre not livin for
them.
Joni Does that [the way people act in the grocery store] effect the way
you feel about yourself or you level of self-esteem?
Mary Oh no! Because honey I go up there in that store and do my little
shoppin, have my little cart so full its about to run over into
somebody elses cart, ok.
Group [laughing]
Mary And go on through the line//
Laura //for real//
Mary //and go home, put my little groceries in my freezer and get to
cookin and be cookin up some stuff, ok? And you know... why?
Cuz my familys eatin. My kids will not go hungry. And Im not
gonna sacrifice my kids stomach for my pride for somebody else
thinkin the way they think about me, its not gonna happen.
Current recipients also talked about not having the money to provide for
their children everything that they would like to, as was discussed here in
conjunction with the effect children have on self-esteem. There were mixed
feelings in this group about the effects of welfare on self-esteem. In general, as I
stated earlier, a few people felt that welfare was denigrating.
Joni OK, so talk to me about self-esteem and welfare.
Shar Oh god, that was my self-esteem//
Carol I had a very high self-esteem ...so ... it didnt really take anything
away from me. I think the only thing that really got me is that
when I did go they had to ask you all these questions, dig into your
life, like they were pullin this money outta their pocket, that upset
me but it didnt have anything with my self-esteem.
Laura I think welfare, it doesnt make me have low self-esteem cuz its
helpin me right now. Its helpin me to get to a point, I dont like
to deal with the people, and I hate to be on hold, but its kinda
help for me to get where I dont wanna be there anymore. So its
not bringin me down, its helpin me ... move up
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Shar Um, welfare put me with real low self-esteem because I remember
going and applying for Medicaid... I was like I dont want
welfare, I dont wanna be, I, no, I would never and they just kept
tellin me well you have to be on welfare no, I dont have to be
on welfare and you cant ever tell me Im gonna have to. ... they
told me well you have to get on welfare and I almost cried to the
lady on the phone, the governments sittin there tryin to get us
off welfare, and youre gonna tell me I have to go on welfare just to
get [Medicaid]? .... And they made me feel like shit for goin in
there and she was really rude to me in the interview,
Eva Um,. I think, uh, welfare made a low self-esteem on me because
before this new change for TANF, uh, it never occurred to me to
work so of course I just sat there, and sat there, and sat there, and
thats when I got into drugs and I ended up sellin my Food Stamps
for drugs, you know, they just made it easy for me to sit there and
... the more you just sit there you feel less about yourself, and that
gives you low self-esteem.
LatishaWell my experience was positive... they were really nice they were
really, oh we can get you this, we can get you this, we can get you
this,...
As a group, working graduates were more negative about welfare in
general, although they didnt talk about welfare as much as they talked about
work. About welfare they had the following to say:
Ana ... me bein on welfare I had no self-esteem whatsoever...
Shelly ... bein on afdc, I never let that bring me down,... I was still out
there ... workin this side job hustlin this or that, to, you know, get
my kids whatever they needed. ...And my dad would always make
jo- you know wise cracks, well shes on welfare, she only pays
$25 rent, its like hell yeah!... and Id say jealous? ... and play
with him back and say dont, cmon daddy dont be like that,...
our asses got you money
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The topic of work never came up in the current recipient focus group
unless it was in reference to the future, however work comprised a good deal of
the working graduate focus group. There were three different themes about work
that emerged: co-workers; money and taking care of children; and a sense of
accomplishment. The first topic discussed here is related to co-workers and how
some of these women felt starting new jobs. A couple of the women discussed
feeling alienated, being the only employees with children or without a college
degree. At the time of the focus group they had all been working anywhere from
three months to three years, and were all, at the time, happy with their jobs
Sandy I had a big issue with my self-esteem when I started working here.
Joni Working at your job?
Sandy Nobody there had kids. Everybody theres college educated. You
know, its so different from the life that I got at least to here,...
everybody I know has kids, nobody there has kids, nobody!
Everybody is just career minded, thats all they think about. They
live at their job. I cant live at, I have to be at day care by 6:00. I
cant stay late, I dont work Saturdays thats my boys day, and,
and it really made me feel, well gee, I was so happy to get this job
because of all these reasons, but maybe Im not as good as them
because//
Sonia //you felt you werent qualified like they were because they were
educated didnt have kids//
Sandy //because they have more to give to that job than I do. Yeah, Ill
give my 8 hours full force, full hearted, and I do care about my
work very much, but I didnt have the extra that they were giving
to their//
Sonia //well you should look at it this way, youre more educated than
they are because youre goin, youre workin a job plus takin care
of kids, thats// 8
8 Since this focus group, both Ana and Carol were laid off, but both found jobs immediately, with
no more than 2 days unemployed. Sandy had always wanted to work for the state and was recently
hired as a state employee. Carla graduated from drug treatment, Shelly is looking for another job
and Sonia is still happy at the pediatricians office where she works.
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Sandy //but now I look at it different, because now I have ladies there who
look to me to answers for different things. One lady, Im bringin
her tomorrow to donate clothes to Safehouse downstairs, um,
another lady, were gonna do some volunteer work for the
homeless people, um, for the holidays. Um, just different things
that Ive learned, skills from being around real people that they
dont even know. And so they all hub at my desk and what about
this and Im like well, you know, I know this person and I know
that so I have knowledge in different ways that they thrive off of
me and I could really see em thriving off of me and my
experiences, which makes me feel good.
Joni So do you feel better about yourself now than you did at first...
Sandy Um hmm, because I was so different then than, I was just different.
Im different, Im not like them, Im different.
Shelly God made you that way, though
Sandy But Im that way for a reason
Shelly Yep
Sandy So, [laughs] I feel good and he put me there for a reason cuz of
these people. And I heard one time a girl say her car is just so
icky. I was like, What does she care what my car looks like? Am
I askin her to go to lunch with me? No, you know I was so hurt
and so pissed, but at the same time, its not like that any more.
Yeah my cars icky because I have 10 feet to put shoes on n, you
know, things like that,... they all drive brand new cars, I mean
theyre just like, yuppie, and Ive never been around yuppie people
before.
Sonia Thats like me honey, if it gets me around, it dont matter if its
icky
Carol ... college people and people that are married but dont have kids or
you know, its like what can I talk to you about? ... you know
what Im sayin, conversation wise ... I dont know who to talk to.
But they come to me, you know they speak and everything but I
dont exactly [know] what to go in and talk about because I mean
either theyre gonna talk about... Im... majorin in this field,...
and then they stay til like 7 and 8 oclock and then they come in
on Saturdays and ... I wish that I could do that too, but I have to
leave at 5 also, cuz theres, you know, day care situation ... and
they tend to stick together, all of em. Its like we go to school
together...
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Sandy And I dont think it was the way they made me feel that brought
my- it was myself. Like I said, Im my worst critic.
This discussion provides a lot of rich information about work culture and
will be very useful at CWEE, because we can address this issue in the curriculum.
Yet how comfortable or welcomed some graduates feel working with yuppies is
not data we collect on our Project Transition Follow Up Questionnaire, and could
be a reason some welfare recipients leave jobs. This is just one example of how
qualitative research methods can offer deeper insights into the meanings people
make of their worlds than can quantitative methods. But I dont want to give the
impression that work was generally a negative experience for these women,
because they spent most of the focus group talking about the benefits of work.
Here I include only a small portion of the data because there is so much on work,
but the group did to substantiate the claim that work, and having enough money,
is good for their self-esteem.
Sonia ...you know I go around and sing [Sonia has a beautiful voice and
sings professionally] and before I was like using all these used
clothes to sing in and stuff, oh, finally went and bought me outfits
to sing in! And its like yeah!
Group [laughs]
Sonia And everybodys lookin at me like, Sonia? You got that dress
on? Yes! [laughs]. So it, its a good feelin, to be able to go in
there and just buy what you want.
Shelly I like when we go to a cash register and theyre like will that be a
check, cash or charge.
Carol Cash!
Shelly Charge honey!
Group [laughs, all talking at once.]
Shelly Oh, I love my credit card
Sonia ... throw that hundred dollar bill down, [when she goes to the bank]
How do you want it? Give me hundreds! [banging on the table]
Sandy The thing that made me the happiest is when my 8 year old son
said it seems like were rich now, huh mom?
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Group [laughs]
Sandy he was so used to bein so poor, Im like, were not rich honey, I
just got enough. He goes but kinda like rich, though, huh mom.
Group [laughs]
Sonia Your kids are so used to you., it makes your kids feel better, too...
Sonia it makes your kids feel better because before it was like oh mom
so and so gets this and so and so at school, get all this fancy stuff,
and now its like they can come home and say mom, I want... and
well go get it, as before, I gotta pay bills, once we pay bills
theres nothin left.
Sandy Yep, exactly
Carol After payin my rent and stuff I have $50 in the bank, I get paid
tomorrow, deposit that.
Sandy And then to still have money left before you get your paycheck
Carol Well once I... get the kids bunk beds Ill, I wanna get a washer
too...
Construct: Goal Setting
Setting goals was another theme that emerged in both groups, and Carols
example of setting new goals seems to be typical. They start off small and then
gradually get bigger and bigger. Often participants come into the program with
goals of buying a house and being the president of a company. CWEEs
classroom facilitator shows them how to research the labor market, look into
requirements for the job, and see what steps they need to take to get there. Then,
considering their lives as single parents, they can set realistic goals for success.
This is an integral part of CWEEs curriculum, their first goal setting experiences
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in some cases being finishing the CWEE program, and for some, even shorter
term goals are helpful.
Stacey Also if you set little goals and not just great big goals, at a time,
like my goal was just to get my laundry done every night, and I did
that for a week, and Im on top of the world...
Stacey I did my laundry
Joni Yeah, what if your goal is, I wanna become a brain surgeon in the
next few weeks. Thats a big goal
Ana Thats not realistic
Eva Give you low self-esteem
Joni Why will that give you low self-esteem?
Eva Because if you got it in your head that you can do it and then in 3
weeks you havent done it, youre gonna think Oh, Im a failure
and then that gives you low self-esteem.
Stacey You go and see all the pre-requisites and stuff you have to take just
to get to that part, that actual part of bein a brain surgeon, you get
upset at that.
The working focus group participants talked a lot about how goal setting
and focus were important for them on their paths out of poverty.
Shelly I... came to CWEE, got my, you know, my upgrade on my
computer skills, you know, cuz I already knew what I could do.
Now that Im working it keeps me more focused. Theres like 2 or
3 different things I wanna be in life. You know what I mean, and
Im sittin here like//
Carol //what should I be?
Shelly what should I be? Yeah, exactly!
Sandy Why does that happen? Once you do get a job, just makes your
goals bigger.
Shelly Cuz you wanna be more than just the working average person
Carol Yeah, you wanna accomplish//
Shelly //yeah, exactly//
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Sandy //see I didnt used to do that, thats really helped me, cuz into that
90 days9 and I got through... I only missed one day now, when my
uncle died, and when I was here,... he was diagnosed with terminal
cancer. Well he lived with me and I watched him die at home. So
Ive been through a lot more trials, a lot more than I ever though I
could handle, and still worked, and still took care of my kids, and
watched my uncle die right in front of me, and just everything, and
I did it and still goin!
Sonia Its like you can pat yourself on the back and say, um hmm, you
did it!
Sandy Im like, Yay! I did all that? I need a beer! No ways out!
Group [bursts out laughing]
Shelly Thats what I wanted to say, you know now that Im working Im
staying more focused and, and know that it doesnt matter how old
you are, or how many kids you got, or what color race religion or
whatever creed blah blah blah, you, I think, I enrolled for real
estate school in January and college, now whatever comes up, I
might be able to do both? You know what Im saying
Sandy Go girl!
Shelly So I dont know, I just, its cool, I think its cool. Im excited
Sonia Its like people ask me, tell me all the time, yu got nine kids, how
do you do it? Focus, on what you want, keep yourself focused on
your pride, your self-esteem, and whatever you have in yourself
and the inner self, and the self-esteem that you have will bring
everything else up right along with it.
9 The CWEE curriculum emphasizes the importance of reliability on the job, and stresses that the
first 90 days are critical.
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Construct: CWEE
CWEE was discussed in both focus groups. I asked a specific question
about CWEE and self-esteem and they offered their insights into how CWEE had
helped their self-esteem. There were four general areas that emerged related to
CWEE; the encouragement they received from each other, the encouragement
they got from the staff, the attainment of goals, and the skills they obtained. Most
of the participants in the current recipient group were in the ACT class at CWEE
and had just completed the CORE class the week before the focus group. Here is
the conversation that we had about CWEE and self-esteem.
Joni I just actually have one last question and then you all can go and
that is um, I sort of talked to you about self-esteem and welfare and
now Im just curious, and theres no, this is not like a right or
wrong answer kind of a thing, its not a work question. I know I
work for CWEE but, were always up for constructive criticism so
talk to me about self-esteem and CWEE. You think CWEE has an
impact on peoples self-esteem for the better or the worse or what?
Laura I think it has for the better because they encourage you and they
make you feel good every day. Theres always somebody//
Joni //whos they?
Laura I mean the staff, the people that you go to school with, you guys,
when we come in someones always talkin bout hello or you
look nice today and then that makes you kinda feel better and
then noones actually talks bad to you or say oh youre dumb cuz
you cant do that theres always someone to try to help you. You
look forward cuz you see other people have made it, so apparently
CWEE is doin somethin that theyre supposed to do cuz you
know youre gonna make it once you get outta here. Cuz youve
learned different values, you learn how to be on time, you learn,
you really have, um, how could I say it, you really have changed, I
mean, yourself. Like you, you coulda been sittin at home all day,
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Full Text

PAGE 1

WELFARE SELF -ESTEEM AND FEMINIST INSIGHTS by Joni Zisman B.A. University of Colorado, 1991 M.S.S University of Colorado 1998 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Science 1998

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This thesis for the Master of Social Science degree by Joni Zisman has been approved by

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Zisman, Joni Rae (Master of Social Science) Welfare Self-Esteem, and Feminist Insights Thesis directed by Professor Jana Everett ABSTRACT The political road to the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 generated a renewed discourse on public assistance programs and their participants Specifically, single parents who are overwhelmingly women, and aid to assist them, have been the targets of welfare reform. Across the country public and private efforts to get welfare recipients to work as quickly as possible are beginning to address the inevitable questions: Why aren't they able to financially support their families without public assistance, and what do they need in order do so? The range of answers and perspectives from which to explore these questions is vast and complex but also vital to the creation of supportive services to help T ANF recipients achieve self-sufficiency. Psychological constructs such as self-esteem are frequently alluded to as factors in obtaining economic self-sufficiency. In an attempt to better understand the how best to assist welfare recipients in finding good jobs, The Center for Women's Employment and Education (CWEE), a private, not-for-profit job training program for welfare recipients, implemented a

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program evaluation component. As part of the evaluation project, a quantitative preand post-self-esteem measure was administered to program participants. Upon analysis of the data, it was agreed that the data although statistically significant and indicating a positive relationship between the program and increased self esteem, had not produced a meaningful understanding of the relationship between self-esteem and self-sufficiency. Invoking the perspectives of postmodemism, feminism, and both quantitative and qualitative research methods this thesis aims to explore the construct of self-esteem and the relationship between this construct and economic self-sufficiency from the perspective of poor single mothers. This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication Signed

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DEDICATION I'd like to dedicate this thesis to my mother, the frrst of many single parents to teach me about possibility, hope, strength and self-esteem.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I'd like to acknowledge the numerous women who have helped me re construct my own understanding of self, self-esteem, self-sufficiency and for helping me to see my own perspective over the past three years. Specifically, I'd like to thank all ofthe participants of the Center for Women' Employment and Education, (CWEE) especially Donna Gonzalez from whom I've learned so much, as well as the staff, especially Kimberly Shepard, Laurie Harvey, and Angela Jones for all their support and help. I'd also like to thank Drs. Jana Everett and Myra Bookman for challenging me and introducing me to so many new and useful concepts, for their support throughout this project, and for their guidance as feminists, and to Steve Koester for sharing his expertise. Thanks also to Jean East for all of her assistance, to Owen Murdoch for his willingness to help me and be an un-official committee member, and to Beth Sanchez for being an intellectual and spiritual sounding board.

