Sample Psychology Dissertation Abstract Paper on Personality Developmental Phase

Personality Developmental Phase

Dissertation abstract

            The main purpose for writing this dissertation is to establish how intimacy against isolation personality developmental phase impacts African American women compared to non-African American women. Intimacy against isolation is a personality developmental phase that was devised by Erik Erikson, which, among other seven stages, defines developmental stages that a normal person that is developing healthily must go through as he/she develops from infancy to adulthood (Sharp, 2006). Drawing from Erik Erikson’s description, this dissertation has defined intimacy against isolation as the sixth developmental stage that occurs during early adulthood between twenty and thirty-nine years although the stage is mostly emphasized at thirty years. From Erik’s description, the dissertation asserts that intimacy is all about having an integrative love relationship that is typified by honesty.  It has established that young adults, at the onset of this stage, begin feeling eager about matching their identities with other friends simply because they have a strong desire to fit in. This leads to strong and deep relationships that tend to solidify as one realizes the importance of loving (West, 2004). The dissertation has also established that it is at this stage that some young adults begin identifying long-term life partners that may include future spouses. It further outlines that young adults at this stage may however be isolated on basis of intimacy. Such adults may be afraid of facing rejections, which include having relationship requests being declined or facing breakups in relationships. Drawing from Erikson’s elaboration, this dissertation asserts that such young adults include those that have past experience or are familiar with pain, and hence, their ego cannot bear being turned down or being rejected. They thus start distancing themselves from others in readiness for isolation (Karandashev, 2015).

            Sufficient background information indicates that intimacy against isolation can trace its history from ancient times when communities widely accepted women’s marginalized positions as well as upheld cultural practices that perpetuated this status. Such cultural practices portrayed women as lesser human beings, and hence, their status in almost every society was closely linked to that of a property. This perception of portraying women as properties can be seen in certain modern societies with payments for dowry as well as bride prices. Similarly, arranged marriages are rampant in certain communities where women are given minimal opportunities to voice their opinions (Linda, 2000). Until recently, marriage vows have demanded that women should love, respect as well as obey their marriage partners while on the other hand losing their own status in the marriage contract. In most traditional communities, especially in European and North American societies, women did not only lose their status in marriages but also lost their matrilineal descent. The loss of identity was further stressed in laws that did not restrict men from raping their women with impunity. Fried further stressed the concept of female isolation by marginalizing their psyche through his penis envy theoretical perspective. Historical evidence portrays the family as the primary society structure upon which women are isolated. Women are isolated on basis of finances, domestic work as well as parenting (Sharp, 2006). Relationships within families were defined on basis of feminine nurturance, self-sacrifice, romantic attraction towards male counterparts as well as materialism on one hand and masculine protection as well as financial support on the other. On this note, gender polarity became an important aspect in familial relationships with masculine dominance as well as control becoming widely accepted while feminine dominance was perceived as inappropriate. Such relationships promoted an aspect of intimacy on men’s side where they felt privileged and protected while women experienced an aspect of isolation where they felt physically and mentally tortured (Lander, 2016).

            Historical evidence does not only exhibit relationships on basis of isolation but it as well as portrays an aspect of intimacy. Social scientists witnessed widespread intimate relationships in various communities existing during the mid-20th century. As a result, scholars from varying social scientist disciplines including sociology, psychology as well as anthropology greatly advanced their exploration on the concept of love and intimacy as well as the major intimacy constructs. Most scholars especially in the 1980s were mainly interested in establishing whether intimacy is solely a western concept or something that universally prevails in every human society (West, 2004). Basing their scholarly inquiry on romantic love’s remote origins, which included Greece, India, Rome as well as the Islam world, they generated basic conclusions that intimacy was something that universally prevailed in every human society although it was exhibited in distinct ways depending on how people felt, thought as well as behaved in romantic relationships. Further historical evidence indicates that intimacy prevailed in the form of passion, which is equally an important aspect of relationships (Linda, 2000). Certain historians argue that passionate relationships have existed at all times in every place. For instance, ancient Western literature comprised of important stories of intimate lovers, whether real or fictional, that exhibited a great deal of passion as well as violence. Intimate attitudes as well as behaviors were however exhibited differently in varying cultures as well as varying temporal periods. For instance, a Hindu philosopher advised male and female intimate partners to enter into romantic relationships on basis of love and intimacy. While the medieval church accused passionate intimacy as being sinful, ancient Egyptians exercised birth control; ancient Greeks rewarded intimate partners that were able to engage in sexual relationships and conceive and Muslim men locked up their wives to shield them from harems (Ajmal, 2012). Additionally, attitudes towards intimacy, love as well as sexual desire during ancient Chinese history were basically positive. Evidence drawn from early texts show that people in ancient China perceived intimacy, love as well as sexual desire as great and joyous life perspectives. The late Chinese Empire was however marked by drastic shift in attitudes and perceptions about intimacy from being readily positive to being more repressive. Erotic art as well as literature was burned and men and women assumed a primary role to procreate. This emerged from the fact that couples did not have the primary opportunity to choose each other and hence did not necessarily have any sexual desire for each other (Jordan, 2015). Men were thus assumed to have a biological drive to seek sexual satisfaction with various women, which widely perpetuated concubinage as a typical aspect of marriage particularly among the wealthy. On the contrary, women were not biologically destined as such but had a primary function to conceive and bear children as well as remain faithful to their partners. Sexual intercourse was considered as a strong body function, and hence, a husband could seek sexual intimacy with a concubine. The status as well as position of a concubine varied between families. In some families, concubines acted as servants where they undertook all the domestic chores as well as fulfilled the husband’s sexual demands (Lander, 2016). In other families, concubines enjoyed a high status particularly if they had a strong emotional as well as sexual intimacy with the husband. Displays of intimate relationships outside marriage were prohibited in spite of instances where partners felt a high degree of attraction to one another (Inness, 2002).

