Understanding occupational potential across the life course: life stories of older women

Alison Wicks

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The qualitative study described in this doctoral thesis explored the concept of occupational potential and its development across the life course. Theoretically framed by occupational science and informed by narrative and hermeneutic phenomenological approaches, this study adopted occupational and feminist perspectives when analysing the life stories of a small group of older women. The six women in the group were aged between sixty-six and seventy-six years and were living in the Shoalhaven, a rural community on the south coast of New South Wales. The in-depth analysis, from an occupational perspective, of the life stories of the six older women in this study has enhanced understanding of the concept of occupational potential. Essentially, occupational potential has been illuminated by this study as a highly complex phenomenon and one that evolves throughout the life course. Rather than following a predetermined course, the developmental course of a person's occupational potential is largely unpredictable, due to a host of environmental and personal influences that affect its trajectory. The dynamic interaction between specific features of the environment and the individual is what renders each person's occupational potential unique. When the life stories were also analysed from a feminist perspective, the effect of gender on the development of occupational potential emerged as a significant influence. Being a woman shapes the development of occupational potential at each stage of the life course as biological and social determinants of gender interact.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Alston, Margaret, Co-Supervisor
  • Whiteford, Gail, Principal Supervisor
Award date01 Apr 2003
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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