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CONTENTS CHAPTER 1. IN"TRODUCTION ...................................................................... 10 Feminist Theory and Praxis ................................................... 10 Welfare Reform .................................................................... 12 Center for Women's Employment and Education ................ 14 Self-Esteem ........................................................................... 23 Research Methods ................................................................. 24 Arrangement ofthe Thesis .............................................. ..... 25 2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ............................................. 26 AFDCITANF ....................................................................... 26 Self-Esteem and Welfare ..................................................... 34 3. THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES ............................................ 38 Feminism: A Brief Overview ............................................. 38 Ethical Considerations ........................................................ 40 Feminist Interpretations of the Welfare State ..................... 42 Feminism and Knowledge Production ............................... 4 7

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What is Self-Esteem?......................................................... 49 THE QUANTITATIVE APPROACH.................................................. 51 Theoretical Issues . . . . . .. . . . . .. . . .. . .. . . ... . .. . . . . . . . . 51 Hypotheses ......... .. ..... ............. ............................................. 52 Research Participants........................................................... 52 Research Design . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .. .. . .. .. . . . . . .. . .. . .. . .. 55 Measurement ....... ..... .... .. ..... ... .......... ......................... .. ..... ... 56 Results ................................................................................. 58 Discussion .. . . .. .. .. .. . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . .. . .. .. 61 5. THE QUALITATIVE APPROACH .......................................... 64 Theoretical Issues ................................................................. 64 Research Design ................................................................... 67 Sampling ............................................................................... 70 Current Recipient Focus Group ................................ 71 Former Recipient Focus Group ................................. 72 Setting ................................................................................... 73 The Data ................................................................................ 74 Discussion .................. : .......................................................... 75 Construct: Self, Putting SelfFirst ............................. 76 Construct: Influence of Others .................................. 80

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Construct: Kids ......................................................... 81 Kids and Money ........................................... 83 Construct : Money, Welfare and Work ...... .............. 84 Construct: Goal Setting ........... .......... ..... .............. 91 Construct: CWEE .................................................... 93 Construct: Encouragement ...................................... 96 6. CONCLUSION ........................................................................... 97 APPENDIX ......... ..... ........................ .. ... .... ........................... ............... 103 BIBLIOGRAPHY ............................... ..................................................... 104

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION "Now I work for what I got, ... and that's just self-esteem to me, working hard, seein' what you accomplished. For this thesis, I embarked upon the project of developing a better understanding about self-esteem and the often alluded to and little explored relationships between self-esteem and welfare receipt, and self-esteem and work. Because I work at a not-for-profit job training program for single parent recipients of welfare, my specific area of interest was welfare reform. This thesis is the result of this project, and the research I conducted was designed to better understand if and how self-esteem can assist women in keeping their families out of poverty without the assistance of government sponsored programs. To explore these questions, I employed techniques from positivism and postmodernism, and both quantitative and qualitative research methods, using feminism as my theoretical guide. Feminist Theory and Praxis Traditional views on the relationship between theory and praxis in modem social discourse see the two as distinct venues for change. Apart from the fixed 10

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binarism that seems inherent in this relationship, the problem is augmented by the idea that the goals of one can seem too disparate from those of the other to blend the useful tenets each has to offer (Patai, 1991 ). I argue that the relationship between the high theory located within the walls of the academy and practical activist work being done at a grassroots level is complex, and that one can often seem inaccessible to the other. However, if we operate based on the notion that social theory exists only in theory, or that practice is defined only by visible activism, theory becomes nothing more than gibberish and practice can in the end refute it's own goals. The use of postmodem discourse has been one way that social theorists have attempted to address the gap between theory and praxis. 1brough the use of tools such as deconstructionism the social world can be viewed in ways that abandon the dualistic approach that tends to problematize the relationship between theory and praxis. Postmodem feminist theory in particular has offered, among other benefits to the social sciences in general, innovative ways of beginning to bridge this gap. Feminist postmodem discourses provide interesting frameworks for using an explicit, albeit broadly defined theoretical lens, or ontology, to expose "grand systems of belief," (East, p. 3 in press) in this case patriarchal beliefs that are manifested in the management of the welfare state, and grass-roots, practical strategies employed to challenge these manifestations by helping women escape poverty. Feminist theory attempts to open new space for placing women's voices at the center, and not in margins, of social discourse. I have spent the last three years going through a process of change, transition and growth, as a researcher, an academic, a woman, a feminist and a social activist. The process of writing this thesis is also the process of reflecting upon how my thoughts about "poor women," welfare, self-esteem, feminism(s), and social activism have changed. As a result, my work and my research 11

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questions, designs and instruments have also changed along the way. I borrowed from theoretical perspectives and research paradigms that allow for changes in methodology, and that view the researcher as a research participant as well as an observer. While I was once interested in whether and how self-esteem affected self-sufficiency, I now wonder what self-esteem and self-sufficiency really mean. I am perhaps ending this process with more questions than I originally had, and while empirical science may seek a more deductive approach to understanding social behavior, there are also existing frameworks that regard the emergence of new questions as the development of new knowledge. The unfolding of a new ontology has helped me see how theory and practice can be used in partnership with one another for the betterment of the human condition. Clearly reframing the binary theory/praxis, locating a crossroads of sorts between the two, and including women's voices in the center of social science is beyond the scope of this master's thesis. However, borrowing from postmodem feminist theory and from the experiences I've had over the past three years working for a local grassroots agency where, because women's voices are the only voices, they are at the center, I will examine the psychological construct of self esteem in the context of welfare reform. Welfare Reform The political road to the passage ofthe Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) (P.L. 104-193) of 1996, more commonly known as "welfare reform," has generated a renewed discourse on public assistance programs and the people who seek this assistance. Specifically 12

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welfare reform has singled out one parent families, which are overwhelmingly headed by women, and public assistance programs designed purportedly for their benefit In the state ofColorado, as ofOctober 1, 1997 ninety-five percent of single parent households that received a cash grant were headed by women (Colorado State Department ofHuman Services, 1997). The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, which replaces Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), changes the welfare state in the United States in a number of significant ways. First and foremost, the new law eliminates the entitlement to AFDCIT ANF, meaning that states determine eligibility for cash assistance. Secondly, the law provides states with block grants partially based on meeting their 'work participation rates.' In other words, a state that fails to place recipients in 'work related activities' will be fiscally penalized in the forthcoming year. This could feasibly cause conflicting goals, resulting in departments of social services weighing work participation rates equally if not above the needs of the individual recipients. Lastly, and perhaps most relevant to this thesis, the PRWORA places strict time limits (5 year lifetime maximum and 24 consecutive-month limit) on receiving assistance. People have a total of sixty cash grants available to them over their lifetime, limited to no more than twenty-four consecutive months of receiving assistance and not participating in a 'work related activity.' The ramifications of the new law will not be fully understood in Colorado until recipients' time clocks begin to wind down and people find themselves with no governmental recourse for financial assistance. The implementation of welfare reform on July 1, 1997 has had departments of social services, welfare recipients, service providers and community members anxiously wondering how to get people to work as quickly as possible. With the impending time limits and vanishing entitlement, welfare recipients must find work more quickly than ever, 13

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and practitioners must find ways to meet thls increased need and explore varying strategies for helping transition into the work force. Across the country people involved with public and private efforts to get T ANF recipients to work as quickly as possible are beginning to ask the little explored questions, ''why aren't single mothers able to support their families financially" and ''what do single mothers need in order to successfully go to work full time?'' The range of answers and perspectives from which to explore these questions is vast, complex, and vital to the creation of supportive services to help as T ANF recipients find work. For those interested in helping single mothers beat the clock, something immediate and pragmatic is needed, from (among others) researchers and practitioners. Center for Women's Employment and Education I have had the opportunity to observe hundreds of single-parents work toward achieving self-sufficiency while working at the Center for Women's Employment and Education (CWEE) over the past three years as both the Transition and Evaluation Specialist. The agency is a Denver based non-profit that has been in business since 1982, and got it's start from a model program based in San Antonio, Texas. In 1972, a grass-roots organizer and nun named Lupe Anguiano organized hundreds of welfare recipients who then protested the welfare system by refusing their welfare checks and demanding job training and jobs. The community responded, including local employers, government agencies, and private funding sources. CWEE grew out of this grass roots model, and continues to maintain its philosophy (Harvey, 1993). CWEE's mission is to 14

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provide realistic programs to help single parents avoid, get off, and stay off of welfare through developing the skills and attitudes necessary to obtain continuous, meaningful employment. The program's funding currently comes from both public and private funds, roughly half of the total budget from each source. The public fimding comes from the Mayor's Office of Employment and Training (MOET), which are funds filtered down from the soon to be defunct federal Jobs Training Partnership Act (JTP A) funds. The other half of the budget comes from grants from foundations and corporations, and donations from individuals and philanthropic organizations. The agency provides a wide range of services to constituents, including outreach, job skills training, soft skills training, computer training, job search, and one-year follow-up. Participants are required to dress professionally during their time at CWEE, and there is a boutique of donated professional clothes available at no cost to all participants. The agency's niche lies in training people for primarily clerical, customer service and other office support jobs. CWEE's staff and board of directors realize that this is just one of many venues for finding meaningful work and supports other community-based organizations (CBOs) in their job training and placement efforts by referring women who choose other career paths, such as the trades, to training elsewhere, and by participating in numerous coalitions of CBOs. Laurie Harvey, the agency's Executive Director for the past 13 years has established and encouraged the procurement of relationships with other agencies such as Departments of Social Services in Denver, Adams, Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, other non-profit and community based organizations too numerous to list here, mental health and substance abuse treatment centers, and the criminal justice system to name only a few, and private sector employers. As a result, 15

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CWEE is well connected, well known and well positioned as a model for welfare reform. The program is divided into four main components. The Career Opportwlities for Realistic Employment (CORE) portion of the program is held Monday through Friday, from 8:00AM to 5:00PM for six weeks. In this segment, participants spend two hours per day working on basic reading, writing and math skills for the business world, and two hours learning basic computer skills. The other four hours per day are spent on interest, skill and personality assessments, researching the local labor market, resume construction and writing cover letters, job shadowing people working in their field of interest, and practicing interview skills. For those who need it, they also spend this time focusing on personal growth and development in their individual area of need. An "Obstacle Assessment" is completed by each participant to suggest possible obstacles to employment. Program staff, with the involvement of other community based organizations, act as advisors for issues that can impede employment, such as inadequate housing, legal issues, time management skills, self-esteem, domestic violence, and substance use or abuse. Every Wednesday afternoon is dedicated to spending time resolving these obstacles, and participants with similar obstacles resolve them together, with the assistance of program staff, case managers, or counselors CWEE also works closely with Project Wise, a local non-profit that offers counseling and support for women of low incomes who are transitioning from welfare to work. Project Wise was founded in 1995 to help single mothers empower themselves. Dr. Jean East, who also co-conducted the qualitative research in this thesis and is a member of my committee, is a co-director along with Sue Kinney, of Project Wise and supervises interns from the University of Denver social work programs. The interns generally run the groups on site at CWEE, which are available to women 16

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in all phases of the program. The groups are designed to help build self-esteem and to offer support during this time of change. Once participants successfully complete CORE, they can apply for the Advanced Computer Training (ACT) curriculum. Again, students spend forty hours per week over a six week period of time learning general computing skills in Microsoft Office products1 primarily MS Word and business skills such as proper format of memos and letters, taking messages, and operating office equipment. For those students who move through the curriculum more quickly, training in MS Excel, MS PowerPoint and MS Access is offered. Job Placement is the next phase of the CWEE curriculum. In this component students work with CWEE' s Employment Specialist to search the local newspapers and other sources for entry level job leads in their area of interest. Employers volunteer their time as guest lecturers and mock interviewers, and because of the relationship CWEE has established with private sector employers over the past fifteen years, literally hundreds of job leads are sent to the office each week. The frustrations of looking for work are addressed, and the Employment Specialist meets individually with all job search participants every week. In addition to these employment related services, job seekers are encouraged to participate in weekly support groups held by Project Wise, to address their frustrations and fears with looking for work, and to share their successes and aspirations. Once employment is secured, participants, now alumnae2 are placed into Project Transition, the one-year follow up component, and final phase of the program. The Transition Specialist makes monthly phone calls to working 1 all Microsoft software was donated to CWEE's computer lab by Microsoft Corporation 2 Because we also serve men, a large percent of whom graduate from the program, I realize that technically I should use alumni, however because men comprise only 2% of CWEE participants, I will use the feminine plural form. 17

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alumnae to provide support and resources as needed. If an alumnae loses her job, she invited back to the job search component until finding work again, provided she was not terminated from her job for negative reasons. For those who are frred, portions of the CORE curriculum are offered to help them resolve the issue that led to their termination. During this phase of the program, staff also assists graduates in securing child care subsidies and Medicaid from the Department of Social Services until they are able to pay for these necessities on their own. Participants for whom full-time work is not realistic are offered internships, or volunteer experiences through the Community Work Experience Program (CWEP). This program is often used for people who have little or no prior work experience in their field of interest. This is also a viable option for those who are faced with a mental illness or are in counseling for substance abuse, depression, domestic violence or other personal issues. The CWEP resembles the work-fare model, requiring that the recipient volunteer their labor twenty hours per week in order to receive their T ANF check. Participants who leave CWEE and enter into CWEPs often report that being active is better for their self-esteem than simply staying at home. fu light of welfare reform's work related activity mandate, the CWEP program will be expanded in Denver county, which I suspect will have varied outcomes. Under the right circumstances, the CWEP is the perfect solution for a person who is ready to go to work, but has a lack of prior work experience. It can also be helpful for the person who has numerous obstacles and needs time to work them out. However the CWEP is not without its potential problems There are fears that the attempts on the part of Congress to make the workfare or CWEP position exempt from federal worker protection laws will come to fruition, which could be potentially disastrous to workfare participants' safety. Cost is also an issue; it costs anywhere from $700 to $2000 (Cooper, 1997) per person over a three to six 18

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month period of time to administer a workfare program. The average cash grant for a single parent and two children in 1995 was, at the low end, in the state of Mississippi $120 per month, and at the high end, $963 in Alaska Colorado was somewhere in the middle, at $357 per month (Urban Institute, 1997). Clearly, workfare is not cheaper, and in many cases may be more expensive than the cash assistance program. Apart from these problems, there is great concern that T ANF workfare participants will replace low wage laborers currently working. Replacing low wage laborers with free labor will displace the working poor, and create more workfare participants (Cooper, 1997). The CWEP is just one alternative at CWEE, and we normally place people in agencies with which we are familiar. Of the 30 CWEPs CWEE has placed since 1996, 21 or 70% are working in full-time, unsubsidizedjobs (CWEE Program Evaluation Report). Because of our success rate, I feel the CWEP can be a great alternative, but only if the person builds marketable skills and is treated like an employee, with the same expectations and respect as paid employees. Whether through a CWEP or a direct hire, welfare recipients will need to find work faster than ever before. Practitioners will need to work with researchers and recipients to pinpoint the factors related to successful employment and try to provide training services in these areas identified. Because I have seen people reach their goals of providing for their families in spite of numerous obstacles and because many graduates often attribute this success at least partially to increased self-esteem, much could be learned from a better understanding of self esteem levels both before and after program completion. To corroborate with empirical data the notion that there is a relationship between self-esteem and successful exits from poverty could prove to be useful for policy and program recommendations. 19

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CWEE realized the value of data collection even prior to learning that welfare reform would bring with it an increased need to identify and report areas of strength and improve areas of weakness. By implementing a thorough evaluation process, CWEE now has the ability to use the data to determine which particular aspects of its programming effectively meet the needs of single parents moving into employment, and which aspects do not. Equipped with this information, CWEE has created a system for identifying areas of need and making modifications to the curriculum to ensure that programming accomplishes the agency's mission. In effort to keep up with welfare reform, as well as to inform staff of what aspects of our program are effective for whom, and what areas require modification, in 1995 CWEE took the first step toward incorporating an evaluation component into the program. In 1995 CWEE received a grant from the Urban Institute's Transitions From Welfare to Work small grants program to implement an Evaluation, Impact and Response program evaluation model and data collection mechanism. The purpose of collecting these data is primarily to determine whether we can attribute our participants' success in obtaining full time employment to our programming, if so for whom, and in what ways. While program evaluation is the main goal of this project, data relevant to non-programmatic factors possibly leading women from welfare to work, such as self-esteem, are also collected. Successful CWEE graduates frequently discuss increased self-esteem as a predominant factor in their ability to exit the welfare rolls and find meaningful, well-enough paying work. In an attempt to explore this idea more empirically, we began to administer a preand postself-esteem measure to program participants as part of the program evaluation project. A quantitative approach to exploring the idea of self-esteem affecting self-sufficiency was chosen for a number of 20

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reasons, most notably feasibility, staff resources, perceived validity and reliability, and the recommendation of Ph.D. consultants on the program evaluation project. Upon analysis of the data, we found a statistically significant, positive relationship between program participation and levels of self-esteem. However, the findings did not help us better understand the relationship between self-esteem and economic self-sufficiency. I attribute this to three main factors: the methods employed; a misunderstanding of the meaning of self-esteem in this particular context; and the instrument used to measure self-esteem. In this case the construct of self-esteem stripped of context is useless, and quantitative methods did not lend themselves well to understanding contextually derived meanings in this instance. Since 1996, when data collection for the Urban Institute funded program evaluation component began, CWEE has provided job training and supportive services to 317 single parents, 31 0 (or 98%) of whom were women. Other demographic data on CWEE program participants from January, 1996 to December, 1997 are displayed in the tables below: 91 28.71% 54 17.03% 14 4.42% 10 3.15% 3 0.95% Table 1.1 Ethnicity 21

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123 38.80% 24 7.57% 17 5.32% 12 5.36% 2 0.63% 2 0.63% 1 0.32% Table 1.2 Highest Level of Education Completed Table 1.3 Number of Children 72 23% 48 15% 24 8% 3 1% Table 1.4 Marital Status 24 7.57% 30 9.46% 4 1.26% 3 0 95% 3 0.95% 2 0.63% 0.32% 0.32% 0.32% Table 1.5 Sources oflncome 22

