- Forming a Dream.
- Forming mentor relationships.
- Forming an occupation.
- Forming love relationships in marriage and family.
Early Adult Transition There are two major tasks to overcome: to leave the (age 17-22) pre-adult world, often associated with separation from parents; also the person must initiate early adulthood. A period where ambitions begin to be formed and more responsibility is taken for one’s self e.g. becoming financially sufficient. The ` beginnings of The Dream are likely to emerge.
Entering the Adult World A relatively stable period with two major tasks (age 22-28) to overcome. These are to take on a period of exploration, by becoming aware of and trying out various and possibilities available. The next is creating a stable structure. Once all options have been taken in the next step is begin to organise one’s life i.e. get a job, define goals, etc. In essence there is in fact a third task of balancing these two processes.
Age 30 Transition An opportunity for reappraisal of one’s personal (age 28-33) circumstances. It becomes apparent that it is time to make the changes in need to alter one’s circumstances. At the end of such a transitional period a person’s life will either be better or worse. The transition can be experienced in two ways either as a smooth process of change or a painful transition: the “age thirty crisis”.
The Settling Down Period
Settling Down Again there are two major tasks faced during this (age 33-40) period. To establish one’s niche in society. Having order and structure in one’s life allows the person to appreciate what has been achieved and begin to pursue personal interests. The second task is to work at advancement. This is a time to build a better life and fulfil one’s personal Dream.
The Midlife Transition and Entering Middle Adulthood
Midlife Transition The three tasks placed by during this transition are (age 40-45) to end early adulthood, begin initiation of middle adulthood and to deal with the polarities. The first task involves a review of early adulthood and reappraise whether it has been a success. Will The Dream ever be realised? The next stage modifying one’s life structure; new choices/plans have to be settled on in preparation for later life. It is also a major period of individuation. This transition as a whole is often experienced as a crisis.
Entering Middle Adulthood Having made the decisions in the previous (age 45-50) transitional stage it is now time to implement the new life structure. This may involve filling space in one’s life where previously something, i.e. a job, or person, mentor, or significant other may have been. How it is experienced will vary greatly and depend largely on choices made during Midlife Transition.
The key to overcoming these seasons or put more specifically: the termination of one season and the initiation of the next is the process Levinson termed individuation. In fact it was Jung who first coined this term when describing a development process that begins and then may extend over the last half of the life cycle. (Levinson 1978). Levinson later developed this definition to describe how a person relates to the changes in the relationship with themselves and changes going on in the outside world. Much of the development that takes place is the gaining of independence but that does not mean the person isolates himself, in fact equally key is how that person maintains ties to those in their life during this period.
Astin’s Model and Early Life Choices
This section will attempt to apply Astin’s model to the early years of Thatcher’s life. By examining the relationship with her family, especially her father, her education both at school and university it will be possible to identify the factors in her pre-adhulthood that influenced her career and lifestyle choices. A point that needs to be made is that whilst Astin’s model can be applied to women throughout their life, for the purpose of this essay it has been applied more to Thatcher’s childhood and early adult life to determine why she made the choices she did during these periods.
Astin’s view that a child’s sex-role socialisation is influenced by gender typing activities is supported by Hoffman (1972). In his work on the origins of sex differences in achievement motivation Hoffman identified four factors that lead “boys to learn ‘effectance’ (that is, how to have an impact upon the environment) through mastery while girls learn effectance through eliciting help and protection from others:” (Women’s Career Development, White, Cox and Cooper 1992).
- Girls receive less encouragement in early independence training.
- Girls receive more paternal protection.
- Girls are under less social and cognitive pressure to establish an identity separate from their mothers.
- Girls encounter less mother-child conflict.
An area where I feel Thatcher’s life does not confirm entirely to these views of sex-role socialisation is mother-child conflict. Very little reference is made to the relationship she had to her mother. Although she acknowledges her role with the home and the family business to be an important one little is made of the mother-child relationship. Instead she refers repeatedly to her relationship with her father. It is my view that it is the relationship with her father that may have led her upbringing being more rounded; including encouragement in areas more normally associated with boys, therefore learning effectance through mastery.
