Jennifer M Vigil and Dr. Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Women’s Research Institute
As women are given more and more options about the course of their lives, the choices become more complicated. When a woman’s level of religiosity becomes a factor, the decision-making process becomes even more complex. This paper will show how young women who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) make their decisions. It will look at their commitment to a single role, how they plan to follow in their mothers’ footsteps, the knowledge and certainty women feel about the decisions they make, how involved they are in the decision-making process, and the influence of LDS religious culture.
This research fills an important niche within the field of studying decision-making among women for two reasons. First, although some research has been done about the religious cultural influences on the decision-making process of women, it is a relatively small amount. In addition, no work in this field has been done concerning the process of decision-making among LDS women in a survey format targeting college-aged women.
The literature relating to careers, education, home and family spans a broad range of ideas. Although many factors contribute to a woman’s decision-making process, the current literature can be divided into two broad categories: cultural expectations, which include religious influences, and the influence of mothers.
LDS women are a unique group in today’s modern society. They have the influences of the world around them, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is central in their lives and its teachings shape the way they construct the course of their lives through decision-making. It was important to answer the following questions while conducting this study. How committed are LDS women to multiple role planning? What influence do their mothers have on their decision-making process? How much do they know about the roles that they will assume in the future and how certain are they about choosing those roles? How involved are they in the decision-making process? Who are some of the key people affecting their decision-making? Do they feel conflict or dissonance in their lives as a result of personal choices that seem to be different from those around them?
It was also important to explore certain demographic features to see what part they play in the way women make their decisions. Three main areas were of particular interest: where a woman was raised; how long a woman had been a member of the church; and, the woman’s course of study.
The basic design of this study involved developing and using a scale to measure decision-making among LDS women. With the addition of LDS specific items to items from the Attitudes Toward Multiple Role Planning (ATMRP) and Gender-role ideology scales, the LDS Decision-Making (LDSDM) scale contained 49 items. It also included a cover sheet on which women could give demographic information.
The sample consisted of 149 junior and senior, LDS, women attending Brigham Young University (BYU). Women from all majors were selected for participation. Data was obtained from the University delineating how many women graduated from each major in April 2001. As the sample was selected, all attempts were made to parallel the sample for this study to correlate with the data from the University.
In general, a woman’s major was the only demographic feature that significantly affected her decision-making process. Women within the Marriage, Family and Human Development (MFHD) major expressed more traditional views and almost always contrasted from women in all other majors in their views of the roles of men and women, how they felt about trying to “do it all” by balancing both career and family, their views on working outside the home, and the reason they chose their major. Other demographic differences include that single women expressed that they felt more accepted among other LDS women than married women, and women who were raised in Utah expressed that their mothers had greater satisfaction in their roles than women raised in other parts of the country. Four main factors influencing decision-making were identified in this study: the woman’s commitment to a single role; following the path of their mothers; the knowledge women have about multiple role planning and the certainty of their decisions; and how involved the women are in the decision-making process. The way that LDS women approach decision-making is based on these 4 factors.
In addition to the factors made evident through the factor analysis, other issues play an integral part in the decision-making process among LDS women. Many women expressed similar feelings concerning the source to which they look for direction when making decisions. Patriarchal blessings and the counsel of the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the main sources of direction.
If further study was done, other items would be included. First, an item about the influences of female college instructors would be integrated into the scale. Could female instructors be seen as models to LDS women at BYU? Second, the influence of fathers would be examined. I would also add a question about pursuing graduate school. Do young, LDS women think it is valuable? How many would be interested in pursuing graduate work? It might also be important to conduct this study among freshmen and sophomores at Brigham Young University to see if they approach decision-making in the same way as juniors and seniors. Lastly, it would be interesting to see how LDS women at BYU compare to women at other universities sponsored by conservative religions with traditional ideals.
Hopefully this research will help psychologists and counselors who come in contact with young women in the LDS community understand how these women make decisions about careers and family, how they envision their lives, to whom they look for direction and what they hold important. Even though this research still has many unanswered questions, it can continue to expand and explore new dimensions. The research is limited in the fact that it cannot perfectly and correctly reflect the lives of individuals. However, it is evident that LDS women in this study feel that the life of a wife and mother provides the greatest rewards. These rewards are what we should celebrate about womanhood.