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Ofthe 317 single parents who started the program since January, 1996, 240, or 78% completed. Of those graduates, 168, or 70% are already working. An additional39 participants are still in a training component ofthe program. We estimate that at least 27, or 70% ofthese students will be working by February of 1998. The average placement wage ofCWEE participants starting work in 1996 was $6.90 per hour, and the median wage was $7.50. In 1997 as ofDecember 1, the mean starting wage has been $8.02 per hour, with the median wage being $8.00. This translates to approximately $16,702 annually, which is twice the amoWlt a single mother with two children received with full T ANF and Food Stamp benefits, only $7488. What we need to understand from these data are, what is it about CWEE that helps women achieve this success? How can we assist those we are not currently able to help? What are the factors that contribute to success in finding work? Self-Esteem Psychological constructs such as self-esteem and self-efficacy have been noted by social scientists as having a relationship to welfare receipt and economic self sufficiency, the ability to persevere after performance failure, and finishing school (Goldsmith, et al 1997; Goodman et al, 1994; Krause, 1996; Kunz & Kalil, in press; Prause & Dooley, 1997). Some social scientists have asserted that being on welfare itself can have deleterious effects on a person's self-esteem (Mead, 1992), and feel that efforts should be focused on welfare prevention as a path to psychological well being. While this approach may be effective for some 23

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people, to offer the elimination of welfare as a means of promoting high self esteem is preposterous as an intervention strategy. What cannot be overlooked is that single mothers who receive welfare are more susceptible to a disproportionate likelihood of experiencing depression than their working, low-income counterparts (Kunz, et al, in press). If this is true, and if, as the literature suggests, there is a relationship between working and high self-esteem, (Goldsmith, et al. 1997; Prause et al., 1997) psychological health and self-esteem need to be addressed in conjunction with other types of welfare reform efforts such as job training. Drawing on the theoretical framework of postmodem feminism, I argue in this thesis that the notion of self-esteem as was measured on the quantitative scale used at CWEE is not comprised of the same elements that welfare recipients themselves use to construct their own sense of self-esteem. In other words, whatever it is that we measured on the Texas Social Behavior Inventory (TSBI) does not accurately reflect the notion of self-esteem that recipients point to as being at least partially responsible for their ability to transition into full-time work outside the home and still maintain their households and care for their children. Research Methods I used both quantitative and qualitative methods in this project, although that was not the original design. The project was initially going to involve only quantitative methods, which were selected for a number of reasons. Most research conducted in psychology invokes the empirical method and utilizes 24

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quantitative methods concurrently As our evaluation project was still in its infancy at the time we selected the method and instrument to measure self-esteem, we opted for what we perceived as the mainstream, safe and "reliable" method. We administered the TSBI to all CWEE students participating in the program evaluation project (83% of all participants) using a Pre-test Post test design. The TSBI was first administered after enrollment but prior to starting the program (Time 1), and then again at program exit (Time IT). I hypothesized that Time IT self-esteem scores would be higher on average than Time I scores. While my hypothesis was substantiated by the data, I learned little from the data about why CWEE is good for self-esteem or how self-esteem can be increased. I began to question the construct of self-esteem as was measured by the TSBI, which led me to believe that perhaps the approach I was taking was backward. I had decided what self-esteem meant prior to conducting the research, and then measured it, instead of fust figuring out what our program participants were talking about when they discussed their self-esteem. Qualitative research offers a variety of ways to use inductive approaches to answering research questions, and a grounded theory approach is perhaps the most common of these techniques (Strauss & Corbin, 1994) It allows for alternative perspectives and ideas about a topic that may have different culturally constructed meanings, from the perspective ofthe informant and not just the researcher. I conducted two focus groups to look into the construct of self-esteem a little further. 25

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Arrangement of the Thesis There are a total of six chapters in this thesis. The first chapter was the introduction you just read. The next chapter will provide a review of the literature on both AFDC/TANF and self-esteem. Chapter 3 is dedicated solely to theory feminist theory in particular. In this chapter I provide the reader with a brief overview of feminism in general, address some areas of tension in feminism and then discuss feminist interpretations of welfare and social science. This provides the theoretical framework for the entire thesis. Chapter 4 includes the quantitative methods, research design and analysis section of the thesis. I explore various angles of the data from the TSBI and attempt to derive meanings useful for CWEE In Chapter 5 I discuss the qualitative methods, design, and data for further investigation of the topic of self-esteem and CWEE and self-esteem, work and welfare. Chapter 6 is a brief conclusion, advocating for more cross-over between theoreticians and practitioners. 26

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CHAPTER2 LITERATURE REVIEW This chapter will provide an overview of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and the new program that replaces AFDC in lieu of welfare reform, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). I will focus primarily on employment related issues for recipients of this public assistance program, such as realistic employment opportunities, job training efforts, child care, and reasons recipients do not work. Practitioners interested in helping recipients find work have looked not only at job related skills, but also personal factors related to successful job entry, such as self-esteem and depression. The literature on self esteem and welfare receipt, while sparse, tends to support the idea that being on welfare contributes to low self-esteem and depression. In this chapter I explore the existing literature relating welfare to self-esteem, and I also challenge the construct of self-esteem used by the social scientists cited in the literature review. 27

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AFDC/TANF The current discourse on welfare reform and single motherhood is visible in the political arena, the mass media, and scholarly literature, as well as in daily conversations throughout the United States. Recipients are targeted as agents responsible for draining the national budget because they are too lazy to work. And while so much attention is being paid to the "welfare" or "single mother" question, in the literature there is a noticeable lack of practical solutions to this social problem. The most obvious solution to the problem is to assist those who can work in obtaining full-time employment. This notion drove the passage of welfare reform in 1996; however, the debate on how to achieve this goal is perhaps more controversial than the welfare question itself. The new law encourages work through a fear based model, imposing strict time limits and lifetime caps on receiving assistance. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 changes the welfare system in the United States in a number of fundamental ways. First of all, the federal entitlement to individuals was eliminated with welfare reform. In practical terms, this means that the main responsibility for the administration of welfare has been transferred from the federal to state governments. States can now determine eligibility criteria, establish benefit levels, design work programs, and make all decisions regarding supportive services, such as child care assistance. States now have total authority in deciding whether legal immigrants, convicted drug felons, and additional children born to T ANF recipients will be eligible for assistance. Funds will be allocated to states in the form of block grants, which replace the open-ended annual reimbursement of expenses from the federal government to 28

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states under AFDC. These funds will be allocated with significant federal restrictions, most critical in relation to the topic of this thesis being time limits: families can receive T ANF no more than 24 consecutive months without participating in an approved "work activity" and 80% of all households will be limited to receiving a maximum of five years worth ofT ANF over their lifetime. Other important changes are that assistance will be denied to families who refuse to cooperate with paternity establishment, unless they fall under the "good cause" exemption category, most often used for survivors of domestic violence, and no assistance will be provided for parents under the age of eighteen who are not attending school or living in an adult supervised setting (Mayor's Welfare Reform Task Force, 1997). These strict time limits and the elimination of the entitlement reflect the philosophical underpinnings of Congress, which I will contend in Chapter 3 have more to do with maintaining the patriarchal structure and less to do with balancing the federal budget. This is perhaps most succinctly stated in the second line of the actual law, (P.L. 104-193) which states that "marriage is the foundation of a successful society" (emphasis mine). There have also been efforts to help recipients find meaningful work, or understand why they are not working, that are not driven solely by the idea that marriage is the glue of society. The next section will explore the literature that attempts to explain why single mothers receiving assistance do or do not work. The Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program was initiated in 1988 under the Family Support Act as a way to remedy the welfare problem by emphasizing education and training related to employment. The success of JOBS programs in different states has varied; in some instances it was successful in reducing long-term dependency, in others it failed (Gueron, 1995). The welfare to-work mentality of simply rectifying the situation by getting recipients jobs makes a number of assumptions, such as; a) there are jobs, b) welfare recipients 29

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are qualified candidates and c) the jobs recipients can secure pay well enough to sustain a family's basic needs. This mentality also fails to consider women with children who have special needs and require more of their time, or women who take care of elder family members, which can also require single mothers to leave their jobs. Contrary to the opinion of some factions of the public, AFDC and Food Stamps alone are insufficient means to sustain a family headed by a single parent Kathryn Edin ( 1991) conducted a study in which she documented the income and expenses of AFDC recipients. Through interviewing recipients in Chicago, she learned that an overwhelming number of respondents combined other sources of income with AFDC in order to make ends meet. These alternative sources of income included assistance from family and friends, child support (in some cases), working under the table for cash, as well as various forms of participation in the underground economy, in extreme cases even using theft, drug selling and prostitution as a means of survival. Her results indicate that AFDC and Food Stamps alone are far from adequate income to sustain a household. In fact she found in her sample of AFDC recipients that after paying for rent and food, they had an average of $10 left each month for all other expenses (Edin, 1991 ). More recent data presented by the National Organization for Women (1995) shows that in 1995 the national average monthly grant allocation for a parent with two children was $393. This size family also qualifies for an additional $252 a month in food stamps, bringing their monthly income to a total of$645 a month. Because only 10 percent of AFDC families receive housing subsidy (NOW Home Page, Feb. 6, 1995), housing assistance is not worked into this figure. If one were to break down the total monthly income into a weekly budget for this family of three, it would be as follows (allowing for an average of 4.3 weeks in a month): food $58.61; housing $69.77; utilities $5.25; all else 30

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$16.38 (National Organization for Women, Home Page, 1995). While these data reveal the extreme poverty in which recipients and their children live, they are still seen as lazy and trying to get something for nothing, often being accused of having more children to increase their monthly cash allowance, even though this has been disputed by many researchers (Rank, 1994; Smith and Stone, 1989). While these perceptions are well documented, the literature suggests that recipients are by no means living in luxury. Apart from the fact that AFDC is an insufficient means to provide for a family, the stigma associated with being a recipient can be denigrating. Mark Rank (1994) used qualitative methods to study the perceptions that recipients have about welfare. The study included, among other topics, questions regarding recipients' perceptions of how they are viewed by the public. Predictably, recipients were painfully aware of the stigma associated with receiving AFDC, and often went out of their way to avoid being identified as recipients. Sherri Caldwell (1990, p. 25) noted in a discussion of her observations of assisting welfare recipients through job training, that ... the most important thing I had to teach these women, [ ... ],was how to create a positive self-image. I was told ahead of time that my students would need far more nurturing and praise than the average student..." I find this comment patronizing, because I don't know what the "average student" is. The statement does, however, illustrate the stigma attached to welfare receipt. What then, is the incentive to stay on a system that works so poorly, keeps people in poverty, and denigrates those who rely on it? Perhaps, as the literature suggests, it is less an issue of desire to work (or lack thereof), and more one of the realities of the job market, the economy, and the additional expenses of being employed. In Edin's (1991) study, respondents estimated that they would need to earn between $7 and $10 per hour to be completely independent of the system. 31

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Their estimate has been corroborated by social scientists (Jenks and Edin, 1991). Data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey of 1984-85 revealed that the working single mother's expenses were much higher than those of the non working single mother. The additional expenses were noted as health care, clothing, transportation and child care, totaling $2800 (1991 dollars) annually for the working single mother. In order to achieve the standard ofliving of welfare recipients, who receive Medicaid benefits, a working single mother would need to earn, according to 1991 calculations, between $7.50 and $9.00 per hour (Jenks and Edin, 1991 ). Yet estimates predict that the average welfare recipient can expect to earn approximately only $5.15 per hour (Edin, 1991). Child care is the most costly of these expenses, and Jutta Joesch (1991) examined how the cost of child care effects the paid work behaviors of AFDC recipients. As Joesch noted, two-thirds of AFDC recipients have children under the age of 5, meaning that full-time child care is an important factor to consider when preparing for work. Although there are programs that provide child care subsidies, Joesch noted that government assistance actually decreased as the cost of child care increased over time. Joesch further substantiated this point by conducting a study to assess the impact of rising child care costs. She found that when the cost of child care increases by 10 cents per hour, the mother would need to work an additional five hours to maintain the same income level, and increasing child care by $1.00 per hour would equal an additional 25 hours of work for the mother. In short, Joesch (1991, p. 164) noted that ''there is a substantial negative relationship between welfare mothers' work efforts and the price of child care." Even for those who can afford to pay for child care, child illness accounts for absenteeism from work. These absences certainly affect the number of paid hours a mother can work, and in some cases absence leads to job termination. 32

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Labor market trends over the past twenty years have illustrated a gloomy outlook, not just for welfare recipients and the working poor, but for the middle class as well. Danziger and Lehman (1996) attribute these economically stressed trends to structural changes, and identify the shrinking need for unskilled workers in the labor force. Increased global competition, declines in the unionized work force, and fewer jobs in manufacturing and production have also contributed to this job scarcity. Furthermore, the jobs that are available for lower skilled workers tend to pay low wages. Because of the relatively low education level of AFDC recipients on the whole, their job prospects in many cases do not look good. According the Bureau of the Census' Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), between June and September of 1993, only 38 percent of AFDC recipients had completed high school (Bureau of the Census, 1993). Danziger and Lehman (196, p. 34) suggest that "far fewer than half of all welfare mothers have characteristics that would enable them to earn their way out of poverty without help." Carol Dawn Peterson (1995) used existing research and data from SIPP to identify factors that do lead single parents to welfare exit. She found that the recipients who were most likely to quickly exit the welfare system had 12 years or more of education, had worked 6 months or more prior to receiving AFDC, and had children no younger than 6 years old. This data, although useful for purposes of understanding the welfare population, does not lead to anything substantive in the way of policy recommendations related to welfare reform. In spite of the gloomy outlook for recipients, there is a body of work, albeit sparse, that provides useful information and hope. The federal government has made several attempts to implement programs that encourage work, not welfare In the 1980s, the Work Incentive (WIN) Program targeted single mothers with school aged children as those who needed to look for work while receiving 33

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public assistance. Discouraged by the low success rate, the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) Training Program was initiated in 1988 as a part of the Family Support Act. The mandate created through WIN was extended to women with younger children and emphasized education and training related to employment. While some contend that JOBS itself failed, Judith Gueron (1995) attributes the low success rates to a number of specific factors, including a lack of consensus of the ultimate goals, insufficient resources to make it work, and other programmatic reasons. Gueron does not, however, attribute the disappointing success to recipient characteristics or front-line staff of the JOBS programs themselves. The Institute for Family Self-Sufficiency (1994) makes a number of recommendations to JOBS administrators that the Institute believes would enhance the success of the program. The findings of their survey of JOBS case managers in 22 states suggests that smaller case manager-to-client ratios are related to recipients successfully completing job-readiness training. This research also suggests that a contradictory message is imbedded within the federal goals: increased size of caseloads and increased quality of service delivery. They recommend a menu of case management approaches, most notably including low cost, minimal contact with job-ready participants, allowing case managers more time to provide the harder-to-serve population with more intensive services. Federal goals forcing case managers into enrolling those participants who are faced with more obstacles into employment and training programs when those faced with fewer obstacles would probably enter into work more quickly, was identified by the Institute as a major flaw in the design of the JOBS program. According to many experts, collaboration between government agencies and community based organizations often leads to increased success for welfare 34

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exit (Harvey, 1993; Institute for Family Self-Sufficiency, 1994; Rodriquez, 1993,) JOBS programs and AFDC/T ANF recipients and their families could benefit from the creation of comprehensive resource directories, as some states have done. Furthermore, if in fact a higher self-esteem level is associated with better fimctioning, as indicated by numerous social scientists, (Goldsmith, et al. 1997; Goodman, et. al. 1994; Krause, 1996; Kunz and Kalil, in press; Prause and Dooley, 1997), then incorporating self-esteem building components into employment and training programs might combine with job training skills toward achieving higher success rates. Self-Esteem and Welfare While the majority of academic literature I found on self-esteem and women is related to body image, body weight, and perceived attractiveness, there is a small body of literature relating self-esteem in women to other domains, such as school and work. Social research in general related to women is relatively sparse compared with that of men, especially women of color and poor women (Bing and Reid, 1996). What does exist relating self-esteem to self sufficiency among women suggests that an increase in a woman's level of self esteem is a factor that contributes to successful welfare exit (Kunz and Kalil, in press). The literature suggests a positive relationship between adequate employment and self esteem (Belle, 1990; Kunz and Kalil, in press; Nichols-Casebolt, 1986). In a study conducted on the relationship between self-esteem levels and depression 35

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among urban, African American, low income mothers, Sherryl H. Goodman ( 1994) and her colleagues' findings corroborate the theory that a high level of self esteem is "essential both for personal satisfaction and for effective functioning." That economic self-sufficiency is related to both personal satisfaction and effective functioning is an area current literature and research regarding welfare exit lacks. One aim of this thesis is to attempt to bring this question into the forefront of the welfare reform discourse. The practical implications of the effects of level of self-esteem on success in work in the context of welfare reform must be better understood so that practitioners can address this relationship in an attempt to prepare recipients for work. According to the literature, poor people in general do seemingly suffer from psychological distress at a higher rate than people with higher socioeconomic status. Specifically, women who are unemployed, raising children alone and/or lacking social support display high levels of depressive symptoms (Kunz and Kalil, in press). In fact, the rate of high levels of depression among poor or unemployed people are roughly twice that of people with middle incomes, Belle (1990) reported rates being 29% to 48% versus 17% to 20% respectively. For women in particular, living in poverty and needing assistance from the state can have harmful effects on ones' sense of self. The literature suggests that "many women and girls living in a sexist society often internalize such oppressions" (Catham-Carpenter and DeFrancisco, 1997). Apart from the relationship between poverty and mental health, welfare use and psychological wellness also appear to have a relationship. While few in number, existing studies relating welfare use to psychological distress suggest that welfare recipients specifically are disproportionately more likely to suffer from depression than people not receiving assistance (Kunz & Kalil, in press). Further support ofthis point can be found in Nichols-Casebolt (1986) who conducted 36

