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A critical review of the self-in-relation theory

25 July 1997


The Self-in-Relation theory as developed and proposed by feminist writers at the Stone Center for Developmental Services and Studies of Wellesley College is reviewed. This theory holds that relationship and connection are primary to women's development and experience of selfhood. While it is a significant contribution to feminist literature and underlines the concern that clinicians should have regarding their female clients' constructions of self, self-in-relation
theory is found to be lacking in terms of its ability to accurately portray development and personality. Besides the paucity of empirical investigations of its constructs, specific problems of the theory include the Stone Center writers' primary focus on mother-daughter dyads to the exclusion of other systems and the potential for their theory to recapitulate "feminine" stereotypes about women (i.e. nurturance, caretaking ability) and prescribe these traits as developmental goals. This latter point is seen as problematic when compared to a Western
cultural context of oppression in which, often to their detriment, women are expected to limit themselves to the subservient roles implied by these traits.


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