The Experience of a Sense of Belonging for Emerging Adults who are not Attending Postsecondary Institutions
Lee, L. Maureen
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In this Masters thesis for City University of Seattle, the author presents a phenomenological inquiry into the experience of sense of belonging for 5 emerging adults (individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age, 2 female, 3 male) who are not attending postsecondary institutions. The central question at the core of this thesis is: What does it mean to feel a sense of belonging for an emerging adult who is not attending postsecondary school. Related questions include: What precisely does having a sense of belonging mean? How does one know when one is experiencing belonging? What are the conditions that are necessary for a sense of belonging to come about? How does belonging influence one’s perception of self? What is difficult or easy about achieving a sense of belonging? To answer these questions, indepth semi-structured interviews were conducted to capture the participants’ lived experience of belonging. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using the phenomenological method outlined by Moustakas (1994). Four main themes emerged: Commonality, The Action of Others, Sharing Thoughts and Feelings, and Equality & Mutuality. Findings indicate that all four themes are required for a sense of belonging. In addition, two participants indicated that self-knowledge was also necessary. More studies that include diverse individuals in terms of ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, and socio-economic background need to be conducted to extrapolate the results to the greater population. As well, the relationship between a sense of belonging and identity development warrants further investigation.