The relation of locus of control, sex-role identity, and assertiveness in baccalaureate nursing students



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Although the nursing profession provides a major and vital portion of health care, the ability of nurses to influence the health system and even control their own profession has been limited. In the past, nursing has been viewed as a subordinate, sex segregated occupation. However, with the role of nursing developing toward greater independence and responsibility, nurses are being urged to exercise more self- and professional-determination. Certain personal characteristics are necessary if nursing students are to successfully fulfill this contemporary role in nursing. The traditional image of the nurse portrays the feminine traits of submissiveness, passivity, and subjectiveness. In contrast, the contemporary role calls for self-confidence, assertiveness, and competency. The need for this study derives from the desire to morefully understand the characteristics of those preparing for the profession of nursing in relation to their self-determination. Specifically, there was a need to understand the interrelations existing among the specific aspects of personal control, sex-role identity, and assertive behavior of nursing students. Relatively little empirical evidence existed regarding these aspects in the population studied. The objectives for the study were: (1) to describe the profiles of locus of control, sex-role identity, and assertiveness of beginning and graduating nursing students, and (2) to describe how these attributes are related in a nursing student population. Data were reported from 185 beginning female nursing students and 125 graduating female nursing students in state-supported baccalaureate nursing programs affiliated with major medical centers in Texas. Three self-report questionnaires and a demographic data form were used. The Levenson (1972) locus of control scale measured perception of personal control on three subscales: Internal Control, Powerful Others, and Chance. The Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1974) measured sex-role identity on Masculinity and Femininity scales. The Rathus Assertiveness Schedule (Rathus, 1973) assessed Assertiveness. The demographic data supported the conclusion that the sample reflected the trends existing in the study population. The sample had 32.4[percent] fewer graduating students than beginning students, reflecting national attrition rates, and a trend toward older students was detected. Profiles of locus of control, sex-role identity, and assertiveness for the nursing student sample were described. These profiles were compared to referent groups reported in the literature. The profiles can be used as referent values in future studies. Reliability of the measures was moderate to high. Five research hypotheses were posed. Hypothesis 1 was tested with the statistical procedure multiple correlation to determine the relation between assertiveness and locus of control subscales together with sex-role identity sub scales. Internal Control and Masculinity were found to be significantly related to Assertiveness. Hypothesis 2 examined the nature of the interrelation among the subscales of locus of control and sex-role identity using a canonical correlation technique. Significant relations between the variables and an underlying pair of canonical variates were found. Locus of control and sex-role identity were minimally related and both are necessary for a more comprehensive explanation of Assertiveness. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to test Hypotheses 3, 4, and 5, examining the main effect of the control variable. School, the interaction effect, and the main effect of the variable of greatest interest. Status (Beginning and Graduating). As anticipated, significant differences for the control variable. School, were detected. The nonsignificant Status-by-School effect enabled testing of the main effect. Status. The MANOVA and post hoc analyses yielded significant differences for Status: Graduating students scored significantly higher on Assertiveness than Beginning students. Graduating students also scored significantly higher on the scales of Powerful Others and Masculinity than Beginning students. With higher levels of Assertiveness and Masculinity, Graduating students, as compared to Beginning students, could possibly better fulfill the contemporary role of the independent and competent nurse. The significant relations among the study variables warrant further attention. Experimental manipulation of variables to discover causality is recommended.



Nursing--Psychological aspects, Locus of control, Sex differences (Psychology), Assertiveness (Psychology)