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research comparing low-income mothers who did not receive welfare to those who did. Her results indicate that welfare recipients consistently scored lower on self-efficacy and self-satisfaction scales than their working counterparts. Prause and Dooley (1997) conducted a study relating self-esteem to employment, underemployment and unemployment among schoolleavers. Their results indicate that self-esteem scores for unemployed and underemployed research participants were lower than for the employed participants. Again, the meaning of self-esteem as understood by the researcher will be reflected in the instruments that she creates, and therefore in the data that she collects. This does not necessarily mean that the research "subject's" actual level of self-esteem is reflected in the data because it is possible that the "subject" sees self-esteem very differently than does the researcher, and may attribute her level of self-esteem to constructs not measured by the researcher's instrument. I feel it is important to look at my own understanding of self-esteem, both when I began this project and now. The definition of self-esteem that was used throughout the quantitative research design planning and data collection phases of this project was taken from Coopersmith (1967), as noted in Goodman, (Goodman, et.al. 1994, p. 261) as ''the evaluation people make and maintain about themselves. Level of self-esteem indicates the extent to which an individual perceives him or herself to be capable, successful, and worthy. A relatively high self-esteem is considered essential both for personal satisfaction and for effective functioning." According to the Inter American Foundation, self-esteem is a "personal recognition of self-worth and human dignity, and sense of one's potential to live a better life and contribute to society" (IAF, 1997) April Chatham-Carpenter and Victoria DeFrancisco (1997 p. 165) define self-esteem as ... one's feeling about who one is." These definitions are consistent with what the general literature on self-esteem suggests 37

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(Rosenberg, 1965; Tarafodi et. al., 1997; Zimmerman et. al1997). Also included in the defmition of self-esteem used in this project are "aspects of worth and social interaction," from Hehnreich and Stapp (1974, p. 473). The practical implications of the notion that self-esteem and psychological health are related to work and/or successful welfare exit must be further explored, especially in light of the passage and implementation of welfare reform. If, as is conjectured here, a belief in ones' self and abilities is related to securing and maintaining economic self-sufficiency, welfare-to-work efforts must address this issue. But first the question "what is self-esteem" must be explored. Operating from the belief that the self, as well as self-esteem, are socially constructed ideas, I must take a closer look at how the idea of self-esteem has been construed and by whom. 38

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CHAPTER3 THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES In this chapter I will invoke the insights offered by both postmodem and feminist ontologies, or lenses, to provide the framework for this thesis. By looking at feminist reads on what has often been referred to as the "patriarchal welfare state," (Abramaovitz, 1996; Gordon, 1990, 1992; Orloff, 1993; Pateman, 1988) I will discuss ideas not only about the alleged institutional oppression of women, but also about the different feminisms and feminist interpretations of the welfare state. I will also explore feminist critiques of the production of knowledge in the social sciences, specifically psychology. Finally, I will use a postmodem, feminist eye to explore the construct of self-esteem. Feminism: A Brief Overview I have used the terms feminist, feminism and feminist theory in this thesis thus far without providing my understanding of what they mean. There are numerous definitions of feminism, and they span the continuum from radical ideas to more mainstream or conservative thoughts on feminism. Here I provide only a few observations from other feminists that reflect the meaning feminism has for 39

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me. These "definitions" of feminism were foWid in Amazons, Bluestockings and Crones: a feminist dictionary, (Kramarae & Treichler, 1992). Feminism is: ... a desire for a truly general conception of humanity" Joan Kelley (p. 158). "A method of analysis as well as a discovery of new material. It asks new questions as well as coming up with new answers. Its central concern is with the social distinction between men and women, with the fact of this distinction, with it's meanings, and with it's causes and consequences. Juliet Mitchel and Ann Oakley (p. 159). "It is a mode of analysis, a method of approaching life and politics, a way of asking questions and searching for answers, rather than a set of political conclusions about the oppression of women. Nancy Harstock (p. 158) A philosophy based on the recognition that we live in a male dominated culture in which women remain unacknowledged, and where women are forced into sex roles which demand that they be dependent, passive, nurturant, etc. Men too must assume sex roles [but these] are not nearly as crippling as women's. Irish Journal oflrishwomen United (p. 159) Most succinctly stated and reflective of my Widerstanding of this perspective, from a bumper sticker of all places, is "feminism is the radical notion that women are people." I like this idea, although it is clearly over-simplified, 40

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because it covers a broad range of issues without lumping all women into a single category, apart from the category "people." Diversity in feminism is as prevalent as it is in any discourse, setting, or social sphere. Feminists differ in our race, class, sexual orientation, culture, and gender as well as in our opinions about feminism, what gender is, and what feminist goals are, or should be, and there is a proliferation ofliterature that addresses these issues (Childers & Hooks, 1990; Collins, 1991; Higginbotham, 1992; Mohanty, 1991; Patai, 1991; Young, 1995;). Most relevant to this thesis is the discourse related to privilege, and the notion that feminisms and feminists, such as myself, are not exempt from relations of power. Ethical Considerations As a middle income, heterosexual, White woman with a college education and no children, working with and "studying" single mothers with low incomes, roughly eighty-five percent of whom are women of color, I see the world and the women at CWEE from a different vantage point even though as women we share certain experiences. Western, White feminists have been criticized for failing to recognize our position in dominant culture (Mohanty, 1991; Patai, 1991 ), and in tum unwittingly reproducing some of the same oppressions that as feminists we are working to eradicate. Discourses on ''the poor woman" or ''the third world woman" have tended to homogenize and objectify large numbers of diverse women with complex lives. This homogenization of women who are not privileged in Western culture is based on the assumption that all women are struggling in similar ways, against similar oppressors. But all women are not 41

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united as sisters in the fight for equality. There is not one fight, and privileged feminist scholars are not the saviors of all women. Feminists, even when genuinely concerned with the status of women all over the world, cannot simply enter into other people's cultures and lives to determine whether or not they are 'oppressed' or 'empowered,' dictate what needs to be done in order to improve the conditions of their lives, and then speak on their behalf. It produces false knowledges, and frequently re-enforces stereotypes and allegorical assumptions. The differing voices creating this discourse in feminism can lead one to wonder if there should there be feminism at all if we are all so different, if our experiences as women are so disparate, and if we can actually do more damage than good if we're not careful. When considering race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, and myriad other ways in which women differ, it is difficult to determine whether or not women constitute a "collective" of people with common concerns and interests. Yet there are clearly inequities based on gender in virtually every culture, across class, race and so on, and feminism seeks to even the playing field, regardless of other social differences. Iris Young (1995) is one feminist theorist who has unpacked the issue of addressing women as a single group. She borrows from Jean Paul Sartre the idea of seriality. This philosophy attempts to distinguish between a "group" and a "series." According to Sartre, group members are unified, recognize themselves as a part of that group, and share many of the same values and goals of the other members. A series is different from a group in that ... members are unified passively by the objects around which their actions are oriented" (Young, 1995, p.l99). These objects or actions will change for different group members at different times, and thus the nature of the series itself will change. So while all feminists do not sympathize or empathize with, or even respect or understand every other female, there are some experiences and objectives that we do share in 42

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common. Feminism to me is not so much a way of life, or a social or political theory about women as it is a method of analysis that is commonly used to illuminate and remedy inequities based on gender and attempt to improve the status of women and girls of all races, cultures, sexual orientations and so on. As different as we are, there are common threads shared by women that are strong enough to frame a theory of systematic, structured and institutional oppression, and these common threads lie in the notion of women as a series, and not as a group. Framed in this way, it is not essential that women remain a fixed group. I use Young's theory as a basis for discussing the serial of"single mothers with low incomes" in this thesis. In her words (1995, p. 199)"[t]he unity of the series derives from the way that individuals pursue their own individual ends ... in response to structures that have been created by the unintended collective result of past action." In this case, the "collective result of past action" is the welfare state. Feminist Interpretations of the Welfare State Welfare reform is a feminist issue for a number of reasons. First and foremost, 95% of all T ANF households in the state of Colorado are headed by women, and according to Census data from 1992, 86% of the 11.5 million single parent families nationally were headed by a woman (18th Annual Report, Chapter 1 ). A second reason that welfare reform is an issue of feminist concern is that the welfare state was designed to keep the patriarchal family intact, even in the absence of a "head of household." The goal of ADC at the time of its inception was to keep mothers out of the work force, encouraging them to stay at home to 43

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perform domestic duties and raise children. The program was based on the premise that a woman's place is in the home and a man's place is in the rest of the world, which are assumptions that feminism challenges. Much has changed over the past sixty years, including the role of women in our society, the family structure, and the philosophy of the welfare state. Since the number ofwomen in the work force has tripled since the 1950's, the goals of the welfare system have become fraught with conflicting interests (Gueron, p. 7). Because the primary focus ofTANF is to prevent children from living in poverty, income assistance is provided directly to their parents, yet public opinion reinforces the belief that parents should work and financially support their children. When there is only one parent, it is almost always woman, yet in the context of the patriarchal family, women should not work. This conflict of interests has created a debate regarding how best to meet children's needs while defining what public assistance should look like, and whether the United States should give a hand out or even a hand up to families living in poverty Welfare reform was the battle cry of President Clinton's first election campaign and of the 104th Congress. TANF is the outcome of this political struggle, and the program has been restructured to fit within the current political framework. T ANF is only one of the income maintenance programs whose roots lie in the Social Security Act of 1935. The programs that were initiated as a result of this act can be collapsed into two general categories: social insurance and public assistance (Gordon, 1992). The social insurance programs tend to be viewed more generously and have been traditionally more popular. An example of a social insurance program is Unemployment Insurance, not generally seen as a part of the welfare state, and not at all affected by the PRWORA. Public assistance programs on the other hand, such as ADC, now T ANF, are stigmatized, 44

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and this program was for all intents and purposes the lone target of the most recent restructuring of the welfare system. Linda Gordon (1992) highlights the distinct gender and race split between recipients of social insurance programs, who are primarily white men, and public assistance programs, overwhelmingly serving minorities and women. This division corresponds with the fact that public assistance programs are by far less popular than social insurance programs. A survey regarding public opinion of welfare spending in the United States in 1986 found that roughly 42 percent of those surveyed felt ''too much" was spent on welfare, while only 22 percent felt the amount was ''too little" (Shapiro & Young, 1989). A feminist read on welfare reform points out that the values that led to the enactment of the PRWORA do not accurately represent the reality of what is occurring with families throughout today's society. Here are some of the basic tenets behind welfare reform: "It is the sense of the Congress that--(1) marriage is the foundation of a successful society; (2) marriage is an essential social institution which promotes the interests of children and society at large; (Contract With America; PRWORA). Welfare reform is the political manifestation of patriarchal judgments being made about women who have and/or raise children on their own. It is not family, or community, but marriage that is necessary for our society to succeed. Distinct gender roles accompany this idea of the American patriarchal family, and for women this role has been played out in the home, doing housework, raising children, and caring for their husbands over the past several decades. Although representations of women have continued to change over time, beginning in the late 1940's women were portrayed as wives and mothers for whom, "[housework 45

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became] a medium of expression for ... [their] femininity and individuality" (Coontz, 1992) In reality, many women were unhappy about leaving the jobs they occupied during World War II when they were welcomed into the workplace, and then quickly shifted back into the proverbial kitchen as soon as the war ended, yet portrayals ofthe happy homemaker prevailed in representations of family life. The image ofthe 1950's sitcom White family, happily living in the serenity of the suburbs was not an accurate representation of the way things were for most Americans. In fact, during the mid to late 1950's poverty was a way oflife for 25% of American families, and there were no Food Stamp or housing subsidy programs to assist poor families (Coontz, 1992). Many of the values that led to the passage of welfare reform are based on, as Stephanie Coontz (1992) put it, ''the way we never were." Western culture sends the message that women aspire to be mothers and homemakers. While this may be true for many women, motherhood is tied to gender in a way that accepts absent fathers and blames mothers for the breakdown ofthe family Feminist literature on representations of motherhood invokes pop culture along with academic research as a way of pointing out the unspoken expectations of people in our society based on gender (Coontz, 1992; Lichtenstein, 1994; Sulieman, 1994). Feminists are challenging the idea that women are made to bare and nurture children. Women are unquestionably expected to raise children, regardless of their economic situation or lack of support from the other parent of their children. Fathers, on the other hand, are not expected to take as active a role in raising children. This became apparent to me at CWEE whenever a father came through the program. All of the women who attended class with a man, as well as all of the staff (including myself) let the fathers know how wonderful we thought it was that they were raising their children on their own. Yet women don't tell each other that, and it is equally 46

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wonderful when women raise their children alone. Welfare reform has solidified the notion that a woman's place is in the home, all that has changed is that it is also in the workplace now, too. But society does not expect men to double their workday. Yet it continues to remain true that both a man and a woman are necessary to conceive a child, and many fathers today abandon their parental responsibilities, while others are financially unable to provide for their families. In 1989 the average annual income from child support for a single parent family living in poverty was $1,889 (Census Bureau, 18th Annual Report). Although there is some discussion of child support enforcement laws getting tougher, more commonly criticized are the parents who do not abandon their children, but require public assistance. These parents are overwhelmingly women. Apart from the issues discussed above, many feminists have explored the idea that the welfare system was designed to ensure a women's economic dependence. Mimi Abramovitz (1996) offers a thorough discussion of different feminist interpretations of the welfare state. Some feminists, liberal feminists in particular, call for the state compensation of women's unremunerated and important work in the home, while radical feminists see the welfare state as a symbolic patriarchal replacement for a husband, and socialist feminists extend the radical feminist notion to include social as well as spousal control. And even though these critiques of the welfare state are divergent and have potentially contradictory outcomes, the one area of agreement seems to be that welfare is not good for women. Seth Koven and Sonya Michel (1990) point out that women had more to do with the creation of the welfare state in several countries, including the United States, than historians give them credit for. Large state welfare programs began to emerge at a time when women's reform efforts were strong, and frequently the 47

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two efforts influenced each other. Known as matemalists, many feminists during this time lobbied for the welfare and rights of women and children, and these efforts were often taken over by the state. Matemalists struggled for gender equity in other ways, and ... often challenged the constructed boundaries between public and private, women and men, state and civil society" (Koven & Michel 1990). It is important to recognize women's roles in the creation of the welfare state as well as feminist work that often goes unrecognized. The invisibility of women in social discourse is a problem for a number of reasons. For one, disregarding women's roles undermines their work outside of the home and minimizes their contributions. Secondly, if the underlying assumption about women and the production of knowledge or the creation of a bureaucracy is that we are uninvolved, it must also be assumed that women are passively letting men oppress us, which is not necessarily true. Women's roles in the maintenance of the patriarchy cannot be overlooked any more than women's struggles against the patriarchy. And at the same time, we must realize that women's voices have been grossly excluded from social, political, and economic discourse. Race was not discussed in Koven and Michel's paper, and Linda Gordon ( 1994) points out that it was only the women who had access to any sort of political power at the time, White, middle-class women, who contributed to the creation of the welfare state. While many welfare activists were Black, they were not consulted in the creation of the welfare state. If as feminists we are trying to re-present history, or herstory more accurately, we cannot set the parameters of our inquiries around only gender. It is a complicated theory. 48

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Feminism and Knowledge Production The theoretical perspective for social science and knowledge production in general has been based upon the unspoken understanding of a White, male norm. Many of the consequences of this narrow bias have been injurious to women and people of color, and feminists psychologists have been addressing this bias for decades now (Chodorow, 1974/1989; Gilligan, 1970, 1993; Goldberger, et al. 1996; Hare-Mustin & Marecek 1988, 1990; Mitchell, 1974). Carol Gilligan and Nancy Chodorow are probably the most welJ known feminist psychologists who have deconstructed some of the canons of psychological theory, such as psychoanalysis and moral development. Gilligan (1995, p. 121) contends that the "dominant key in psychology [has been] the separate self;" the psychologically healthy individual acts alone and is autonomous. Yet in her own work listening to girl's and women's voices tell her about themselves, Gilligan found that women tend to think in terms of connection, not separation, and she argues that this characteristic of 'staying in relationship' has been pathologized by male biased psychological theories. Rachel Hare-Mustin and Jeanne Marecek (1988) remind us that there are both dangers and benefits in focusing on gender differences in psychology. On one hand, women are not men and psychology has been criticized for imposing a male norm onto females or viewing females as a male aberration. On the other hand, by pointing out our differences we can ultimately, although unwittingly, reinforce gender stereotypes that can be harmful to women. And, because psychology's task is to produce knowledge about and explain human behavior, it has the power to pathologize, legitimize and even institutionalize gender biased knowledge. Psychological constructs when well received can become "common 49

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knowledge" such as women are more nurturing and men are more logical, therefore women should stay home and nurture the children while men go out and use their logic to run the world and bring home the bacon. The cultural and political implications of such common knowledge have partially driven welfare reform efforts. Many feminist psychologists contend that psychology has either silenced women or given them a male voice. The psychologists who have contributed to this silencing have been women as well as men, and we cannot overlook women's roles in the silencing or oppression of women. And so instead of treating women in psychology as men, or as deviant, we must begin to develop new ways of understanding meaning, and understanding all people, male and female, who vary in our race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, and so on. We still have a lot of work to do in this area, and women with less access to economic resources have perhaps been least involved with psychology and social science research (Bing & Trotman, 1996). We need to hear from women themselves, and listen with female biased ears if we are to learn about how women behave. What is Self-Esteem? The age of modernity, which brought us empirical science, functions based on the idea of a naturally existing, objective, essential truth about human behavior. While still dominant in the social sciences, empiricism is limited in its ability to accept and perceive diverse views on the 'nature' of things. In this 50

