Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
E. Wayne Wright
The present study, conducted in 1974, was a longitudinal followup of two groups of female subjects who had participated in an earlier study (Wright and Johnson, 1960) while the subjects were university students. One group of the subjects had majored in fields considered at that time to be traditionally feminine majors, i.e. social sciences, art, music, education, homemaking, etc. The other group had majored in fields of exact sciences, which at the time were considered more traditionally masculine. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether differences noted in the 1960 study will exist between these two groups of women relative to their life styles and personality characteristics. One of the one-hundred nine subjects who were presently available to participate in the follow-up study, seventy-sex responded to a mailed questionnaire and adjective check list. Thirty-two of the present respondents had originally been in the non-traditional group (exact science majors) and forty-four had been in the traditional group (non-science majors).
Of eleven descriptive areas covered by the questionnaire in the follow-up study, only four areas showed a significant difference between the two groups in questionnaire responses regarding age, number who have married since the original study, number of children, number divorced, number who have, or are currently working, and stated reasons for working.
The two groups did differ with regard to the percentage who had changed their college major during school, with a much greater percentage of change among the exact- science group (changing from exact science to more traditional majors for women). The two groups also differed in the amount of counseling they had received during their college years, although no differences were found in the amount of counseling received subsequent to their college years, More of the exact-science majors had sought and received professional counseling while in school than was true of the non-science group.
Both groups of women perceived a change in societal attitudes towards them as either working women or as housewives, the change being towards greater societal awareness and acceptance, particularly of working women and of non-traditional career choices they may make.
No attempt was made to infer a cause- effect relationship between personality data of the 1960 study and data obtained from the follow-up. The Adjective Check List was used to determine, if possible, whether or not any apparent and/or comparable personality differences could be determined at this time and if so, how such measurable differences might compare to the findings of Wright and Johnson's earlier study. The Adjective Check List was used because it was not deemed feasible to try to obtain by mail, current personality measures on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the instrument used in the 1960 study. The Adjective Check List was found desirable in that it could be mailed, self-administered, and described personality in much the same manner as does the MMPI using similar adjectives. Caution had to be taken in comparing the similarities in the adjectives obtained from the Adjective Check List and those used in describing scales of the MMPI because the two instruments are not highly correlated and the scores obtained from The Adjective Check List for both groups of women during the present study did not significantly deviate from normative data mean scores.
In comparing the data for both groups of women, no significant difference was found on twenty of the twenty-four scales of Gough's Adjective Check List, indicating that for the most part, both groups of women view themselves presently as having similar personal traits. The four Adjective Check List scales on which the two groups did differ significantly were: Scale 1- -Total Number of Adjectives Checked; Scale 4--Unfavorable Adjectives Checked; Scale 13--Intraception; and Scale 14--Counseling Readiness. Although the two groups differed on only four scales of The Adjective Check List, both groups of women were found to have significantly high scores on Scale 19, Aggression.
On the basis of the four scales of The Adjective Check List on which the two groups differed and the aggression scale on which both groups significantly differed from the normative data mean, the nontraditional group women can be described in terms of one or more of the following adjectives:
Scale 1: Total Number of Adjectives Checked: quiet, reserved, cautious, aloof, original, inventive;
Scale 13: Intraception: reckless, intemperate, aggressive, easily bored, impatient;
Scale 19: Aggression: arrogant, autocratic, cruel, dis satisfied, forceful, hostile, irritable, quarrelsome, sarcastic;
Scale 24: Counseling Readiness: anxious, ambivalent about status, pessimistic, and possible feelings of being left out;
Scale 4: Number of Unfavorable Adjectives Checked: placid, obliging, mannerly, tactful, and probably less intelligent.
By comparison, adjectives checked by the traditional group include the following:
Scale 1: Total Number of Adjectives Checked: reserved, tentative, cautious, aloof, original, inventive;
Scale 4: Number of Unfavorable Adjectives Checked: rebellious, arrogant, careless, conceited, cynical;
Scale 13: Intraception: somewhat aggressive, somewhat easily bored, possibly impatient;
Scale 19: Aggression: aggressive, arrogant, autocratic, cruel, dissatisfied, forceful, hostile, irritable, quarrelsome, sarcastic, vindictive;
Scale 24: Counseling Readiness: worried about self, ambivalent about status, left out, pessimistic, and unable to enjoy life to its fullest.
As can be seen from this type of synthesis, the two groups of women are very similar to each other as far as descriptive adjectives are concerned. Overall, however, the non-traditional group as compared to the traditional group, may be more closely described by adjectives such as aggressive, impatient, cautious, irritable, quarrelsome, and hostile. These characteristics give support to the notion that the non-traditional group women are somewhat more aggressive, have greater difficulty in interpersonal relationships, and may seek achievement at the expense of others. The traditional group, on the other hand, might be more closely described by adjectives such as worried about self, left out, ambivalent about status, rebellious, arrogant, careless, conceited, cynical, and skeptical somewhat unable to enjoy life to its fullest.
However, caution must be taken in ascribing any of the above characteristics to either group in absolute terms, since differences noted on the four scales of The Adjective Check List only suggest likelihood of descriptive adjectives for high and low scores on each scale, but do not suggest that all such adjectives apply to each subject. Also, it should be noted that the apparent contradiction can best be explained by the fact that the adjectives suggested for each scale of the instrument are reported for "high scorers" and "low scorers". Thus, the probability that a given adjective or set of adjectives may apply to a given individual, depends to some extent on the degree to which the individual's score deviates, high or low, from the standardized mean scores.
While statistical differences were found between the present study groups on the four scales indicated above, it must also be noted that their scores did not reflect particularly high or particularly low scores in terms of published mean scores for The Adjective Check List. Thus, their respective scores, while differing from each other, either above or below normative mean scores, were not seen as significantly high or low to generalize absolute applicability of the reported adjectives to the respective groups as a whole. Only the Aggression scale deviated more than standard deviation above the mean, with scores for the other scales varied within a standard deviation above or below the mean. Thus, the observed differences did not represent intense scores for the study subjects.
The present follow-up study recommended that further research be carried out using groups of women who have committed themselves to either non-traditional or traditional roles in order to better determine common or differing personality traits which might characterize each group.
Warner, Paul David, "Some Characteristics of Female College Students Who Select Academic Majors in Fields of Exact Science and Non-Exact Science: A Longitudinal Follow-Up" (1976). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 5850.
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