In studies of successful women the relationship between father and daughter is often viewed by those women as a ‘special’ one. When this is the case fathers and daughters may be seen to indulge in pastimes that are usually seen more appropriate for fathers and sons. This supports the Astin’s view that children are encouraged to take part in gender-specific activities, the difference being that because the parental relationship is strongest between father and daughter the encouragement may be to take part in more masculine activities.
In the case of Thatcher’s upbringing it is apparent that her relationship with her father was very close. With her father being an Alderman as well as running a number of successful grocery stores his ethic of hard work and public service was something Thatcher would have been exposed to from a very early age. In her biographies the impression is given that Thatcher was very proud of her father’s achievements and that he is responsible for her values and beliefs. Her involvement in the family business: working in the shop, collecting orders from customers, interest in politics and science are likely to have been the result of encouragement from her father. The strong relationship between the two will have undoubtedly impacted on her desire to seek further reinforcement through mastery of her academic studies. Further to this is her father’s vested interest in her education and this is something that she seems to have been aware of “As my father left school at the age thirteen, he was determined to make up for this and see that I took advantage of every educational opportunity” (The Path to Power, Margaret Thatcher). This interest manifested itself in her father taking her to evening lectures at the University of Nottingham and encouraging her to be well read particularly the classics.
The final relationship within the family in need of examination is that between Thatcher and her sister Muriel. Again like her mother there is very little mention of Muriel in her biographies. But rather more relevant is the personal relationship between the two: that Thatcher was the first born child of the family. In their study of successful women White, Cox and Cooper 1992 found that 54.2 of women in their study were the first born or only child. These findings have are supported by many other studies of successful women including research by Helmreich et al., 1980 and Auster and Auster 1981 all of whom found that this was the case for the majority of women in their studies. According to Munsun et al. 1979, the significance of being the first born is that the eldest sibling is likely to be treated differently from those born later. That is they will not have to share their parents until the arrival of the later siblings. This is likely to result in added attention from parents. In turn this added attention may result in greater encouragement as the only child. As the eldest it is also likely that they will be given the responsibility of looking after the younger siblings Being the eldest they are the only one in the family who will have to experience losing the status of the only child. Having experienced both these scenarios it is likely that Thatcher will have learned responsibility and self confidence.
Examining her childhood relationships it is not clear that her experiences are in line with the expectations of Austin’s and Hoffman’s theories. Being the eldest child it is likely that she may have been encouraged to learn an early responsibility which is likely to have been reinforced by the strong relationship she shared with her father. Although there is no mention of mother-child conflict the lack of reference to her mother suggests that she may not have viewed the need to maintain a close identity with her.
In 1936 Thatcher attended Kesteven & Grantham Girls’ School before moving on to Oxford in 1943. It is during these years that Thatcher is most likely to have developed her early mentor relationships that are key to her development according Levinson. It is the period when the Dream will first begin to form.
Walsh and Osipow (1983) acknowledge that education, especially in the case of women, is a strong predictor in career success but also in career orientation (Astin and Myint 1971). In terms of extracting meaningful conclusions from Thatcher’s education there are five issues that need to be considered: the gender segregation of the subject, the type of school attended, co-education, the level of education and the subject of education.
At school Thatcher was required to study home economics; which involved learning how to cook, wash and iron shirts and manage the household budget. This is an obvious example of gender segregation in her education. The issue being that women who experience this may be more prepared for gender segregation in the work place. A quality it seems she had as when running for her first public post in Dartford she felt that she would have to work twice as hard as her male counterparts.
Thatcher attended a girl’s school which was also a grammar school. Both of these factors are associated with the level of education Thatcher was able to achieve as quantitative studies of both grammar and single sex schools show students attending such schools are likely to do better than those who do not. Referring once again to Cooper, Cox and White 1992 in their study of successful women, over half of their subjects had attended grammar school and over three quarters went to single sex schools. Having attended a single sex school will also have impacted on her choice of subject when attending Oxford, as girls in single sex education are much more likely to pursue male dominated subjects such as mathematics and in Thatcher’s case, science (Collin Hughes 1990).
Thatcher received a second class degree from Oxford and was placed among the top graduates in the country. This again, is in line with studies of successful men and women. What made her unique was the fact that her major was in Chemistry: a subject considered to be male dominated, as nearly 70% of science graduates are male. On the face of it this it may seem to go against conventional theory but the fact that she attended a single sex school coupled with her father’s personal interest in science makes it not unexpected. As mentioned earlier she and her father attended extension lectures in the evenings. It is through her discussion of science that we also gain the first insight to a possible mentor, “the main academic influence on me was undoubtedly Miss Kay, who taught Chemistry”(The Path to Power).
