An Investigation of Women's Roles in Samoa.
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Past research by Nancy Chodorow (1978) and Margaret Mead (1939) has suggested that institutions, especially the family in rural agrarian societies, influence women's acceptance to roles in society both through modeling and through making sustaining the family a priority. This project explores socialization processes involved in constructing a traditional model of roles versus a more multi-dimensional model of roles. The primary hypothesis I explored is that the presence of an encouraging familial structure, manifested through financial support from the family or parental approval, would facilitate young women's choices to pursue the non-traditional role of student rather than the more accepted exclusive roles of household laborer. Through interviews with 18 female university students and observation of the Tatai and Sears families who hosted my travel accommodations, I investigated existing women's roles. Confirming past research on the Samoan culture (Goodman, 1998; Mead, 1939), I found that Samoans are tradition-oriented and closely follow firmly established social hierarchies, customs and courtesies. Leaving one's family and the duties of being a young adult in a Samoan household, especially for a young woman, challenges the prescribed role of a young adult in Samoan culture. Despite an attachment to custom and familial involvement, female students attending the recently established National University of Samoa seemed unconcerned with their decision to attend the university and did not receive disapproval from family members. Additionally, there was evidence that they seemed aware that they were contributing to the social and economic progress apparent in their country, however, this choice was not necessarily a conscious or personal choice.