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thesis, the nature of self-esteem is what I am questioning. Postmodern interpretations of social life challenge the notion of naturally existing things, such as a self, or in this case, a quantifiable and measurable, essential level of self esteem. Kenneth Gergen states that ... as one becomes increasingly aware of multiplicity in perspective, things-in-themselves disappear from view" (Gergen, 1991, p. 112). Thus, a single definition of self-esteem, especially the elements that combine to create ones' sense of self, are far more complex than a snap-shot methodology can reflect, as even a methodology is a framework constructed by a researcher and therefore is limiting. Over the past two years of exploring the idea of self-esteem among welfare recipients, I can honestly say that I know far less about what self-esteem is now than I did at the beginning of my journey. Researchers seem content to report that self-esteem levels change or stay the same, have a relationship with employment, or are affected by gender, but without ever questioning the idea of self-esteem itself. The modern idea that the term self esteem corresponds directly with and is accurately representing a naturally occurring component of human existence is still prevalent in psychological studies. Theoreticians have grappled with the idea that self and sense of self are not fixed, but again, the gap between theory and practice remains wide. One way in which the notion of self-esteem is problematized is the idea that the self is not a fixed being with an essential nature. Selfhood is a topic of in depth study in psychology and social psychology that aligns with postmodern views of the world. By rejecting the idea of a fixed self, social scientists can avoid the context stripping that so frequently misinforms research. According to M.B. Smith, ... psychological accounts of selfhood have to be framed in historical context if they are to be scientifically adequate; they cannot be timeless like the laws of physics" (p, 27). I understand this to mean that, without considering the 51

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cultural or contextual factors in the lives of people, we cannot understand their psychology, or in this case, their self-esteem. 52

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CHAPTER4 THE QUANTITATIVE APPROACH fu order to explore whether or not there is a relationship between CWEE and self-esteem and job entry and self-esteem, we originally used a quantitative research design. We administered the TSBI as a Pre-test Post-test and compared the two data sets Upon analysis of the data, we realized that, although statistically significant, the results did not help us understand how CWEE helps with self-esteem and for whom. Theoretical Issues To determine whether or not a relationship between increased level of self esteem and employment attainment exists, this research project was initially guided by principles from a positivist perspective and a quantitative methodology 1brough the positivist lens, my aim was to utilize empirical science to explain a social phenomenon and 'prove' a point: that CWEE and work are good for self esteem. I believed that by following the rigor of empirical 'science,' I would 'discover' some 'truth' about the relationship between self-esteem and welfare 53

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receipt and exit. According to Lastrucci (cited in Bernard, 1994, p.3), science is ... an objective, logical, and systematic method of analysis of phenomena, devised to permit the accumulation of reliable knowledge." And because our aim was to systematically accumulate knowledge, we chose this methodology. Using quantitative methods was beneficial for a number of reasons; it enabled me to attain a greater sample size while being constrained by limited staff and financial resources, the instrument I used was deemed 'reliable' and 'valid' according to standards set by the scientific community, and I was familiar with the method. Hypotheses With a positivist approach in mind, I constructed two hypotheses for this project: 1) that the CWEE program would cause an increase in self-esteem scores among program participants between Preand Post-tests, and 2) that program participants who had higher levels of self-esteem upon completing CWEE's six week CORE curriculum would be more successful in fmding full-time employment and exiting welfare than those who had lower self-esteem scores. As I will discuss in greater detail in the data analysis section of this chapter, the second hypothesis became problematic for a number of interesting reasons. 54

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Research Participants All participants who started the CWEE class between January 1 of 1996 and August of 1997, volunteered to participate in the research project, and who completed both the Preand Post-test are included in the study. Of the 263 possible who entered the program in the time frame stated above, 217, or 83% provided informed consent to participate. Of this group, only 83 alumnae had completed both pre and post self-esteem measures, and comprise the entire sample. Problems getting Post-test data from participants, especially those who left CWEE and did not get jobs, are part of the reason the sample is small, as well as staff learning curves with alerting me when people left the program at the time we first implemented the evaluation project, and the fact that none of the 24 participants in the first class of 1996 were administered the Pre-test. Of the 83 people in this sample, 62 are currently working, 4 are doing CWEPs and the other 17 left CWEE for reasons other than work. In order to be eligible for the CWEE program, people must be single parents with custody of at least one child under 18 years of age, not living with the other biological parent of at least one child in the home, low-income, and unemployed. Low-income is defmed by whether prospective participants are currently receiving or are eligible and in the process of applying for AFDC or Food Stamps, now TANF. Eligibility status is verified by CWEE staff prior to enrolling participants into the program. That participation in the CWEE program is voluntary is a threat to external validity, and therefore the results may not be generalizable to all single parent T ANF recipients. It is likely that people who volunteer to go through a job training program have different characteristics than those who do not. A threat to internal validity is the lack of a comparison group. 55

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' Without comparing CWEE participants to people either involved in another training program, or not involved in any sort of training, it is not possible to attribute CWEE s programming to changes in self-esteem levels We selected a design that did not use a comparison group because of both ethical considerations and limited resources. While this is still problematic, it is still possible to look at changes in CWEE participants before they start the program and after they complete it. Demographic information on the CWEE participants included in this study is provided in the tables on the next page: 56

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Table 4.1 Ethnicity Table 4.2 Highest Level of Education Completed !\umber of Children !'v!ean Median h&.::v.. ...<' ,,, .. -::i 2.2 2 Table 4.3 Number of Children Table 4.4 Average Age Table 4.5 Marital Status 57

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'lain Source of Income Percent of"! otal Table 4.6 Sources oflncome 88Yo 9% 3% Research Design To study whether self-esteem increased after participation in CWEE, and to see if those who obtained jobs had higher self-esteem than those who did not find jobs, a static group comparison was used. Because ofthe limitations of having no control or comparison group, data was collected measuring self-esteem levels prior to program entry, and then again at program exit. This pre experimental design was also chosen to compensate for a lack of resources, such as additional staff and funding necessary to conduct a truly experimental design, as well as to alleviate the ethical problems associated with random assignment. To measure the dependent variable, the instrument we used was the Texas Social Behavior Inventory (TSBI), an instrument used to measure self-esteem, for both the Preand Post-test. Time I The first self-esteem measurement was self-administered when prospective participants were determined to be eligible for the CWEE program, prior to the first day of class. An explanation of completing the measure properly was given and any questions the respondents had were answered. Time II The second administration of the TSBI was also self administered and occurred at the time of program exit. Reasons for program exit included work, unpaid work experience, termination due to inactivity or refusal to 58

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comply with program expectations, referral to substance abuse treatment, incarceration, relocation, pregnancy, physical or mental health conditions that inhibit further participation, or self selection out of the program. Self-esteem measures were all scored by computer in a custom made database program in Microsoft Access. These scores were compared both over time and between employed versus unemployed program alumnae to see whether self-esteem levels increased after completing the CWEE program, and then to determine whether or not higher self-esteem was related to the attainment of paid, full-time employment. Data was analyzed using SPSS for Windows, ver. 6.1.3. Measurement The independent variable in this study was participation in the CWEE CORE program and the dependent variable was the level of self-esteem. Changes in level of self-esteem were measured using Preand Post-test data from the short form of the TSBI (Helmreich and Stapp, 197 4 ). This instrument was chosen due to its brevity and because the language used is appropriate for this population. This ratio level measure of self-esteem has been in existence since 1969, and has been tested for measurement validity, among both women and men, and was recommended by Ph.D. consultants employed by CWEE through the Urban Institute grant. Because the TSBI has been noted as an objective and valid assessment of self-esteem (Helmreich and Stapp 197 4 ), I was initially concerned that the main internal validity issue would be impression management, or the risk of respondents answering in a way they think is correct, as opposed to what they 59

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really feel is characteristic of themselves. This threat to internal validity was controlled for as much as possible by providing a thorough verbal and written explanation stating that there are no right or wrong answers, and that both anonymity and confidentiality would be maintained. Because of other possible threats to internal validity such as history and maturation, making differences in Preand Post-Test scores, or changes in self-esteem with no control group with which to compare, we will not necessarily be able to attribute self-esteem changes to the CWEE program. History refers to the occurrence of events in their lives outside of the CWEE program or unrelated to work, that contribute to a change in self-esteem level are not easily accounted for in the data analysis. Maturation refers to internal factors in the women that might lead to changes in self-esteem scores, independent of their participation in CWEE. The TSBI produces one large factor, or self-esteem score (Helmreich & Stapp 1974, p. 473). Each ofthe 16 phrases, or items on the short form has five response options which range from "not at all characteristic of me" to ''very characteristic of me" (see Appendix). Scoring each item with 0 (zero) representing responses associated with lower levels of self-esteem, and 4 (four) higher levels of self-esteem, and totaling all 16 items, the final score can be calculated, with a minimum possible score of 0 (zero) and a maximum of 64. Self-esteem scores were then compared over time, to identify changes in self esteem between Time I and Time II. I had also hoped to be able to compare scores between groups of those who entered into work and those who do not, but, again, limitations of the design did not yield the results needed to make these comparisons. Please see the Discussion for more specifics and possible solutions for future research of this nature. There were two aspects of the dependent variables I had initially hoped to explore; 1) change in self-esteem scores from the beginning to the end of the 60

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CWEE program, and 2) higher self-esteem among those with jobs compared to those without jobs. Because, as I now know in retrospect, the second hypothesis was not adequately measured by this research design, the data provides very little information about causality in the relationship between self-esteem and job entry. However, data were collected for both the first (Preand Postself-esteem scores) and the second (outcome after program exit) dependent variables. The measurement used to address the first hypothesis, apart from participation in the CWEE program, are the self-esteem Preand Post-Test scores. To test the second hypothesis, I intended to measure self-esteem either by program participants who complete the CWEE program attaining full-time employment, earning an hourly wage of at least $7.003 entering into a CWEP or other volunteer work experience, or not finding work at all. Results To test my hypotheses, I conducted at-test for paired samples to test the means for statistical significance. First I tested for significance for the entire sample (n=83), not differentiating between whether or not the graduates obtained work. The data are displayed in the tables on the following page: 3 In one study conducted by Catherine Edin (1991), welfare recipients estimated they would need to earn approximately $7.00 per hour, and this has been corroborated by empirical data as the amount needed to become economically self-sufficient (Jenks and Edin, 1991), but also takes into consideration the support services available to Denver county welfare recipients, namely subsidized child care and Medicaid. 61

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40.94 44.67 6.92 6.36 .000 000 Table 4. 7 Preand PostTest Means Using the t-test These data indicate a statistically significant increase in self-esteem scores from the start to the finish of the CWEE program, as well as upon completion. Data demonstrating this change are displayed below: 6.171 5.53 .000 Table 4.8 Difference in Preand Post-Test Means Using the t-test After looking at the entire sample's self-esteem scores, I then looked at those who left for work and those who left for other reasons. I received PostTest data from 85% of all participant who gave informed consent and left for work. The tables below display the data for the group who left CWEE for work: 62 62 40.75 44.66 6.70 5.64 .000 .000 Table 4 9 Preand Post-Test Means Using the t-test if"Left for Work" 62

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Increase in self-esteem level was statistically significant for this group as well, and the table below displays the data: 6.264 4 .91 .000 Table 4.10 Difference in Preand Post Means using the t-test if"Left for Work" I received post-test data on only 32% of those graduates who left for reasons other than work. While the sample was too small to be statistically significant the data are presented in the tables below: 19 19 41.42 44.31 6.88 5.63 .060 .060 Table 4.11 Preand PostTest Means Using the t-test if did not leave for work I then looked at the data for all CWEE participants, whether or not I had both Preand Post-test data on them, but did not perform any statistical analysis due to the 2 groups not necessarily being comprised of the same members. The average self-esteem score for the 178 participants who completed the pre-test was 41.09 The average post-test self-esteem score for the 103 who completed the post test was 44.18. While the post test scores are higher, ofthe 103 who completed the post-test only 83 had also completed the pre-test, which was due to the first class of 1996 not having the TSBI administered. 63

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Breaking the numbers down by outcome, but again, looking only at averages and not performing any statistical analysis, similar scores were calculated. Of the 84 participants who left for work and completed a Pre-test, the average score was 40.64. The average Post-test score for those in this group who also completed the post test (n = 75) was 44.66, showing an average increase of 4.02 points. We collected Pre-test data on 68 people who left CWEE for reasons other than a job, and their average Pre-test score was 42.1, which is interestingly almost 2 points higher than the average score for those who left for work. The average Post-test score for the 19 of these 68 who left for reasons other than work was 4 3 .31, which, although the sample size is far too small to render reliable results, shows an increase of only 1.21 points, as compared to the 4.02 point increase in the group that left for work. Discussion This study showed that single parent welfare recipients' self-esteem scores on the TSBI increased a statistically significant amount after being involved with the CWEE program. These data corroborate my first hypothesis, which was that CWEE has a positive influence of people's self-esteem levels. Due to the high attrition rate for the group of women who did not obtain work after completing the CWEE program, the second hypothesis, that a relationship exists between level of self-esteem and the ability to fmd work, was not able to be tested conclusively. These data tell little about the influence self-esteem has on finding work and the differences in self-esteem levels between single parents who do or do not 64

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find work. And clearly, there are several areas in the research design that could be improved to yield more useful results, such as re-thinking the use of a control group. We decided not to use a control or comparison group in this study for ethical reasons. Because CWEE is a job training program, we felt that it would compromise the mission of our agency to withhold the provision of services to benefit a truly experimental research design with random assignment. Yet we are now left with data that tell us little about how CWEE influences people's self esteem and even less data relating self-esteem to job entry. So while the data show that our program affects self-esteem in a positive way, with no comparison group the information is of limited use. If the study were to include women in other training programs, or not involved with any training program at all, we would learn much more about whether or not and how CWEE helps women raise their levels of self-esteem. Another way this research design could be improved would be to reduce the attrition rate, especially for those who did not find work upon completing the program, or did not complete the program at all. Without these data, we are unable to make the necessary programmatic modifications to help serve those who do not find work more effectively. By only receiving data from people who are successful, we learn little about how to help people who struggle more with finding full time work, and this is where future service delivery strategies will need to be targeted as people's T ANF time clocks begin to wind down. Without a better sample of graduates who did not find work, we lack the data to compare self-esteem levels between groups of people who got jobs and people who did not. Thus it is impossible with the current data to determine a relationship between work and self-esteem. But this is not to say that the relationship does not exist, it could be that the flaws in this research design, or the method itself are impeding us from observing the relationship. 65

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Lastly, the TSBI itself is perhaps measuring something different than CWEE participants talk about when they refer to their self-esteem. I organized the 16 questions on the TSBI (see Appendix) into 7 general categories that seem to comprise the construct of self-esteem according to Helmreich & Stapp 4 In table below are the categories and number of questions related to each category: Table 4.13 TSBI Question Categories The majority of the questions on this instrument, 7 out of 16, or 44% relate to introversion and extroversion in my opinion. In order for a person to score highly on the TSBI, they would most likely need to be an extrovert, yet this is not necessarily related to self-esteem from the perspective of all welfare recipients. Areas such as goal setting and self-confidence may be more important to welfare recipients levels of self-esteem, and this instrument has only 2 self-confidence questions and 1 goal achievement related question. To understand more about what self-esteem means to CWEE participants, and to see whether they feel a relationship exists between self-esteem and work and self-esteem and CWEE, I 4 I was never able to find any literature in which Helmreich & Stapp addressed what self-esteem is 66

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decided to supplement the quantitative data by using a qualitative research method. directly, so I realize that I could be misinterpreting their Wlderstanding of self-esteem. 67

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CHAPTERS THE QUALITATIVE APPROACH To better understand the meaning that self-esteem has for CWEE participants, I selected a focus group methodology. I thought the added benefit of group interaction might bring to the surface ideas about self-esteem that had never occurred to me. The groups were both very informative and the discussions lively and enlightening. The ideas focus group participants had about self-esteem were not reflected in the TSBI data because the construct of self-esteem was based on areas not touched upon by the quantitative instrument. Theoretical Issues I used a qualitative technique for learning from welfare recipients about their ideas and construct(s) of self-esteem for three main reasons. First of all, challenging the assertion that empirical methods, when used properly, can produce truth discovery without changing that being studied allows the researcher to explore the meanings attached to the behaviors being studied, and not just the behaviors themselves. The world in which people live is filled with what a 68

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quantitative researcher may see as confounding variables, but that with a qualitative approach, the researcher can see as information, context, and social construction. Claims of objectivity and truth discovery in the positivist tradition have been questioned since its inception. Ferdinand C. S. Schiller was among the many humanists who began to challenge the assumptions underlying positivism in the 19th century. He contended that, as social constructions, truth and reality could not exist naturally, "out but rather are constructed by human beings (Bernard, 1994), and thus when we employ methods of information gathering that ignore the idea of social construction, the knowledge we produce becomes questionable. This epistemological perspective is threaded throughout postmodem discourse, and also serves as an ontological guide for much qualitative research. Another important reason I chose a more open-ended way of learning about self-esteem comes from my theoretical perspective as a feminist. Feminist rejections of the notion of an objective reality illuminate the gendered construction of social science and the influence this has on gender inequity in the production of knowledge. As Fiona Wilson (1992: 886) stated, ... modem, Western science has been a masculine endeavor since its establishment and has involved both the male appropriation of methods for acquiring knowledge and the creation of a new male hierarchy to administer and improve that knowledge." Wilson's statement is strong, and some might argue that assigning a gender to a research method is reductionist and simplistic. I agree that, as a mostly male social construction until very recently, social science has a very narrow lens through which to view people who are not privileged, in this case, White, Western, educated and male. Using a methodology from the positivist tradition requires the researcher to define the parameters and disregard the context in which a particular behavior or construct occurs. Because privileged men have 69

