This empirical study examines dating
competency and status in relation to assertiveness; the interplay
between assertiveness and assertion of autonomy as well as aggression
are discussed. Ninety-six University of Nebraska students, of average age 21
and in their third year of college, completed a demographic questionnaire and
battery of surveys. Results indicate neither dating status nor gender are
predictors of assertiveness, which in turn is not always associated with
aggression or argumentativeness.
Dating is a ritual essential to the development
of romantic relationships in the context of Occidental culture. Numerous
studies have linked assertiveness with dating competency and prosocial
behaviors. This study seeks to find interrelationships between dating and
assertion among midwestern college students, as well as to clarify possible
misconceptions of assertiveness.
Lesure-Lester (2001) conducted research with 217
college students representing Asian, Mexican, African, Caucasian, and
Multiracial students of both sexes on two different college campuses.
Significant correlations were revealed using the Dating and Assertion
Questionnaire (DAQ), the Social Avoidance and Distress Scale (SAD), and the
Social Anxiety Thoughts Questionnaire (SAT). Among the correlations identified
was a positive relationship between dating competence and assertiveness
Flora and Segrin (1999) published a complementary
study evaluating the interplay between social skills and close relationships
satisfaction for 131 couples—half dating and half married. Results found a
strong positive correlation between a male’s conflict management
skills and female relationship satisfaction. A positive relationship was also
found between emotional support skills and personal satisfaction.
Therefore, each of these skills are both prosocial and assertive in nature,
and are directly related to relationship satisfaction—one to personal and
the other to partner satisfaction.
Assertiveness is a concept often confused
with aggression. It is only by virtue of presentation and circumstance
that assertive behaviors may be considered aggressive in nature. Thomas &
Kilmann’s Model of Conflictual Styles, (see Figure 1) illustrates the
difference. Their model places conflict management styles on two axiom: "Concern for Others" and
"Concern for Self." Although both the assertive
and aggressive styles are high on the axis of concern for oneself, the
assertive style also places high on the axis of concern for others. Thus,
aggressive action shows a lack of concern for others, leading to a variety of
consequences (Wilmot & Hocker, 2001).
A study by Swanson (1999) differentiates
assertive and aggressive communication patterns. A series of three real-life
scenarios were described, including customer service. Swanson found people who
scored high as aggressive were much less likely to give recommendations
(especially positive ones) to their friends than were those scored as either
assertive or unassertive on a battery of psychological inventories.
Further elaboration of differences between
assertiveness and aggression may be found in a study by Weitlauf, Smith, &
Cervone (2000). The team measured a slew of personal characteristics and
interaction styles for 80 female college dorm residents, in the months before,
during, and after a 12 hour, multisession self-defense course. Training did not
include traditional eastern philosophies but rather mastery of basic
self-defense technique, along with verbal resistance, emotional, and
relaxation training in a program developed by Weitlauf et al. and available to
the public. Results found women were significantly more assertive and felt
able to effectively defend themselves, in addition to having a drastic
reduction in hostility following training.
The first two studies
tie normal and healthy dating behaviors with assertiveness. Both seek to
identify aspects of a college student’s functional abilities that contribute to either success or distress in dating. The latter two studies
show a distinction between assertive and aggressive behavior. This study
searches for similar results among never married, Nebraska college students
and provides another platform to dispel misconceptions regarding assertive
The following hypotheses attempt to shed light on
the issue of assertiveness as it applies to courtship among Nebraska college
students. (a) It is believed dating competency requires assertiveness;
thus there will be a negative linear relationship in a correlational analysis.
(b) Again, because it is believed dating college students are more assertive
than those who do not date, an ANOVA will reveal a lower mean assertiveness score among daters (indicating more assertiveness).
(c) Gender is not thought to be a factor in the analyses, thus no significant
difference between male and female assertiveness
scores is expected.
