Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Anna Stetsenko

Subject Categories

Developmental Psychology | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Psychology


Chinese, Gender, Gender ideologies, Gender role, Immigrants, Narrative


This dissertation analyzes gender role identity development in Chinese female immigrants from diverse work and education backgrounds. This study focuses on Chinese female immigrants, bakery salesladies and social workers, to addresses a gap in the existing literature, which has previously emphasized factory workers and students, on gender role identity development at the interface of social context and activity system dynamics. To understand further the Chinese female immigration experience, this research investigates how gender role identity is manifested across different social contexts and institutions. I administered questionnaires and conducted interviews with Chinese female immigrants residing in New York City. The sample consisted of two groups with different occupations, educational backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, and levels of cultural assimilation: bakery salesladies and social workers. I captured the process of gender role identity development through participants' own voices and narratives. I analyzed the data and discussed it in light of an activity theory framework. The key finding was that, for both groups, gender role identity was deeply influenced by traditional Chinese ideology including the traditional gender hierarchy, male supremacy, and the values of modesty, and maintaining interpersonal harmony. Bakery salesladies encountered less conflict at work and were more likely to avoid conflict at home. In contrast, social workers expressed a greater predisposition to voice their opinions without being confrontational at work and were ready to halt conversations when they sensed that their husbands were getting upset. Furthermore, in terms of life goals, the bakery salesladies tended to focus on their family needs and perceive the success of family members as their own success, whereas the social workers often had aspirations that went beyond traditional gender roles and valued and aspired to contributing to society. The findings reveal gender role identity to be an active and non-homogenous process of "doing gender" through which women negotiate various positions across cultural contexts, social locations, histories and ideologies within their unique activity systems.