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been those formally involved with academia and social research until very recently, the production of knowledge and methods for acquiring this knowledge resonate with their experiences in the world. And while this perspective is real and should not be excluded from social discourse, it is not universal and does not hold the same meaning for all people. In an attempt to avoid confining my informants to a researcher's understanding of self-esteem, I used qualitative research methods, allowing the informants to provide the parameters and the construct. The third reason that qualitative methods lend themselves nicely to this project is that there is a lack of literature exploring what the construct of self esteem actually is. Quantitative methods make measurement of this vague concept almost impossible in this case, because the questions on the survey research instrument I used for the quantitative data collection are based on the researcher's construct of self-esteem, which I contend is neither an accurate reflection of the "true" meaning of self-esteem, nor one shared by single mothers who receive or have received welfare. I found no prior studies addressing the construct of self-esteem as related to women and welfare, and qualitative methods are useful when approaching a question where little information about a specific topic exists (Morse, 1994 ). This allows the research to occur without prior theory, and the theory comes from the research. Using this approach, called "grounded theory," the theory evolves through the process of data collection, not as a precursor to the research process. According to Strauss & Corbin (1994, p. 279) theory .. .is not the formulation of some discovered aspect of a preexisting reality 'out there'" but rather a means of exploring unknown or little known areas. Qualitative research "explores the meanings, variations and perceptual experiences of phenomena" (Crabtree & Miller, 1992, p. 6). In this way, multiple 70

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perspectives have the opportunity to be centered, not marginalized due to their not fitting within the preordained theory derived by researchers. Once I had determined that a qualitative method guided by grounded theory was an appropriate direction to take, my next task was to explore the various qualitative methodologies. There are between six and eight qualitative techniques generally used in the United States (Hammersly & Atkinson, 1983) and they range as much in terms of the depth of information they can generate as in the ways information can be collected. While qualitative methods vary in terms of the depth of the information gathered and resources required to conduct the research, all qualitative methods attempt to build theory, not substantiate it. By letting the framework emerge during the research process and not prior to it, as grounded theory does, we can try to experience people's worlds directly, and not rely on the self-report data often used in quantitative, and even some qualitative research methods. Research Design The method I chose for qualitative data collection is focus groups. A focus group is .. an exceptionally good way to generate large quantities of rich qualitative data relatively quickly" (Murdoch and Agar, 1993). For the topic of self-esteem, I felt the benefits of group interaction would add to the richness of the data through discussions that would likely emerge and the connections that might not be made in an individual interview. Because all focus group members were single mothers who had transitioned from welfare to work, and had gone through 71

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the CWEE program, they had a lot in common. Having kept in contact with our program alwnnae through Project Transition, I had noticed some common themes in the changes graduates had experienced, and thought these commonalties would lead to interesting and provocative discussions during the focus groups. Other advantages of focus groups are that, allowing for open responses provides the opportunity for deeper levels of understanding, the influence of context on meaning creation, and the flexibility for group members to compare and contrast their own beliefs (Agar & MacDonald, 1995; Krueger, 1988; Morgan, 1988; Murdoch & Agar, 1993). In a focus group, the researcher takes on more of a moderator role than an interviewer role (Krueger, 1988; Morgan, 1988). While I had informed all participants at the time of recruitment that the topic would be self-esteem, and while I had prepared questions prior to the groups, I was also ready to throw my questions away and let the group members guide the discussion. Part of my role as a CWEE staff member is to teach a course on criminal legal obstacles to employment, such as Outstanding Judgment Warrants for unpaid driving-without insurance tickets. Because I had spent time in the classroom as a facilitator with all invited focus group participants, I was at least somewhat familiar with the group dynamics, and they were at least somewhat accustomed to my facilitation style. I expected this to be an asset in both focus groups, and luckily, it was a correct assumption to make, although I must admit, the level of familiarity could have also manifested itself as a liability, especially if any group members were on unfriendly terms, or did not like each other, or me5 Clearly, those who attended 5 About eight weeks after the focus groups were conducted, at CWEE's annual Holiday Party for alumnae and their children, three women (all working graduates, two of whom attended the focus group) got into a confrontation during which they degraded and yelled at each other. Apparently they were arguing over money, and it almost became physical. When I approached them, they sort of backed off and so I never heard the whole story. It is notable because they were supportive of each other during the focus group. 72

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did so under the auspices of doing a favor for me, so I assumed that they would be on friendly terms with me. I am grateful that, in both groups, members supported and encouraged each other, even while disagreeing. This I attribute to their commonality as "CWEE sisters." I conducted only two focus groups, one with current welfare recipients who were training at CWEE, and one comprised of graduates of the program who were working. Much could be learned from including CWEE graduates who did not find work, and welfare recipients who did not attend CWEE or any other training program. Because of resource constraints, I was limited in the number of focus groups I could recruit, conduct, transcribe and analyze. There is still a lot to be learned, but there was some useful and insightful information generated from the focus group participants. There were a total of sixteen focus group participants between the two groups, with ten in the current recipient group, and six in the former recipient group. Both focus groups were facilitated by myself and Jean East, with my pre defined role being that of the group mediator and Jean's that of the observer. We had both agreed that Jean was welcome to ask any questions as they arose. The point of the focus groups was to discuss self-esteem, what it is, and how it relates to the life of a single parent, to receiving welfare and to working. There were a total of seven questions we had prepared ahead of time that we intended to use as a guide, and only in the event that the group conversation strayed from the topic or, frankly, in the event that the group was a 'dud' and had little to say. Each focus group began with me introducing the nature of this project, explaining the purpose of a master's thesis, and emphasizing that while the information gathered might be used for CWEE' s purposes, their participation was a favor to me (and a chance to eat free pizza, which for some was the main reason they attended). I informed the groups that I would be audio tape recording the 73

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focus groups to be transcribed by me later on. I then explained some hints about being in a focus group, that I'd appreciate people talking one at a time, both to make transcription easier and to ensure that everyone was heard when they had something to say. Already acquainted with all group members, although some better than others, and because we had all been in a group setting together in the past, I was able to discuss openly the need to respect each other's opinions and time to speak without fearing I would jeopardize my rapport with individual group members. Informed consent was obtained after I read the entire consent form aloud because I assumed that they all had different reading levels, and I didn't want anyone to be embarrassed about how quickly they read the entire form, and then asked if there were any questions. While I emphasized that confidentiality and anonymity would be maintained and respected, only one focus group participant choose a pseudonym, but no participant's real name is used here. Along with informed consent, I asked participants to complete a short, 1 page demographics sheet. Once informed consent was obtained and demographics sheets were collected, I gave everyone a note card and asked them to write their definitions of self-esteem on it. Once note cards were collected, they were put away and not discussed further in the focus group. I then started each focus group with the question "what does self-esteem mean to you?" and let the group guide the discussion from there, as long as it stayed on the topic of self-esteem. 74

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Sampling I used a convenience sampling technique to recruit participants for the two focus groups. This form of sampling is useful in that it requires fewer resources and less time, but can jeopardize the integrity of the information gathered in some cases (Crabtree & Miller, 1992). I felt there were both pros and cons to the uniqueness of my situa!ion, being both researcher and CWEE staff member. My biggest concern was still that, as a CWEE staff member, participants might want to focus on their successes, on having high self-esteem, and on what they felt I'd want to hear. However, for this particular topic and given the reality of the time and resource constraints, I felt that a convenience sample of women I knew was a good place to start. As Mike Agar offers, albeit in an article about ethnography, ... because of the emphasis on high-rapport relationships, random sampling makes no sense at all" (1993, p. 524). Current Recipient Focus Group For the group of women currently receiving T ANF, I announced in the CORE classroom that I was interested in talking to anyone who would volunteer about self-esteem for a school paper. I made it clear that the project was for me, not directly for CWEE, and that their only reimbursement would be pizza and soda. A total of twelve women volunteered, and ten actually showed up (one who had not volunteered originally came at the last minute), and one was called away 75

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about 1 0 minutes into the focus group, so the total "n" for this group was 9. They all volunteered their own time to participate, as the focus group was scheduled for a time during the day when they were not in class. The demographics of the attendees were as follows: Sumber "u Total African American/Black White/ Anglo Latina Refused Table 5.1 3 3 2 1 76 33% 33% 22% 11%

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. 'llarital StaltH .\'umba "o of Total Single, never married Separated Divorced Table 5.2 6 2 1 66% 22% 11% The women in this group had an average 2.3 children, median being 2, and the mother's average age was 29, median age was 24. The average highest level of education this group had received was 11.75 (high school senior), and 6 of the group members were high school graduates, with the other 3 having obtained their GED. They had been on AFDC/TANF an average of 1.3 times in their life, median being 1 time, and had received AFDC/TANF for an average total of28.8 months during their lifetime, with the median length of time being 20 months. Former Recipient Focus Group Recruitment of the focus group comprised of working, CWEE graduates was different in that I invited a group of approximately twenty alumnae to attend in hopes that approximately half would be interested. Based on a qualitative sampling technique, a good person to interview .. .is one who has the knowledge and experience the researcher requires, has the ability to reflect it, is articulate, has 77

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the time to be interviewed, and is willing to participate in the study (Morse, 1994, p. 228). Using this as a guideline, I used the following specific criteria for selecting focus group invitees: a) currently working full-time, b) someone with whom I had a rapport, and c) diversity in terms of ethnicity, length of time working, and levels of self-esteem, which was based on my recollection of conversations with each person. Not surprisingly, those who actually attended were people I know fairly well and am in touch with on a regular basis. I The demographics of the attendees were as follows: .\'umbt!r 0o of Total African American/Black Latina Table 5.3 3 3 50% 50% Jlarital Statu \ .'\'umber Total Single, never married Separated Divorced Table 5.4 4 67% 16% 16% The average number of children women in this group had was 3.6, median being 3, and the mother's average and median age was 29. The average highest level of education this group had received was 1 0.5 (high school sophomore), and 2 of the group members were high school graduates, with the other 4 having obtained their GED. They had been on AFDC/TANF an average of2.9 times in their life, median being 3 times, and had received AFDC/T ANF for an average 78

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total of 12 months during their lifetime, with the median length of time being 6 months. Setting Both focus groups were held at CWEE, which was chosen for convenience, familiarity and availability. While this may have added to the problem of participants equating the research with CWEE, the other advantages of holding the groups at CWEE took precedence. We used the orientation room at CWEE, and we ate pizza prior to the beginning of the focus groups officially starting. The group Current Recipient group was held during the day, and therefore day care wasn't an issue. Because the members of the Former Recipient group were all working, the focus group was held during the evening, and two friends of mine, both elementary school teachers, volunteered to watch the children of the focus group participants who came. All of the members of the Former Recipient group were working in various clerical or office support jobs. One works for an attorney, three in large corporations, one in a medical office, and one at a non-profit. They had been working anywhere from 3 years to 3 months, and were all happy with their jobs at the time of the focus group. Some of them knew each other from CWEE fimctions in the past, or from the CORE class, and some knew none of the other participants. 79

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The Data The two forms of data collected were the demographic data displayed above and the actual discussions in the focus groups. Because this approach utilized grounded theory, there was no outcome to measure at the data collection stage of the game, and only in the recruitment of participants did any sort of outcome measure apply (currently receiving welfare or working) I transcribed both tapes from the focus groups, each lasting approximately 90 minutes in length. The transcription process was an excellent way for me to become intimately familiar with the data, and proved to be a helpful means of conducting preliminary analysis. Portions of the transcript in which focus group participants interrupted each other or were talking at the same time are indicated by double slashes (/f) at the point the interruption occurred. I had prepared approximately eight questions prior to the focus groups, but was prepared to omit them and allow the groups members to lead the conversation. However, I knew there were certain aspects of self-esteem that I wanted to learn more about, such as how one can tell the level of self-esteem that a person has what self-esteem means, and what constructs contribute the development of a person's self-esteem. The focus groups talked mainly about these constructs, and I focus mainly on this aspect of self-esteem here. Participants discussed different situations that aided or hindered the development of high self-esteem in their own lives, and I combined similar themes from both groups in this chapter. 80

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Discussion In the focus groups, self-esteem was discussed in what I saw as three different ways: measurement (how you can tell what someone's level of self esteem is); construct (what contributes to one's self-esteem); and the mutability of self-esteem (is it fixed or does it fluctuate). I then combed the data for examples and discussions of each of these three components of self-esteem. Most of the discussion in both groups centered around the actual construct of self esteem and not on measurement or the nature of self-esteem. While I had determined prior to the focus groups that I wanted to discuss the elements that contribute to one's self-esteem, the grounded theory emerged within each of the areas I desired to touch on. So, for example, within the area "construct of self esteem," while I knew it wanted to talk about the general area, the specifics emerged during the research process. Before I discuss these data, I'd like to provide the definitions of self esteem that participants had, which are broken down into the two groups. Here is what some of the participants in the group who were still in training at CWEE had to say in response to my question, ''what does self-esteem mean to you?" Latisha ... to me self-esteem means how I feel about myself and how I think other people see me and the highest regard for myself and persona. Yvonne .. .I think not only is it how you feel about yourself but your abilities, if you feel you are capable of doing things, if you have high self-esteem I feel you're more likeable to achieve better things for yourself. 81

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Participants in the focus group of working graduates had extended the ideas of the other group by adding concepts like pride and putting one's self first. In their own words, they had this to say. about the actual definition of self-esteem: Shelly Sonia Carla Sonia Carol Sandy To me I think it means pride, to be proud of who you are and what you are and .. where your status is at ... Self-esteem to me means believin' in yourself before you believe in somebody else. And to have respect for yourself// I I And be positive/ I I /not some of the time, all the time Self-esteem to me is more who you are, and it's like believing in yourself, trustin' that you can be whatever you want Self-esteem to me is accepting the good and the bad ... and loving you for you Construct: Self, Putting Self First From these data, the general feeling from both focus groups is that self esteem is about belief in one's self. There was not a lot of discussion about what that means specifically in the context of the question, "what does self-esteem mean to you," however as the discussions ensued, they offered various insights into what it is about belief in one's selfthat is important. The group of working graduates spoke a lot about putting themselves first, yet there was only one reference to this concept in the focus group of current recipients, and this 82

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statement contradicts what the working focus group participants had to say. The only statement made on this topic in the current recipient focus group was made by Laura, in the context of talking about how her failed attempts as a child at getting her mother off of drugs had affected her self-esteem negatively. She said ... Laura ... I'll do somethin' for someone else before I'll do it for myself. That's just the type a person I am ... about my family, I mean outsiders too, but I'll jump for my family before I'll jump for myself. Interestingly, there were at least thirteen separate references to putting one's self first, or believing in one's self in the focus group with working graduates, and in fact the group members all agreed that learning to put one's self first is crucial when trying to balance work and family. During a conversation in the working graduate group, Sandy shared a similar story to Laura's, as her mother is also a drug addict, and Sandy remembers that finally one day it occurred to her ... Sandy And I'm tryin' to save the whole world and ain't gettin' nowhere myselfl The conversation below provides rich data that best describes this change that the working group noticed of putting one's self first and everyone else, even their children, second The discussion started with Carla, who was describing how she was about to successfully complete a drug treatment program. 83

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Carla ... when I was down I had this guy that I really cared for and I didn't wanna leave him because I didn't wanna hurt his feelings. And a older sister told me that if you worry about someone' s feelings before your own you have no self-esteem. And from then on it's like oh well! Group [laughs] Joni What do people think about that, do you think that's true? Do you put other people's feeling first? Ana Oh yeah, that's the way it was with my ex-husband// Sonia !Nou, ya' have to think about yourself :first// Ana III' d do everything he told me to do, ifl didn't do it right I'd be like, 'oh, sorry' and 'let's go do this again, let's get it right' ... Carol Tryin' to make him happy, instead of yourself Sonia Thinking about him before worryin' 'bout yourself Ana I got rid of him, I mean, and that was all good, now it's all good, it's all me Carla Another thing that wasn't easy puttin' [my son] second/ I Joni III bet/ I Carla //it wasn't easy .... and if mom's not happy, noone's happy Sandy That's what they taught us here [at CWEE], here was the first time that I said, bein', if there was a fire and you had a thing of oxygen, who would you give the oxygen to, ... your baby or yourself? And I was at home for so many years, I never even thought about Sandy as a person, until I came here and I said, 'well my baby' and she says 'No!' and I just started cryin' [crying] I couldn't imagine takin' it first before/ I Sonia III think we all did that Sandy [laughing] Shelly Yep, it was like, wait a minute! Sonia And then she said, 'well how you gonna' take care of your baby if you can't take care of yourself!' Sandy It's so different, because before, urn, it was either for my husband or for my kids and I never mattered and that's why [crying] I think things got so bad, because I didn't know how to really take care of me, so, after I learned, it's been a lot better. And I've been through some trials with the kids accepting me, different, and they changed and I changed, but it's for the better, I know it is. Sonia Yep Sonia And too you guys can imagine with me, 9 kids! God. 84