Having looked at her education and family relationships the final aspects of Thatcher’s sex role socialisation is the idea of play and work. We have already mentioned her involvement in the family business. The next mention of work is not until she graduates from Oxford to begin work as a research scientist. This is an idea that will be examined later in the essay. However in terms of her childhood and teenage age years the ‘work’ she put in to give herself the best opportunity to attend Oxford i.e. taking extra lessons in Latin, attending evening lectures with her father, could be viewed as work in the more general sense and less of in an educational sense because of its direct impact on her career advancement. In terms of play there is very little mention of ‘play’ activities in her childhood or in early adult life. It seems that two extra curricular activities that she did take part in were playing the piano and going to the cinema. And it is in going to the cinema that she took her first steps of separation from her family. This was an activity that while she was allowed to carry out it was not fully endorsed by family. It was only deemed “acceptable behaviour” and the frequency and content of the films she attended was monitored.
In describing the major factors in her sex role socialisation I have also touched upon issues of work motivation and the structure of the opportunity available to her. The three issues of work motivation: survival, pleasure and contribution are, in the case in hand, highly interrelated. The issues surrounding survival are not really confronted until later in her life as she was well supported by her family throughout her childhood and entry to adulthood. Although she was aware that they were not a very wealthy family, she always lived in comfort and in the knowledge that she had the full support of her father in the choices she made. Without being inhibited by the need to survive there is some evidence that “women who are free to do whatever they want… will choose more prestigious and challenging careers” (Farmer & Bohn 1970). It is likely that her family’s financial stability, through times of national economic hardship, and the relationship with her father will have impacted on her choice to go to Oxford.
From her childhood and throughout her life Thatcher seems to have derived pleasure through her contribution to the work of others. The earliest example of this is the affectionate terms in which she described helping out with the family business, singing groups, Sunday school and her father’s political career. Later in life this again seems to be the case through her work in various organisations, most notably the Conservative Party, but also within societies while at university. By involving herself in so many organisations not only did she create a strong support network, where no doubt her work and efforts will have received reinforcement from others, but also perhaps less consciously she also built up an influential social network. This is something that is usually attributed to the career success among men and will have been an important tool throughout her working life.
The final feature of Astin’s model is the structure of opportunity. This encompasses the distribution of jobs, sex typing of jobs, economy, family structure and reproductive technology. Aspects of family structure at this stage of her life have already been discussed. In terms of the economy at the time of her leaving Oxford the country was beginning a boom period having come through a depression. A surge in new science/technology, (in particular the world of plastics Thatcher’s field of expertise), was helping this recovery. The emergence of the plastics industry meant that there were a lot of jobs in Thatcher’s related field but it was the sex typing of these jobs that slowed her progression into working life. One manager who interviewed her expressed the following opinion “this woman has much too strong a personality to work here.” Eventually she was taken on by BX Plastics although it was not a job she particularly enjoyed. It was this dissatisfaction at work that lead her once again to resume her role within the Conservative Party by joining her local party.
Having now accounted for the three factors: work motivation, sex-role socialisation and structure of opportunity that lead to the forming of expectations, it is possible to see that throughout her early life whether subconsciously or otherwise many of her choices lead to her being in a position to realise this dream. More weight has been give to the factors concerning sex-role socialisation because as stated earlier it was my aim to use Astin’s Model to determine why she made the choices she did during the early part of her life. The relationship with her father and his influence of her political thinking, her educational background in which her father was ever present, her affiliation to the Conservative Party from the age of 17 and her early experiences of work will have had a combined impact on her expectations of work and ultimately lead to the formation of a Dream, in Thatcher’s case becoming an MP.
Thatcher’s Adult Life and Levinson’s Phases of Adult Life Development
The first stage in one’s adult life is the Novice Stage. Made up of four seasons there are also four key tasks to successfully negotiating this stage of life they are to form: a Dream, mentor relationships, an occupation and loving relationships in marriage and family. As we examine the seasons of her life during this period it will become apparent that Thatcher was successful in achieving these tasks.