            Although various studies have taken varying approaches in studying various perspectives of intimacy against isolation, there is no single study that has investigated how this personality developmental phase impacts women. Past studies have focused on how intimacy as well as isolation are perpetuated in relationships, how they prevail in distinct societies, how they impact men as well as adolescents. There is no particular study that has focused on African American women or even compared this impact to that experienced by non-African American women (Dion, 1996). The main focus in this dissertation is the impact that intimacy against isolation personality developmental phase has on women. The dissertation specifically focuses on the impact that the phase has on African American women compared to non-African American women. It looks at the physical, social, intellectual and emotional impacts that women at this developmental phase experience. The various questions covered in this dissertation include: 1) whether intimacy against isolation is evident in social and romantic relationships, 2) whether intimacy against isolation promotes physical contact or aggression, 3) whether intimacy against isolation promotes social acceptance or rejection, 4) whether intimacy against isolation perpetuates emotional stability or turmoil.

            Existing literature indicates that intimacy within relationships exist in various forms including intellectual, physical and emotional.

Chart showing various forms of intimacy/isolation

Intellectual intimacy exists when people share thoughts, ideas as well as similarities or differences as regards to their opinions in a comfortable and open manner. Intellectual intimacy is important because it allows people to share and be aware of each other’s fears, share opinions without fear of being ridiculed, mirror each other’s actions and gestures as well as share life goals and dreams. Lack of intellectual intimacy leads to feelings of isolation, which result when a person is unable to engage anyone into a meaningful conversation without feeling intimidated. Intellectual isolation is usually frustrating and can perpetuate feelings of misery and loneliness (Ajmal, 2012). Physical intimacy occurs when people engage in a form of sensual proximity intended to express feelings of friendship, love or even sexual desire. Physical intimacy may be expressed through holding hands, kissing, caressing or even engaging into sexual activity, which are the basic expressions of affection as well as trust. Physical intimacy draws partners together both in body and soul, makes them feel secure with each other, helps build trust, promote feelings of self-worth and builds sense of belongingness. Lack of physical intimacy however perpetuates a sense of physical isolation, which is reportedly dangerous compared to loneliness. Physical isolation disintegrates a person from other individuals as well as the wider society, which in return denies them any form of communication with family, friends or society members. Literature has further shown that intimacy can be emotional, which occurs when there is a sense of closeness to other people thereby enhancing sharing of individual feelings that are accompanied by expectations of appreciation, affirmation and expression of love and care (Jordan, 2015, Inness, 2002). Emotional intimacy enhances an aspect of comfort, effectiveness as well as mutual feeling of closeness that might portray emotional cohesion between people. It also promotes communication that may be expressed through talking, gestures and facial expressions. Lack of emotional intimacy leads to emotional isolation where a person, in spite of having dependable social networks, may be feeling emotionally disintegrated from other people. Emotional isolation, particularly when it occurs in intimate relationships, can be as a result of infidelity, abusive behaviors or mistrust. This can lead to feelings of loneliness rather than accomplishment, fulfillment and supported. Literature has portrayed the various indicators of forms of intimacy and isolation by use of charts as follows:

Certain factors may bar formation of intimate relationships thereby perpetuating aspects of isolation (Jordan, 2015). Lack of communication can lead to isolation as people might have mistaken notions or misjudgment pertaining to others’ thoughts or needs. Lack of time can hinder formation of strong links that can lead to intimacy. Lack of self-awareness may limit what a person can share with others thereby limiting creation of close relations. Shyness and game playing may generate stereotypical perceptions about a person’s mind, motives as well as expectation because they fail to be themselves. Intimacy can be developed through self-awareness (Dion, 1996). One needs to be aware of the type of intimacy that he/she desires as well as begin developing it at a point that he/she is most comfortable. Starting with the most comfortable form of intimacy can create basis upon which other forms of intimacy can be developed. Knowledge of the fact that each intimate relationship does not necessarily have to include all the aspects and types of intimacy can perpetuate creation of the most reliable form of intimate relationship. This is especially because most compatible as well as satisfying intimate relationships can exist in any one or even a combination of the various forms of intimacy (Mashek, 2004).