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Shelly You have nine kids? Carla nine children? Sonia I have nine children Shelly [whistles6 ] Sandy [to Shelly] I was like, she has nine, Shelly I wasn't even look.in'. Sandy She goes, 'anybody that has nine kids don't need to be here' Shelly Yeah! my fault! Sonia [laughing, not seeming to be bothered by the conversation] Joni But that doesn't bother Sonia, right? Sonia But it doesn't bother me, cuz I'm gonna be me, regardless, and nothin' anybody says can take it Sonia But you know the main thing you have to do, you have to think about yourself first. Then ... after you think about yourself and get yourself under control, you have to think about what next step you have to take. Which child needs this first, which child needs that first. You always have to look at self first because when you have your inner strength, you know you can carry it on to the next person. Carol It's like a pyramid Sonia Always carry it on to the next person, cuz as long as you keep your strength up here [motions above her head] and self-esteem up here, there's nothin you can't do. I found this dialogue to be particularly powerful because they had all realized at some point that it is all right for them to think of their own needs and desires, and they didn't need to let other people bring them down. It is interesting that the working group discussed this issue more than the current recipient group, and I think this is an area for further research with welfare recipients. 6 At the beginning of the focus group, participants were eating pizza and filling out their demographics sheets. I put enough room for the ages of 9 children on the form because of Sonia, and when Shelly saw that, she made a comment, not knowing Sonia had 9 kids, about how anyone with 9 kids shouldn t be at a focus group for working single parents. Nobody said anything about Sonia at the time, but it came up in the context of this conversation. 85

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Construct: fufluence of Others This discussion led to a conversation in both groups about the influence of other people, positive and negative, on the development of their own self-esteem. There was a general feeling that when a person has low self-esteem, they tend to bring the people around them down as well, although not all of the participants in the working group felt that other people do have the power to bring them down: Shelly ... people tryin' to knock you down, that just makes them look stupid. Sonia you can't let 'em knock you down Shelly Yeah! . even today, you know when people, either downgrade me or my kids or you know, call us down in certain ways, I just say 'damn girl, just leave 'em alone, they're just not all up there.' Sonia ... and I always tell my kids 'look at me! People talk about me bad! And what do I do? Turn my head and go the other way. I don't let 'em bring me down.' Sonia entered the program confident, happy and unwilling to let anything get her down, even being constantly berated or questioned about having nine children. I have to admit that when I first heard we had a woman with nine kids in the class I thought to myself"she's never gonna make it!" To date she has yet to prove me correct, and I imagine that will remain the case. And I also see her as an exception, I can honestly say that I've never met anyone with such a positive attitude, regardless of their circumstances. But the rest of the people in both groups felt that others can influence their self-esteem, negatively and positively. The groups talked about the roles of romantic relationships, parents, especially 86

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mothers, friends at CWEE, and CWEE staff in the development of their own selfesteem. Laura ... my self-esteem goes along with whatever happens to somebody else ... Jean So the important people in your life influence your self-esteem? Laura Exactly. Cuz I know I can take care of myself and I know how I feel about myself, I feel great about myself, I know what I can accomplish ... what I have to do. But, if I see my grandmother sick or somethin' and she's feelin' down or depressed then I get to feelin' down and depressed cuz I can't do nothin' to help her ... Joni What are some examples of that ... where that's helped your self esteem? Laura .. usually and truly my self-esteem is pretty high, but if I have a problem wit my mom or one of my babies' fathers, or somethin' like that, then my self-esteem becomes low but, my, one a' my kids'll pick me back up, I... don't just go to ... havin' low self esteem all the rest a the week or all the rest a the day, but for that period of time brings me down cuz I can't do nothin' about it. Construct: Kids All focus group participants had something to say about the roles their children play in the development of their own self-esteem Children generally seem to have a positive influence on single mother's lives, except when the mother perceives she is not providing the best for her children, which some participants felt has a negative affect on their self-esteem. Eva and Shar both discussed the issue of feeling like their children are lacking something. Eva For instance, my son for the past three weeks has needed a hair cut and I haven't had the money, every time I look at him it just gets 87

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me down cuz I don't have the money for it. ... it's not that he needs it, but I just want him to have it, ... and the more I think of it .. .I really get down and then I start doubting myself as a good mother. Shar That's the way it is with my baby, but it's with his father. Like I went to spend the weekend with my girlfriend, and urn, her baby's dad spends the weekends with them and I was stayin' with them so, he would go over to [her friend's son] and pick him up and kiss him and love all over him and play with him and feed him and he got up all night to feed him his bottles, ... and when I woke up my son was up and he had him out of the crib and them playin' together and he was watchin' 'em, .. and ... I think that's where my self-esteem gets down cuz I can't believe that I did that to my son. And I know it's not all me, ya know, cuz Larry made the choice that he don't wanna' be there, but my self-esteem gets down because I tried and I tried and I tried but for me, I can't provide a father for my son right now, you know, and that gets me down, that's when my self-esteem just drops. But the majority of the conversations about children and self-esteem were about the positive affect children have on their own self-esteem. In fact Shar told wonderful story about being out with her son and how the attention made her feel. Shar ... we went out to dinner last night ... and [my son] was be in' a little terror, rippin' up the table and everything on it, so I put him down on the floor and, whew! He goes off, he's down the aisle, and I just watched him and I went over and I sat down and kinda' let him do what he wanted to do, he wasn't buggin' anybody, and everybody was tellin' me 'he's so cute, look at all that hair, oh, how old is he?' ... And that makes me feel so good cuz I know he's really really smart. And just to see his little butt twitch when he crawls Group [laughs] Mary ... you know how sometimes when you're feelin' down, urn, my daughter lately, she's been ... doin' so, so good in school, she got a 88

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certificate for bein' the student of the week and then ... they took, remember I showed you that ... they took the Iowa test, she got like a 6.2 or// Latisha//6.3// Mary //she got a 6.3 on it and it was way above her average for bein' in the 5th grade, and I felt so good, ... even though I was sick and I was sniftlin, my throat was hurtin, I was like, 'look, Latisha, look, Tiffany got this on her test!' so I was really excited about it... Kids and Money. The participants in the working group also talked a lot about how providing for their children, both materially and as a role model, also influenced their self-esteem in a positive way. Ana To me ... what starts my morning off is when my girls tell me 'you're going to work, huh mommy? You look perty mom.' ... that makes my whole day, and then when I'm at work ... there could be a fire under me and I wouldn't care ... that's the coolest thing for me though, when my girls tell me 'mommy you look perty today, you're going to work, huh?' Sonia It's like, I tell my kids, see I have teenagers, you don't have teenagers yet. I have to tell my kids 'bout 'ya'll think cuz I got a job now I'm a bank? What?' Group [bursts out laughing] Sonia Cuz it's like 'I want some money, I want, can I have $5, can I have $1.' Since I got a job am I a bank now or what? Carol My kids have more now, they have more. It's like, I can even go buy them some shoes. Go buy them a sweater that they wanted or, or a jacket, you know and I'm like 'no problem,' you know? [Laughs] Sandy Yeah, it's not like worrying, how you gonna get that jacket. It's like 'I got you a jacket, you a jacket, you a jacket and you a jacket, and I still got money? You want some pizza?' [laughs] 89

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The current recipient group participants offered insights into life before being able to buy jackets for all ofher children and still having enough left over for pizza. Stacey shared her feelings on this, and as the mother of seven children, she's had to make her budget stretch a very long way. Stacey With 7 kids, ... I started with my oldest child ... when I was 15, and it was easy cuz I was gonna' get name brand stuff, it was easy, and 8 years later was when I started gettin' carried away with the rest of those kids. Now it brings me down cuz I can't do like I used to do with my other child, so they have to wear everybody's hand me downs, which is not a problem cuz they're clothed, but then my 8 year old cryin' 'mom I want some Nikes' and I'm like 'well we gonna get some Payless specials' and they really, it hurts me to have to tell 'em that I can't afford it at this point, but I'm gonna, it brings my self-esteem down ... Construct: Money, Welfare and Work The conversation eventually led to money in both groups, however the discussions were very different in each group. What was similar between groups was that they connected money, taking care of their children and welfare, or money, taking care of their children, welfare, and work very closely. When I originally came up with the different themes that emerged under each general area of self-esteem, I separated these parts of their lives as having influences on their self-esteem, but I failed to see the connectedness of one to the others. As I continue looking at and re-looking at the I realize the I cannot figure out 90

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exactly how to separate out what are four different concepts to me, but seem to be closely related to the focus group participants. This would be another area of further investigation that could teach a lot about how self-esteem works in the lives of single mothers. In the current recipient group, because welfare is their main source of income, the conversation revolved mostly around welfare and buying groceries with Food Stamps, and the new Quest Card7 that had just been implemented weeks prior to the focus group. A few of the women in this focus group spoke about being embarrassed to use the Quest Card or Food Stamps, but did not feel this had an impact on their self-esteem because they knew they were taking care of their children, which was more important then their pride. Stacey .. .I've always hated goin' to the store, I go real late at night cuz people behind you, they do ... even with these Quest Cards, you know what it's about. And the worst people are the people on the other side of that cashier, the cashier// Joni //so that brings up ... how do you think that the world or other people, like at the grocery store for example, or whoever, perceive you when you're on welfare? Mary Who cares Laura They look down on us Laura Who cares, because I, there have been some times where I've been in the grocery line and someone would smack their teeth or somethin', Latisha Urn hmm Laura And I will say somethin' to that person, cuz it's none of their business. I'm not smackin' my teeth when she's writin' that check. .. and like my grandma would be on my food stamp card, and she would never wanna go to the store, and I was like 'well why won't you go to the store? what's the matter with those food stamps? ... she would act like she was embarrassed, but you're not 7 The Quest Card replaced Food Stamps and cash grants in October of 1997 and is used much like a debit card. 91

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embarrassed when you pick up that fork and get to eatin'! I mean who cares what somebody else thinks cuz you're not livin' for them. Joni Does that [the way people act in the grocery store] effect the way you feel about yourself or you level of self-esteem? Mary Oh no! Because honey I go up there in that store and do my little shoppin', have my little cart so full it's about to run over into somebody else's cart, ok. Group [laughing] Mary And go on through the line/ I Laura I /for real/ I Mary I land go home, put my little groceries in my freezer and get to cookin' and be cookin' up some stuff, ok? And you know ... why? Cuz my family's eatin'. My kids will not go hungry. And I'm not gonna sacrifice my kids' stomach for my pride for somebody else thinkin' the way they think about me, it's not gonna happen. Current recipients also talked about not having the money to provide for their children everything that they would like to, as was discussed here in conjunction with the effect children have on self-esteem. There were mixed feelings in this group about the effects of welfare on self-esteem. In general, as I stated earlier, a few people felt that welfare was denigrating. Joni Shar Carol Laura OK, so talk to me about self-esteem and welfare. Oh god, that was my self-esteem/ I I had a very high self-esteem ... so ... it didn't really take anything away from me. I think the only thing that really got me is that when I did go they had to ask you all these questions, dig into your life, like they were ptillin' this money outta their pocket, that upset me but it didn't have anything with my self-esteem. I think welfare, it doesn't make me have low self-esteem cuz it's helpin' me right now. It's helpin' me to get to a point, I don't like to deal with the people, and I hate to be on hold, but it's kinda' help for me to get where I don't wanna be there anymore. So it's not bringin me down, it's helpin' me ... move up 92

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Shar Urn, welfare put me with real low self-esteem because I remember going and applying for Medicaid ... I was like 'I don't want welfare, I don't wannabe, I, no, I would never' and they just kept tellin' me 'well you have to be on welfare' 'no, I don't have to be on welfare and you can't ever tell me I'm gonna have to.' ... they told me 'well you have to get on welfare' and I almost cried to the lady on the phone, the government's sittin' there tryin' to get us off welfare, and you're gonna tell me I have to go on welfare just to get [Medicaid]? ... And they made me feel like shit for goin' in there and she was really rude to me in the interview,' Eva Urn,. I think, uh, welfare made a low self-esteem on me because before this new change for T ANF, uh, it never occurred to me to work so of course I just sat there, and sat there, and sat there, and that's when I got into drugs and I ended up sellin' my Food Stamps for drugs, you know, they just made it easy for me to sit there and ... the more you just sit there you feel less about yourself, and that gives you low self-esteem. Latisha Well my experience was positive ... they were really nice they were really, 'oh we can get you this, we can get you this, we can get you this,' ... As a group, working graduates were more negative about welfare in general, although they didn't talk about welfare as much as they talked about work. About welfare they had the following to say: Ana ... me bein' on welfare I had no self-esteem whatsoever ... Shelly ... be in on afdc, I never let that bring me down, ... I was still out there ... workin' this side job hustlin this or that, to, you know, get my kids whatever they needed. .. And my dad would always make jo-you know wise cracks, 'well she's on welfare, she only pays $25 rent,' it's like 'hell yeah!' ... and I'd say 'jealous?' ... and play with him back and say 'don't, c'mon daddy don't be like that, ... our asses got you money' 93

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The topic of work never came up in the current recipient focus group unless it was in reference to the future, however work comprised a good deal of the working graduate focus group. There were three different themes about work that emerged: co-workers; money and taking care of children; and a sense of accomplishment. The first topic discussed here is related to co-workers and how some of these women felt starting new jobs. A couple of the women discussed feeling alienated, being the only employees with children or without a college degree. At the time of the focus group they had all been working anywhere from three months to three years, and were all, at the time, happy with their jobs8 Sandy I had a big issue with my self-esteem when I started working here. Joni Working at your job? Sandy Nobody there had kids. Everybody there's college educated. You know, it's so different from the life that I got at least to here, ... everybody I know has kids, nobody there has kids, nobody! Everybody is just career minded, that's all they think about. They live at their job. I can't live at, I have to be at day care by 6:00. I can't stay late, I don't work Saturday's that's my boys day, and, and it really made me feel, ''well gee, I was so happy to get this job because of all these reasons, but maybe I'm not as good as them because// Sonia //you felt you weren't qualified like they were because they were educated didn't have kids/ I Sandy //because they have more to give to that job than I do. Yeah, I'll give my 8 hours full force, full hearted, and I do care about my work very much, but I didn't have the extra that they were giving to their// Sonia //well you should look at it this way, you're more educated than they are because you're goin', you're workin' a job plus takin' care ofkids, that's// 8 Since this focus group, both Ana and Carol were laid off, but both fOtmd jobs immediately, with no more than 2 days unemployed. Sandy had always wanted to work for the state and was recently hired as a state employee. Carla graduated from drug treatment, Shelly is looking for another job and Sonia is still happy at the pediatrician's office where she works. 94

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Sandy I !but now I look at it different, because now I have ladies there who look to me to answers for different things. One lady, I'm bringin her tomorrow to donate clothes to Safehouse downstairs, urn, another lady, we're gonna' do some volunteer work for the homeless people, urn, for the holidays. Urn, just different things that I've learned, skills from being around real people that they don't even know. And so they all hub at my desk and 'what about this' and I'm like 'well, you know, I know this person and I know that' so I have knowledge in different ways that they thrive off of me and I could really see 'em thriving off of me and my experiences, which makes me feel good. Joni So do you feel better about yourself now than you did at first ... Sandy Urn hmm, because I was so different then than, I was just different. I'm different, I'm not like them, I'm different. Shelly God made you that way, though Sandy But I'm that way for a reason Shelly Yep Sandy So, [laughs] I feel good and he put me there for a reason cuz of these people. And I heard one time a girl say 'her car is just so icky.' I was like, 'What does she care what my car looks like? Am I askin' her to go to lunch with me? No', you know I was so hurt and so pissed, but at the same time, it's not like that any more. Yeah my car's icky because I have 10 feet to put shoes on 'n, you know, things like that, ... they all drive brand new cars, I mean they're just like, yuppie, and I've never been around yuppie people before. Sonia That's like me honey, if it gets me around, it don't matter if it's icky Carol ... college people and people that are married but don't have kids or you know, it's like 'what can I talk to you about?' ... you know what I'm sayin', conversation wise ... I don't know who to talk to. But they come to me, you know they speak and everything but I don't exactly [know] what to go in and talk about because I mean either they're gonna talk about ... 'I'm ... majorin' in this field, ... and then they stay 'til like 7 and 8 o'clock and then they come in on Saturdays and ... I wish that I could do that too, but I have to leave at 5 also, cuz there's, you know, day care situation ... and they tend to stick together, all of 'em. It's like 'we go to school together' ... 95

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Sandy And I don't think it was the way they made me feel that brought myit was myself. Like I said, I'm my worst critic. This discussion provides a lot of rich information about work culture and will be very useful at CWEE, because we can address this issue in the curriculwn. Yet how comfortable or welcomed some graduates feel working with ''yuppies" is not data we collect on our Project Transition Follow Up Questionnaire, and could be a reason some welfare recipients leave jobs. This is just one example of how qualitative research methods can offer deeper insights into the meanings people make of their worlds than can quantitative methods. But I don't want to give the impression that work was generally a negative experience for these women, because they spent most of the focus group talking about the benefits of work. Here I include only a small portion of the data because there is so much on work, but the group did to substantiate the claim that work, and having enough money, is good for their self-esteem. Sonia ... you know I go around and sing [Sonia has a beautiful voice and sings professionally] and before I was like using all these used clothes to sing in and stuff, oh, finally went and bought me outfits to sing in! And it's like 'yeah!' Group [laughs] Sonia And everybody's lookin at me like, 'Sonia? You got that dress on?' 'Yes!' [laughs]. So it, it's a good feelin', to be able to go in there and just buy what you want. Shelly I like when we go to a cash register and they're like 'will that be a check, cash or charge.' Carol Cash! Shelly Charge honey! Group [laughs, all talking at once.] Shelly Oh, I love my credit card Sonia ... throw that hundred dollar bill down, [when she goes to the bank] 'How do you want it?' 'Give me hundreds!' [banging on the table] Sandy The thing that made me the happiest is when my 8 year old son said 'it seems like we're rich now, huh mom?' 96

