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A PSYCHOBIOGRAPHICAL STUDY OF HELEN KELLER

by Désirée Martina van Genechten

Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree MAGISTER ARTIUM

In the Faculty of Health Sciences Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

November 2009

Supervisor: Prof. Christopher Norman Hoelson

DECLARATION:

I, Desiree Martina van Genechten, hereby declare that this treatise is my own work and that it has not previously been submitted for assessment to another university or for another qualification.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The completion of this treatise bears witness to the encouragement, support and guidance of many individuals. It is with sincere gratitude that I thank: • • • My late parents for instilling a belief in my abilities, despite my disability Friends and family for your enduring encouragement and support All those who have fulfilled the function of my eyes in the process of this work, especially Candice, Dominique, Jeanne, Nompumelelo and Wilma • Dr Roelf van Niekerk for the solid foundation laid in psychobiographical research • Prof. Chris Hoelson for your keen interest, dependable support and valuable supervision • Candice Platt for your encouragement and dedication.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Contents ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1. 1.1.1. 1.1.2. 1.1.3. 1.1.4. 1.2. 1.3. 1.4. General Orientation to the Research Study Contextualisation Aim of this Study Overview of the Psychobiographical Approach Overview of the Theoretical Framework Research Subject Sources of Data Structural Overview of the Treatise Conclusion 1 1 2 2 3 4 5 6 6 page ii iii vii

CHAPTER TWO A THEORETICAL OVERVIEW OF PSYCHOBIOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH 2.1. 2.1.1. 2.1.2. 2.2. 2.2.1. 2.2.2. 2.2.2.1. 2.2.2.2. 2.2.2.3. 2.2.2.4. 2.2.2.5. 2.2.2.6. 2.3. 2.4. 2.5. 2.5.1. 2.5.2. 2.5.3. 2.5.4. 2.5.5. Research Paradigms The Hypothetico-deductive Model Phenomenological Models Psychobiographical Research Description and Definition of Psychobiography Terms and Concepts Related to Psychobiography Personality Assessment Historiography, Historical Psychology, and Psychohistory Narrative Life stories and Life Histories Case Studies Autobiography and Biography Psychology and Biography History of Psychobiography The Value of Psychobiographical Case Study Research Uniqueness of the Individual Socio-historical Context Process and Pattern over Time Subjective Reality Theory Testing and Development Conclusion 7 7 8 9 9 10 10 11 11 11 12 13 13 15 16 16 16 17 17 17 17

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CHAPTER THREE OVERVIEW OF THE PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORY: LEVINSON’S LIFE STRUCTURE THEORY 3.1. 3.2. 3.3. 3.3.1. 3.3.1.1. 3.3.1.2. 3.3.1.3. 3.3.1.4. 3.3.2. 3.3.3. 3.3.3.1. 3.3.3.2. 3.3.3.3. 3.3.4. 3.3.5. 3.3.5.1. 3.3.5.2. 3.3.5.3. 3.3.6. 3.3.7. Contextualising the Theory Introduction and Key Concepts Structure of the Life Cycle Era of Pre-adulthood (birth - 22 years) Infancy (birth - 2 years) Early Childhood (2 - 6 years) Middle Childhood (6 - 12 years) Adolescence (12 - 17 years) Early Adult Transition (17 - 22 years) Era of Early Adulthood (17 - 45 years) Entry Life Structure for Early Adulthood (22 - 28 years) Age 30 Transition (28 - 33 years) Culminating Life Structure for Early Adulthood (33-40 years) Mid-life Transition (40 - 45 years) Era of Middle Adulthood (40 - 65 years) Entry Life Structure for Middle Adulthood (45 - 50 years) Age 50 Transition (50 - 55 years) Culminating Life Structure for Middle Adulthood (55 - 60 years) Late Adult Transition (60 - 65 years) Era of Late Adulthood (65 years - death) Conclusion 19 20 22 23 23 23 24 24 24 25 25 26 26 27 28 29 29 29 29 30 31

CHAPTER FOUR ETHICAL AND PRELIMINARY METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS 4.1. 4.2. 4.2.1. 4.2.2. 4.2.3. 4.2.4. 4.2.5. 4.2.6. 4.2.7. 4.2.8. Ethical Considerations Preliminary Methodological Considerations Researcher Bias Reductionism Cross-cultural Differences Analysing an Absent Subject Validity and Reliability Criticisms Elitism and the Easy Genre Infinite Amount of...
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