            Methods used in this dissertation are exploratory in nature particularly because they were intended to generate new insight in a new problem, enhance conceptual distinctions, help develop explanatory relationships as well as improve the ultimate research strategy. The study was conducted at New York University where there is a fair representation of African Americans and non-African Americans. Participants, who included female students, administration as well as teaching female staffs,were selected through random sampling as long as they met the inclusion criteria.300 participants that were aged between nineteen and forty years were selected with fifty percent (150) belonging to the African American descent and fifty percent (150) from non-African American descent. The study participants were assured of confidentiality to ensure generation of valid information. Data was collected using direct and telephone interviews, group discussions and questionnaires. The data collection tools were tested before hand to ensure that they were reliable. As such, they were handed to a group of experts for approval as well as tested through a pilot study using a group of friends (Mashek, 2004). Data collection materials obtained from the study respondents were verified to ensure that all questions were answered correctly. Data was then coded to ease analysis using a quantitative approach. Data was analyzed using the SPPS computer program and the results presented through various quantitative tools that included histograms, pie charts, bar graphs as well as tables.

            The study results showed that most participants that took part in the study were aged between nineteen and forty years. 5% were 19 years, 22% were between 20 -24years, 33% were between 25-29 years, 30% were between 30-34 years, 8% were between 35-39 years and 2% were 40 years. Study results also showed that intimacy against isolation prevailed in various forms including intellectual, physical and emotional. In terms of physical intimacy against isolation, indicators included hugs, caresses, kisses, cuddles and sexual actions. 88% of the African American participants reported that they experienced more physical isolation than intimacy, 7% experienced more physical intimacy than isolation and 5% were not sure whether they experienced more intimacy than isolation or vice versa. In comparison, 92% of non-African American participants reported that they experienced more intimacy than isolation, 7% experienced more isolation than intimacy, and 1% was not sure whether they experienced more intimacy than isolation or vice versa. This was presented in a chart as follows:

IndicatorAfrican AmericansNon-African Americans
 IntimateIsolatedNot sureIntimateIsolatedNot sure
Sexual action3451212 
Total11(7%)132 (88%)7(5%)138 (92%)11(7%)2(1%)

In terms of intellectual intimacy, indicators included exchange of thoughts, sharing of ideas, discussion and enjoyment of similarities as well as differences between opinions. Study results showed that 76% of the African American participants experienced more isolation than intimacy, 20% experienced more intimacy that isolation and 4% were not sure. In comparison, 81% of non-African Americans experienced more intimacy than isolation, 15% experienced more isolation than intimacy and 4% were not sure. In terms of emotional intimacy against isolation, indicators included comfort, feeling of closeness and fulfillment of one’s emotional desires. Study results showed that 83% of the African American respondents experienced more isolation than intimacy, 9% experienced more intimacy than isolation and8% were not sure. In comparison, 85% of the non-African American participants experienced more intimacy than isolation, 12% experienced more isolation than intimacy and 3% were not sure. This was presented in charts as follows:

Chart showing percentages in emotional intimacy against isolation among African Americans

Chart showing percentages in emotional intimacy against isolation among non-African Americans

Study results also showed that trust against mistrust, courage against dread for intimacy, effectiveness against problems in communication, faithfulness against infidelity as well as emotional and physical proximity versus distant were the main factors that contributed to intimacy against isolation. In terms of effects of intimacy against isolation, the study results showed that participants experiencing more intimacy than isolation experience a great deal of physical contact with friends and intimate partners, social acceptance and emotional stability. On the other hand, respondents experiencing more isolation than intimacy experience physical aggression, social rejection, and emotional turmoil.

            In conclusion, intimacy against isolation is evident among both the African American and non-African American women aged between nineteen and forty years, where it prevails in various forms including physical, intellectual and emotional. Most African American women experience isolation compared to most non-African American women that experience intimacy. Major factors that perpetuate feelings of isolation include dread for intimacy, infidelity, mistrust, problems in communication as well as emotional and physical distance. Factors that contribute to intimacy include courage, effective communication, faithfulness, trust as well as physical and emotional proximity. Intimacy against isolation affects African American women by perpetuating physical aggression, social rejection and emotional turmoil. In comparison, intimacy against isolation impacts non-African American women by perpetuating social acceptance, physical contact and emotional stability.


Ajmal, K. (2012). Perception of Love in Young Adults, Pakistan Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 9(2): 712-911.

Dion, K. (1996). Cultural Perspective on Romantic Love. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Inness, J. (2002). Privacy, Intimacy and Isolation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jordan, L. (2015). Domestic Violence in the African American Community. Retrieved on 9th November, 2016 from

Karandashev, V. (2015). A Cultural Perspective on Romantic Love, Interpersonal and Intergroup Relations, 6(1): 3-21.

Lander, N. (2016). The Integrity Model: Working with Men, their Intimacy Issues and their Search for Community, The Journal of Men’s Studies, 24(1): 87-289.

Linda, R. (2000). Interpersonal Relationship Quality in Young Adulthood: A Gender Analysis, Adolescence, 35(140): 229-491.

Mashek, D. (2004). Handbook of Closeness and Intimacy. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Sharp, C. et al (2006). Intimate Partner Violence in African American Women. retrieved on 9th November, 2016 from

West, C. (2004). Black Women and Intimate Partner Violence: New Directions for Research, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19(12): 1487-1493.