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Group [laughs] Sandy he was so used to bein so poor, I'm like, we're not rich honey, I just got enough.' He goes 'but kinda like rich, though, huh mom.' Group [laughs] Sonia Your kids are so used to you .. it makes your kids feel better, too ... Sonia it makes your kids feel better because before it was like 'oh mom so and so gets this and so and so' at school, get all this fancy stuff, and now it's like they can come home and say 'mom, I want...' and we'll go get it, as before, I gotta' pay bills, once we pay bills there's no thin' left. Sandy Yep, exactly Carol After payin' my rent and stuff I have $50 in the bank, I get paid tomorrow, deposit that. Sandy And then to still have money left before you get your paycheck Carol Well once I ... get the kids bunk beds I'll, I wanna get a washer too ... Construct: Goal Setting Setting goals was another theme that emerged in both groups, and Carol's example of setting new goals seems to be typical. They start off small and then gradually get bigger and bigger. Often participants come into the program with goals of buying a house and being the president of a company. CWEE's classroom facilitator shows them how to research the labor market, look into requirements for the job, and see what steps they need to take to get there. Then, considering their lives as single parents, they can set realistic goals for success. This is an integral part of CWEE' s curriculum, their first goal setting experiences 97

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in some cases being fmishing the CWEE program, and for some, even shorter term goals are helpful. Stacey Also if you set little goals and not just great big goals at a time, like my goal was just to get my laundry done every night and I did that for a week, and I'm on top of the world ... Stacey I did my laundry Joni Yeah, what if your goal is, I wanna become a brain surgeon in the next few weeks. That's a big goal Ana That's not realistic Eva Give you low self-esteem Joni Why will that give you low self-esteem? Eva Because if you got it in your head that you can do it and then in 3 weeks you haven't done it, you're gonna think 'Oh, I'm a failure' and then that gives you low self-esteem. Stacey You go and see all the pre-requisites and stuff you have to take just to get to that part, that actual part of bein' a brain surgeon, you get upset at that. The working focus group participants talked a lot about how goal setting and focus were important for them on their paths out of poverty. Shelly I ... came to CWEE, got my, you know, my upgrade on my computer skills, you know, cuz I already knew what I could do. Now that I'm working it keeps me more focused. There s like 2 or 3 different things I wanna be in life. You know what I mean, and I'm sittin here like/ I Carol //what should I be? Shelly what should I be? Yeah, exactly! Sandy Why does that happen? Once you do get a job, just makes your goals bigger. Shelly Cuz you wanna be more than just the working average person Carol Yeah you wanna accomplish/ I Shelly //yeah exactly // 98

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Sandy //see I didn't used to do that, that's really helped me, cuz into that 90 days9 and I got through ... I only missed one day now, when my uncle died, and when I was here, ... he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Well he lived with me and I watched him die at home. So I've been through a lot more trials, a lot more than I ever though I could handle, and still worked, and still took care of my kids, and watched my uncle die right in front of me, and just everything, and I did it and still go in' Sonia It's like you can pat yourself on the back and say, 'urn hmm, you did it!' Sandy I'm like, "Yay! I did all that?' I need a beer! No ways out! Group [bursts out laughing] Shelly That's what I wanted to say, you know now that I'm working I'm staying more focused and, and know that it doesn't matter how old you are, or how many kids you got, or what color race religion or whatever creed blah blah blah, you, I think, I enrolled for real estate school in January and college, now whatever comes up, I might be able to do both? You know what I'm saying Sandy Go girl! Shelly So I don't know, I just, it's cool, I think it's cool. I'm excited Sonia It's like people ask me, tell me all the time, 'you got nine kids, how do you do it?' Focus, on what you want, keep yourself focused on your pride, your self-esteem, and whatever you have in yourself and the inner self, and the self-esteem that you have will bring everything else up right along with it. 9 The CWEE curriculum emphasizes the importance of reliability on the job, and stresses that the first 90 days are critical. 99

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Construct: CWEE CWEE was discussed in both focus groups. I asked a specific question about CWEE and self-esteem and they offered their insights into how CWEE had helped their self-esteem. There were four general areas that emerged related to CWEE; the encouragement they received from each other, the encouragement they got from the staff, the attainment of goals, and the skills they obtained. Most of the participants in the current recipient group were in the ACT class at CWEE and had just completed the CORE class the week before the focus group. Here is the conversation that we had about CWEE and self-esteem. Joni I just actually have one last question and then you all can go and that is urn, I sort of talked to you about self-esteem and welfare and now I'm just curious, and there's no, this is not like a right or wrong answer kind of a thing, it's not a work question I know I work for CWEE but, we're always up for constructive criticism so talk to me about self-esteem and CWEE. You think CWEE has an impact on people's self-esteem for the better or the worse or what? Laura I think it has for the better because they encourage you and they make you feel good every day. There's always somebody// Joni //who's they? Laura I mean the staff, the people that you go to school with, you guys when we come in someone's always talkin' 'bout 'hello' or 'you look nice today' and then that makes you kinda' feel better and then noone's actually talks bad to you or say 'oh you're dumb cuz you can't do that' there's always someone to try to help you. You look forward cuz you see other people have made it, so apparently CWEE is doin' somethin' that they're supposed to do cuz you know you're gonna' make it once you get outta' here. Cuz you've learned different values, you learn how to be on time, you learn, you really have urn, how could I say it, you really have changed, I mean, yourself. Like you, you coulda' been sittin' at home all day, 100

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you know, and now you get up every day. Even when, since we been comin' to school, since we didn't have to come to school today at 8:00 I was still up at 8 doin' what I was supposed to, you know, so// Stacey I /you get into a routine Laura Eva Laura Eva Shar Laura Joni Shar Joni Jane Joni Betty ... like when we graduated on Friday I really felt good about myself because I completed somethin'. I mean it's not like I don't complete everything I try to complete, but I completed this and I made other people happy around me so I was, and only reason I could do it was is because I was here and ... ... and not only that every day somebody here compliments you whether it's/ I I !Yeah, every day I I //your classmate or a staff member Or somebody on the way People speak and, you know, tell you how nice you look Go 'head Shar Urn, it made me feel good cuz, to graduate, because I actually accomplished 2 goals that day. Urn I, one of my goals was to make my parents proud of me and my mom basically she gave me a note or a letter tellin' me that she was proud of me and the accomplishments that I was making cuz who better deserved 'em than somebody that worked for 'em for so hard ... And another one was that I actually completed something in my life to better my future. And the only reason I entered CWEE is because of [my son]. Anybody else have anything to say about that or ... I wanted to say about urn, like what I noticed is yesterday I was lookin' in the paper at jobs and ... you know like a few months ago when I looked at them I would say 'oh I can't do that I don't have those skills' ... and like when I looked in the paper yesterday I was like 'wow, when I graduate I'll be able to take this job or this job, now I have these skills' so it wasn't exactly like the staff or anything, it was just, you know, just the fact that I know I'll have those skills. OK, so building skills helps build self-esteem? Uh the graduation made me feel great, it felt, god my self-esteem was right through the ceiling, you know, and I attribute that to 101

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myself, the studying and all the friends I've made here and what I've learned from the classes, the self-esteem time, just everything, so I know now that I can stand on my own and that I can do whatever it is I need to do ... Mary I like that fact that CWEE is, has the mind set of getting you into setting goals, which I've always kind of you know set goals for myself and I like the way they, urn ifyou're not used to time management that it's a structured thing for them, that you know, they give them the time management, settin' goals and help you tryin' to reach those goals. So it has really been, urn, a big turn around I think 102

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Construct: Encouragement Another important theme that emerged during the focus groups as an important factor in building self-esteem was receiving support and encouragement. Many of the group members felt that being in a group with other women who share many things in common as single parents with low incomes was a major self-esteem booster for them. Laura talked about this encouragement in the text above. The working group never explicitly said that encouragement helped their self-esteem, but there were several instances in which they encouraged each other in the focus group. There are examples of this throughout the data presented in this chapter, so I will not provide any samples of that data here. The encouragement that focus group participants gave each other, whether it was Latisha's correcting Mary on Mary's daughter's Iowa scores or Shelly and Sonia talking Sandy through feeling awkward at first on her job, is perhaps the best thing that came out of the focus groups. Still, as I noted in footnote 5 on page 69, two of the focus group participants from the working group got into a confrontation at the annual family Holiday Party for CWEE graduates and their children. This is just one example of how important it is to realize that human social behavior is very complex and as researchers, we cannot simply analyze data and assume we've learned all there is to know about a particular topic. In terms of welfare recipients and their self-esteem, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, and in this instance, while qualitative methods were time consuming they also offered rich territory and useful insights for future research. 103

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CHAPTER6 CONCLUSION Things are not as simple as they seem. This has been a theme throughout this thesis in a number of different ways. From feminist theory making visible women's unnoticed contributions while simultaneously, albeit unintentionally excluding other women in the process, to public policies enacted on the grounds of morality that cut aid to those who need it most, the complexity of social functioning in Western culture is overwhelming. Empirical science aims to simplify this complexity by narrowing the focus and filtering out all of the confounding variables in human social life. Guided by a philosophy that is based on reality containing hidden, naturally existing laws that govern human behavior, positivism tries to uncover already existing truths. Often times this narrow lens and focused method of inquiry offers social scientists important and useful knowledge about human behavior. Other times, this narrow lens precludes the scientist from understanding the meanings people make out of their own behavior. Postmodern social theory and qualitative research methods challenge ideas based on a fixed, universal reality upon which all social interaction takes place. These alternative methods of inquiry and idea generation operate based on the assumption that things are not always as they appear to be, even when statistical significance would lead us to believe otherwise. By letting data emerge, as opposed to capturing data that resonates with the researchers' framework, we can 104

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gain more meaningful knowledge that comes from the perspectives of the people we are trying to learn from. But this is no easy task. More voices create more noise, which can seem like chaos. The qualitative data I presented here is a good example of this. I could have written a thesis based on the TSBI data, focusing on more statistical analysis and different sub-samples of CWEE graduates, on whose self-esteem increased more and under what circumstances. But I realized that without knowing what self-esteem meant to single parent welfare recipients, the data told me little practical information. This is easily seen by comparing the constructs measured on the TSBI to those the focus group participants discussed. For example, while there were 7 questions on the TSBI related to introversion and extroversion, comprising 43% of the questionnaire purportedly measuring self esteem, there was no discussion in either focus group related to this area. Yet themes such as putting one's self first, goal setting and taking care of children, which were predominant in the focus groups, were barely reflected on the TSBI. Only one question is related to goal setting and two to self confidence on the survey. So, in short, the TSBI missed the mark. By stripping context from the research, the data can be of limited use, as was the case with the TSBI in this project. By combining research methods as I did here, we can let theory emerge and then set the framework for survey research. For future research, I can use the qualitative data from this thesis to construct a quantitative instrument that more accurately reflects the ideas about self-esteem that CWEE participants have, so that we can then begin to look at how CWEE or work are related to self-esteem development. This could provide very useful information for practitioners to use, but only in a very specific context: job training programs for welfare recipients seeking work. So while I've learned more about what self-esteem means to these groups of women, I cannot be sure that this contribution will be helpful for 105

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research on self-esteem for other populations. Embarking upon the qualitative research has left me in the end more interested, perhaps more knowledgeable about CWEE participant's ideas about self-esteem, but definitely feeling more overwhelmed by the complexity of the whole question about how self-esteem affects different people's lives. With this in mind it's easy to understand why there is such a gap between theory and practice. Especially with the PRWORA's strict time limits, single mothers do not have time for researchers to deconstruct the notion of self-esteem from a feminist perspective. The women who participated in this project used 6 of their 60 T ANF checks in the time it took me to conduct this research. I did learn a lot about what self-esteem means to welfare recipients and how their level of self-esteem affects their lives and vice-versa. People's self esteem is effected by a number of different factors, in this case factors such as providing for one's children, putting one's own needs before those of anyone else, and the ability to filter out or keep from internalizing negativity from other people were predominant components of raising one's level of self-esteem. I learned that applying for welfare, while not necessarily enjoyable, does not make all welfare recipients feel badly about themselves. I also learned that people's self-esteem can be affected by something as simple and cost effective as saying ''you look nice today." While I am not trying to reduce the types of services needed for welfare recipients to get jobs to a friendly greeting, being nice makes people feel good. Important for CWEE's purposes, I learned that the program generally seems to help increase the level of our participants self-esteem in a number of important ways. Participants spoke of different ways their self-esteem benefited from the CORE curriculum directly, such as goal setting, putting one's self :first, time management and the recognition and acquisition of other assets such as computer training, wardrobing, and having a daily routine including a place to go 106

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such as work or school. They also talked a lot about the support they received from each other and the CWEE staff, which is another area I would like to explore in a future research project. The focus group participants in both groups talked about the influence of others in their lives, and CWEE was mentioned in this context several time. This built in support system is one of the things I like best about CWEE because I see new friendships forming and women encouraging each other to face difficult issues and challenge themselves. The focus groups were a wonderful way to delve into what I think is the tip of an iceberg of important and useful information about self-esteem in the context of welfare reform. Further investigation could aid CWEE staff as well as other service delivery entities in providing more relevant and targeted services to welfare recipients. By asking CWEE participants how we can help them, and not limiting their answers to our frameworks, they can use their own voices to negotiate their paths to success. The research would also need to be expanded to include welfare recipients involved in other training programs or 'work related activities,' as well as people who have dropped off of the welfare rolls. Extended follow up research would also be critical in learning more about welfare recipient's actual experiences, trials and tribulations, and successes. Simply looking at recidivism to T ANF or income data does not provide practitioners with the information necessary to provide optimum services. The use of postmodem theory, specifically feminist postmodem theory, as well as further qualitative research could yield powerful information with the potential for helping thousands of families escape poverty. As I stated at the beginning of this chapter, things are not always as simple as they seem. Research takes time, and welfare recipients don't have time. Practitioners don't have time to read postmodem theory nor resources to conduct even the most basic research. Funding is scarce which makes competition high, 107

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and organizations like CWEE can potentially find their research competing with their program for funding. This creates an obvious ethical bind. But I'm not convinced that it is futile, I only feel it is important to problematize the situation as much as possible prior to throwing time and resources at it. I have attempted to contribute to social science in three distinct ways in this thesis: theoretically; methodologically; and practically. Theoretically I have attempted to encourage the reader to consider the perspective of the researcher in all research and to think about how this perspective has frequently been mistaken for reality. For example, instead of wondering whether or not a person has a high or low level of self-esteem, I hope the reader will first step back and ask the question "what does self-esteem mean to this person," challenging the notion of a universal understanding of self-esteem. I also aimed to inform theory in this thesis by looking at the very practical example of the meaning of self-esteem as a product of culturally constructed, gender and class biased knowledge production. Methodologically I tried to use the most powerful tenets of both quantitative and qualitative research. By using a grounded theory approach to research, a researcher can try to avoid the problem of fitting people into the researcher's framework and instead let them present their own frameworks. Once this framework is understood by the researcher, quantitative research can offer many insights into the relationships operating behind human behavior, which can also inform policy. In terms of praxis, I have attempted to contribute to CWEE as an agency by offering a way to learn about self-esteem and the program that can be used to benefit future participants at CWEE. I also wanted to stress the importance of research in practical work, and reality in research. By constructing a framework that I hope resonates with CWEE participants experiences with self esteem, I also hope my work will benefit larger feminist struggles for equity and empowerment. 108

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In conclusion the main point I wish to make with this thesis is that the obvious solution is usually only part of the story. By ignoring the full picture of what goes on in people's lives, how different people interact with different situations, we can never create services to meet the needs of complex people. Theoretical solutions to problems like single mothers raising children in poverty challenge the patriarchal structure that placed women in these oppressed roles. Practical solutions to the same problem focus on areas we know little about without taking a long look at different possible ways to help. The gap between these two modes of improving the status of, in this case, women, is understandable. As I said earlier, welfare recipients don't have the time for me to sit around theorizing about their situation, yet CWEE needs a more thorough understanding of what self-esteem is before we can try to teach our constituents about it. And as difficult as the path toward equity may be, it is worth struggling for. Poor women and their children are fully participating members of and contributors to our society and they deserve their due attention and care. Feminists who aim to help them to a better life must start with listening to the single mothers themselves. That is what I have attempted to do in this thesis. 109

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APPENDIX Code Number: ------(last 4 #s of SSN) (year) (class) 0 Not at all Charachteristic Of me 1 not very 2 slightly 3 fairly 1. I am not likely to speak to people until they speak to me. 2. I would describe myself as self confident. 3 I feel confident of my appearance. 4. _I am a good mixer. Date: 4 very much charachteristic of me 5 _When in a group of people, I have trouble thinking of the right things to say 6. _When in a group of people, I usually do what the other want rather than make suggestions. 7. _When I am in disagreement with other people, my opinion usually influences others. 8. I would describe myself as one who attempts to master situations. 9. Other people look up to me. 10. _I enjoy social gatherings just to be with people. 11. I make a point of looking other people in the eye. 12. _I cannot seem to get others to notice me. 13. I would rather not have very much responsibility for other people. 14. _I feel comfortable being approached by someone in a position of authority. 15. I would describe myself as indecisive. 16. I have no doubts about my social ability. 110

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