Early Adulthood Transition for Thatcher took place during her time at university. Having applied early to Oxford at age 17, ensuring she could complete a full degree rather than a two year war time degree, Thatcher began her separation from her family. Instead of going to her ‘local’ university which would have allowed her to live at home or at least be close to her friends and family she chose to go where she could be best challenged. With this move came a greater financial burden but instead of relying more on her family to support her through this she took her own initiative in seeking help from educational trusts. There is also the first mention of a possible mentor relationship from her “ever helpful tutor, the chemist Dorothy Hodgkin”, later a Nobel Prize winner, who was a great help in securing her a number of modest grants from the college. Thatcher also undertook paid work as a teacher during one of her vacations.
It seems that this physical and financial separation from her family would meet the requirements of leaving the pre-adult world. The taking on of more financial responsibility could also be an example of Thatcher entering the adult world. Further examples of her entering the adult world would include socialising in the evenings, albeit through the managed environment of the Methodist Study Group and the Oxford University Conservative Association of which she became Chairman. It is quite apparent that the age of 22 she had a much greater sense of self, “I had a clearer idea of where I stood in relation to other people, their ambitions and opinions. In short I had grown up”. And it was at the age of 22 that almost by accident she first admitted to herself her Dream. In conversation to a friend when he stated “what you really want to do is become an MP, isn’t it?” for the first time she replied “Yes that really is what I want to do”.
Entering the Adult World, again seems to have been a near seamless transition. Having left Oxford she next went about looking for a job and rejections by a number of companies she secured a research job with BX Plastics. This I have identified as the exploration that must be carried out. Rather than becoming an occupation it merely lead to increasing her desire to realise her Dream. It was the dissatisfaction at work that led to her taking steps towards becoming an MP. The first of these steps was to mention her ambition to a friend, whom she met through her social network – in this case the Oxford University Graduate Association. This led to him to proposing her as a potential candidate for the seat in the Dartford constituency. Upon a successful nomination and acceptance by the Party Thatcher was able to begin her political career. As such she had to begin the task of balancing her job and realising her dream. This became yet more of a task as at the age of 25 she met Dennis Thatcher whom she would marry a year later, thus meeting another one of Levinson’s requirements of the novice stage, forming a loving relationship.
The Age Thirty Transition, like those before, began with a significant event. At 28 she gave birth to Mark and Carol. After their birth Thatcher withdrew from politics and took the opportunity to pursue her new ambition of becoming a lawyer. Having lost interest in chemistry and with the support of Denis, she was able to take the time at home to study and pass her examinations for the Bar.
Having taken time out of politics to ‘establish a home’ and further her education in 1956, age 31, Thatcher requested that she be reconsidered as a possible candidate. Having assessed her situation she made the decision that now was the time to once again make steps toward realising her Dream. Thatcher now faced two years of opposition from local electing committees all of whom according to Thatcher saw her position as a wife and a mother a barrier significant enough to not award her the position of local candidate. In the light of what she perceived as discrimination she spoke to Donald Kaberry about her frustrations. Donald became something of a mentor for Thatcher having encouraged her to continue proposing herself as a candidate, she was duly selected as candidate for Finchley. This proved to be wholly successful, despite continued opposition from some committee members, as in 1959 she was elected as MP for Finchley. Looking back at her life she viewed this moment as taking ‘the first step.’ It is clear that this period of transition was a success.
So once again Thatcher’s move into another season, The Settling Down coincided with a major change in her life: becoming an MP. Thatcher’s life during this season seems to have followed Levinson’s outline for the Settling Down Period to a tee. Having won her seat in parliament she began to establish herself not only within the party but also in her family life. Thatcher talks fondly of creating a ‘warm home’ and expresses a sense of loss and emptiness when Mark and Carol left for boarding school, a feeling that was compounded by the loss of her mother a year later. To overcome this and further her political career she began to take steps to establish herself in the Party. In 1962 having already proposed what she affectionately terms ‘my Bill’ and had it passed by parliament she applied for and was promoted to the position of Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. At this stage in her life, with her family stable and financially secure, and the beginnings of political advancement it is quite apt that upon entering the Mid-Life Transition that her career should be put in the balance with the Conservatives being voted out of government.