The next set of hypotheses attempt to dispel
erroneous ideas of assertiveness: (a) It is thought being assertive does not
always indicate one acts without regard to the needs and desires of others;
thus, a negative correlation is predicted between assertiveness and
assertiveness of autonomy (i.e. expression of the desire to act independently). (b)
Dating competency is expected to be reduced with greater assertion of autonomy; thus, there should be a negative linear relationship. (c)
Assertiveness and argumentativeness are not believed to be synonymous; thus, a
positive or no linear relationship is predicted between scores among these
college-aged, Nebraska residents.
Data were collected from
102 Nebraska students, who were on average in their Junior year at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln. There were 42 males and 60 females surveyed;
96 were never married.
A packet of six
inventories was distributed to each participant. However, only data found by
four inventories were used for these analyses. Each packet contained nine
pages, beginning with a statement of informed consent followed by a and
demographic data questionnaire (age, gender, currently dating, number of
The Argumentativeness Scale (ARG) is a
twenty-question survey, which compares the difference between tendencies to
approach argumentative situations against tendencies to avoid argumentative
situations. Statements such as, “Arguing over controversial issues improves
my intelligence,” and “I get an unpleasant feeling when I realize I am
about to get into an argument,” are evaluated on a five-point-scale of
frequency from never to almost always true (Infante & Rancer, 1982).
Higher scores indicate willingness and enjoyment of arguments.
The Dating and Assertion
Questionnaire (DAQ) is a nine-question survey, which identifies appropriate
dating behaviors and assertiveness. Statements such as, “Maintain a long
conversation with member of the opposite sex,” and “Assume a role of
leadership,” are evaluated on a four-point frequency scale (Levenson &
Gottman, 1978). Higher scores indicate more dating competency.
Dependency Inventory is a forty-eight question survey, which identifies lack
of self-confidence, emotional reliance on others, and assertion of autonomy. Statements such as, “In an argument, I give
in easily,” “I would rather be a follower than a leader,” and “I only
rely on myself” are evaluated on a four-point scale. Higher scores indicate
more intense feelings regarding each scale (Hirschfield, 1977).
Assertiveness-Aggressiveness Inventory (AS-AGI) is a thirty-six-question
survey, which identifies assertiveness and aggressiveness.
Statements such as “Someone has, in your opinion, treated you unfairly. You
confront them about this,” and “You see an opportunity to get ahead but
know it will take a great deal of energy. You take the opportunity and forge
ahead,” are evaluated by the participant on a five-point frequency scale.
Lower scores on either subscale indicate a higher degree of assertiveness or
(Bakker, Mbakker-Rabdau, & Brett, 1978).
Students in the
Psychology Research Methods 350 Lab were each given six surveys. Each person
completed one then individually asked other university students to complete
the rest of the surveys. At times, coworkers and friends were selected by
researchers; at others, total strangers received surveys. No special
instructions were given to participants.
tallied scores for each inventory. One week later, students put their data
into a SPSS statistical program database. One hundred and two students had
participated. Analyses were completed after removing the six who were married
and the one participant who did not complete the AS-AGI.
Table 1 indicates that
the college students were on average 21 and were in their third year in
college. Mean scores on all pertinent scales are listed. There was a borderline
significant linear relationship found for dating competence and assertiveness
Table 2 displays that
there is no mean difference between the assertiveness
scores between students who are dating (M=42.3,
S=14.19) and those who are not
currently dating (M=45.4, S=13.6), F=1.14, p=.289,
MSe=193.71. These results are contrary to the hypothesis that
Nebraska college students who are currently dating are more assertive than
those students who are not.
Table 1 - Summaries of Age, Years of College, Assertiveness, Autonomy, Dating
Assertiveness of Autonomy
- Mean Assertiveness Scores for Dating Status (N=95)
- Mean Assertiveness Scores for Gender Status (N=95)
1. Thomas & Kilmann's Conflict Management Style Model
As shown in Table 3,
there was no mean difference between assertiveness
scores among males and females, F=.411,
p=.523, MSe=194.8. These data support the hypothesis of no difference in
scores on the basis of gender.
