This Changes Everything The Relational Revolution in Psychology

Christina Robb




Trade Paperback

560 Pages



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In 1977, Carol Gilligan published the essay "In a Different Voice" describing the discrepancy in morality and self-expression between men and women. In a radical break with the Freudian school that dominated psychology, Gilligan and her peers went on to identify relationships rather than the notion of "self" as the foundation of our psychological and physical states. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Christina Robb recounts the untold efforts of a pioneering group of psychologists—Carol Gilligan, Jean Baker Miller, and Judith Lewis Herman—whose groundbreaking work really did change everything.


Praise for This Changes Everything

"Robb, a former Boston Globe staffer, presents a celebratory history of the pioneering women psychologists who in the '70s began to challenge traditional concepts of the self and of women's psychological 'deficiencies,' and advanced their own women-centered theories. Robb opens by describing how Harvard psychologist Carol Gilligan came to write her groundbreaking In a Different Voice, which argued that for women the idea of the self is intimately bound up in a network of close relationships. Robb goes on to describe how other women psychologists and psychiatrists—including Jean Baker Miller, Mary Belenky, Lisa Hirschman, Judith Lewis Herman and Janet L. Surrey—arrived at similar findings. Disseminating their ideas via consciousness-raising groups in the Boston area, these women regarded gender differences as 'systemic rather than essential.' Through research organizations and bestselling books, they dramatically revised notions of childhood development, incest, posttraumatic stress and sexual pleasure. Drawing on interviews, Robb mingles her subjects' personal and professional histories with case histories that illustrate their theories, and with the commentaries of other experts in related fields . . . her richly anecdotal history is a must-read for all those interested in the field of women's psychology."—Publishers Weekly

"This Changes Everything is full of . . . intriguing details; Robb meticulously documents the process by which an insight grows into a school of thought . . . Robb has written . . . an authorized biography of the movement."—Annie Murphy Paul, The New York Times Book Review

"Christina's Robb's admiring book about relational psychology presents feminist ideas about self-making as revolutions in psychological theory and practice. Relational psychology is identified with the work of Carol Gilligan, Jean Baker Miller, and Judith Herman, and Robb describes their research on girls and clinical work with women as dramatic departures from sexist traditions that equated humanity with masculinity and science with soulless inquiry . . . Robb's description of the three pioneers is informative . . . She offers biographical sketches and mines extensive interviews to make sense of the lives out of which relational psychology emerged."—Ellen Herman, Women's Review of Books

"Christina Robb turns up the volume on a few quiet women who discovered the missing link between feminist politics and female reality. Their contribution to relational psychology really did 'change everything'—and Robb paints an exciting portrait of this paradigm shift."—Jennifer Baumgardner, co-author of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future

"This Changes Everything provides a long overdue service to three remarkable women whose contributions to our collective understanding of gender, politics, and psychology are truly immeasurable. Like many, much of my work is founded on these women's insights so it was wonderful to learn about their experiences as educators both inside and outside of their fields of expertise."—Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabees

"It is deliciously appropriate that in reading this fascinating account about relational psychology, you will become intimately connected with the psychologists who developed the field. This Changes Everything movingly and absorbingly describes their struggle to legitimate an entirely new, out-of-the-box way of thinking about human beings. Their work is nothing short of revolutionary: It has had an undeniable impact on politics, feminism, human rights movements, and, of course, personal relationships—literally changing people's lives. You will learn not only the history of relational psychology but about the very things you need to know to make and sustain fruitful human connections."—Leora Tanenbaum, author of Slut! Growing Up Female With a Bad Reputation and Catfight: Rivalries Among Women—From Diets to Dating, From the Boardroom to the Delivery Room

"At last we have an erudite and exciting history of the pioneers of relational psychology. Robb's narrative makes a page turner of a most unlikely story—a group of feminist academics who changed the world one research paper at a time."—Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Difference I

One day, late in the fall of 1975, Carol Gilligan sat down at her dining room table with a pad of paper and wrote "In a Different Voice" at the top of the first page. She was a thirty-nine-year-old part-time...

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  • Christina Robb

  • Christina Robb was a writer at the Boston Globe for more than twenty years. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.

  • Christina Robb Copyright Martha Stewart