However, having managed to retain her seat she became a member of the Opposition. This began a five year period which saw Thatcher rise through the party ranks. Although it may seem a rather simplistic view (as it has been with all the previous seasons of her life) it is the view of this essay that the major change in personal circumstances, that is from being a party in power, having to get re-elected and becoming a member of the Opposition will have served to both end Early Adulthood and initiate the Mid-Life Transition. The next five years of her life did indeed amount to a period of transition but rather than being experienced as a crisis it was a time of realisation. At this point in her life, realisation of her Dream could not be achieved through personal success alone but required the party as a whole to succeed. Knowing this was the case Thatcher made choices during this transition that would benefit both her and the party. In 1965 shortly after parliament was reformed Home retired as Leader of the Conservatives. Having initially decided to vote for Reggie Maulding, after discussions with a close friend, Keith Joseph, she changed her mind and voted for Ted Heath. This proved to be a wise decision as soon after he was installed as party leader Thatcher was moved from her position in Pensions to shadow Housing and Land. This was a move Thatcher described as fortunate because at the time there was little to attack Labour’s policy on pensions. In fact it is likely that rather than being fortunate this move was a result of her previous work for the party and her loyalty for the new leader. This was the first of five moves that saw Thatcher become deputy to Ian Macleod, Shadow Minister for the Treasury, join the Shadow Cabinet responsible for Fuel and Power, being reshuffled joining the Department of Transport before becoming Shadow Spokesperson for Education in 1969.
In 1970, when Thatcher was 45 and just entering Middle Adulthood, there was a national election at which the Conservatives regained power. This saw Thatcher become Secretary of State for Education and Science: a post which she held for four years and which put her firmly in the public eye. Having to concede many policies as a result of Treasury cuts Thatcher was soon the victim of a lot of negative publicity in the media. Perhaps most memorably she was labelled a ‘Milk Snatcher’ after proposing plans to stop the provision of free milk at schools. What ended her tenure as Secretary of State for Education and Science was the call for a general election in March 1974 where no party had an overall majority.
With Heath having lost a second general election there were calls in the party for a leadership election. Thatcher’s view was that Keith Joseph should be installed as party leader, Heath himself was pushing for re-election. There was some ‘murmurs within the party’ (as she put it) that she herself might be a suitable candidate. In November 1974 Keith Joseph confided in Thatcher that he would not be running as a candidate, Thatcher announced her intentions to become party leader. Having gained support from those already loyal to her in the party as well as from two leading candidates, both of whom chose to drop out of the running on February 11th 1975 Thatcher was elected as Leader of the Opposition.
In terms of Levinson’s theory that completes Thatcher’s journey from Pre-adulthood to life post Middle Adulthood. And it was perhaps this journey more than the five years that followed that were instrumental in her becoming Prime Minister. In fact it was more down to the poor performance of the Labour government in power rather than Thatcher’s leadership that lead to her winning the next general election. In terms of the applicability of her life to Levinson’s theory it seems that for the most case her adult development has been very much in line with his thinking. Perhaps most importantly is the manner in which she was able to negotiate the transitions between seasons. Rather than having to looking within herself and at her family and work situations the transition in nearly every case coincided with a major change life, over which she often had very little control. It was this series of smooth transitions that allowed Thatcher a relatively crisis free life. In particular how she was able to manage the transition periods of life; manipulating them in such a way that her life was better having experienced the transition.
Astin’s model is largely appropriate as an explanation of the development of Thatcher’s early years. Levinson’s theory helps explain Thatcher’s adult development more precisely than Astin’s. That Thatcher is a female does detract from the applicability of either Astin’s model or Levinson’s theory. Her fathers influence in her early development and the presence of a strong social and support network coupled with the emergence of mentors in her adult life are all contributing factors in the realisation of her Dream: to become Prime Minister.
The Path to Power – Margaret Thatcher
Not a Man to Match Her – Wendy Webster
Margaret Thatcher, The Woman Within – Andrew Thomson
One of Us – Hugo Young
Women’s Career Development – White, Cox and Cooper
Diversity & Women’s Career Development – Farmer and Associates
Career Development in Britain – Watts, Super and Kidd
Strategies for Career Development: Promise, Practise and Pretence – Hirsh and Jackson
The Seasons of a Man’s Life – Daniel Levinson
Managing Careers into the 21st Century – John Arnold