A significantly negative correlation between assertiveness and assertion of
autonomywas found (r=-.43, p<.001). Results are consistent with the hypothesis that an
increase in assertion of autonomywill
be tied to an increase in assertiveness.
No significant correlation between dating competence and assertion of autonomy
(r=.06, p=.60), inconsistent with
the hypothesis stating there would be a significant negative relationship
between these variables, indicating as more autonomy sought the lower the
Finally, no significant
linear relationship was found between argumentativeness and assertiveness, (r= -.13, p=.21).
Hence, the hypothesis that a positive relationship or no relationship exists
between argumentativeness and assertivenesswas supported.
The research hypotheses
regarding assertiveness in relation to dating produced mixed results.
scores were not vastly different between those who were or were not dating. A
borderline significant linear relationship between dating competency and
existed; significance standards were missed by a mere one-third percent
margin, as p=.053. Despite these
results, an ANOVA indicated students of either gender were equally assertive.
Research hypotheses regarding multiple views of
assertiveness also had mixed results. No correlation was found between
assertiveness and argumentativeness, showing that being assertive and enjoying/having
tendencies to argue, are not always interrelated.
Furthermore, assertion of autonomy was significantly correlated with more
however, no correlation between dating competency and assertion of autonomy
was found, contrary to the hypothesis. The latter set of hypotheses were
established to show that although a correlation exists between assertiveness
and assertion of autonomy, the two are still not synonymous. No correlation
was found, so autonomy seeking behaviors were not linked to dating competencein any way, indicating some relationships require
more autonomy than others.
Although this study did
not find all of the hypothesized effects, it was certainly not a waste. One
explanation lies within the nature of the hypothesis stating those who were
dating would be more assertive than those who were not. It was believed that
those who were not dating were not assertive enough to maintain a
relationship. The results show that this appears not to be the case at UNL. A
possible explanation may be participants who were not dating may be quite
assertive—perhaps they just choose to assert their desire to be autonomous
or desire to complete coursework, rather than interacting with others. Neither
case promotes the maintenance of relationships in general, let alone intimate
Further explanation deals
with the power of this study. A glance at Friedman’s Partial Power Table
(1982, as cited by Garbin, 2001) shows an effect of r=.25 and .80
probability of finding this effect, needs a sample of a least 120 people. An
effect of r=.30 and .80 power, on the other hand, only requires 82. This
particular analysis included 95 participants. The probability of making a Type
II error is 30-40% for an effect size between r=.25 and .30.
Researchers may use these
findings to design a more accurate, concise study. To improve accuracy of
measurement, other scales may be utilized. One may choose to narrow the
battery of surveys in each packet to ensure participant fatigue does not
confound data. (The large number of scales in each packet was advantageous for
the research team, as it allowed each of the 16 researchers freedom to
formulate unique hypotheses independently of others, yet the number of surveys
became wearisome for a few participants.) A study administered in a
standardized setting to more students may also increase the validity of
Exploring reasons why
some students are not dating is a worthwhile venture. It is quite possible a
few of these students may be distressed about their social skills and/or
dating status. Besides just looking at assertiveness as a main factor in why a
student may not be dating, the desire to date may be explored. Additionally,
credit hours taken, major, professional goals, language usage, number of
children, and family of origin interaction style may also play a role in a
student’s dating status. It is plausible that University of Nebraska
students who are highly career-motivated do not date. Questionnaires
addressing these demographics, frankly asking why they may not be dating as
well as providing inventories addressing loneliness and interaction style
could potentially add additional insight.
Dating is one of the most
common activities in not only the U.S., but also in other countries worldwide.
Dating status and dating has been linked to assertiveness in numerous studies,
although assertiveness is found in various forms, reflected by the multitude
of paths a person may take. Study of this issue may help those who desire
another lifestyle, another path less beaten and more pleasant.
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