A Study of Feminist Identity Development in Women


  • The authors would like to thank the professors, teaching assistants, and students who were involved in this study. Special thanks to the faculty, graduate and undergraduatt students, and professional clinicians who assisted in writing and evaluating the scale items.

Address reprint requests to: Janet Shibley Hyde, Department of Psychology, Brogden Psychology Building, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706.


The present study investigated the effects of women's studies courses on women students' feminist identity development as defined by Downing and Roush (1984). In Study 1, the authors operationalized the five stages of the Downing and Roush model. Factor and reliability analyses performed in both Study 1 and Study 2 yielded a 39-item, self-descriptive, closed-ended feminist identity development scale (FIDS) In Study 2, the FIDS was administered at the beginning and end of the semester to 184 students in introductory women's studies courses and 39 controls. MANOVA and qualitative data from an open-ended queststionnaire and semistructured interviews revealed that the women's studies students did experience development in terms of the model's stages, while the controls did not. In addition to suggesting a novel approach to evaluating women's studies courses, the results provided preliminary validity for the FIDS and the model on which it was based.