Significant Variables Associated with Assertiveness among Hispanic College Women

Article excerpt

Undergraduate and graduate Hispanic and non-Hispanic women enrolled in teacher education and counseling courses at the University of Texas at El Paso completed the Rathus Assertiveness Schedule. Scores were compared to age, marital status, ethnicity, birth order, academic classification, and prior history of counseling. Results indicated that academic classification and ethnicity were significant variables associated with assertiveness levels.

Research on assertiveness has focused primarily on gender differences (Gay, Hollandsworth, & Galassi, 1975; Hollandsworth & Wall, 1977; Kern, 1996; Kern, Cavell, & Beck, 1985; Kimble, Marsh, & Kiska, 1984). Other assertiveness research has focused solely on women (Goldfried, & Goldfried, 1979; Wolfe & Fodor, 1977). Few studies, however, have addressed factors such as age, ethnicity, and prior history of counseling and their influences on Hispanic women's assertiveness levels (Comas-Diaz & Duncan, 1985; Melgoza, Roll, & Baker, 1983; Roll, McClelland, & Abel, 1996; Soto & Shaver, 1982; Yoshioka, 1995). Therefore, additional research in this area seemed warranted.

The present study examined six variables including age, marital status, ethnicity, birth order, academic classification, and prior history of counseling, to determine if any would be significantly associated with assertiveness levels among Hispanic college women. The following is a brief review of the literature investigating the influence of these variables on assertiveness in women.

Age. Research regarding how an individual's age may affect assertiveness has been very limited. Roebuck (1983) reviewed the literature on issues in aging and women and found that despite negative stereotypes, ignorance, and lack of social support, women have managed to cope with major social changes and continue to have greater longevity than men. In this study, it was hypothesized that older women may exhibit more assertive behavior as a result of coping with major social changes. In contrast, other studies have found that assertiveness may decrease with age. Elderly women may lack assertiveness because they feel powerless in their position. At an earlier age, they may have felt in control of their lives, energized, and experienced economic stability. However, in the process of aging, women may have acquired losses in many of these areas (Corby, 1978). Apter (1996) interviewed a group of 80 mid-life women and classified them into four groups (traditional, innovative, expansive, and protestors) according to various characteristics. Women described as being traditional, innovative, or expansive all demonstrated characteristics of self-responsibility and autonomy, whereas women who were described as protestors refused to accept the implications of midlife and failed to demonstrate assertive or autonomous behaviors in their daily lives.

Marital Status. Many women seek counseling related to interpersonal relationship needs, and many of these women place their spouse's needs ahead of their own (Eichenbaum & Orback, 1983), often experiencing stress from the demands of the caregiver role, especially at the expense of personal fulfillment (Nelson, 1996). No specific studies were found, however, that examined the relationship between assertiveness and marital status.

Ethnicity. In their study of Mexican-American and Anglo-American college students, Kimble, Marsh, and Kiska (1984) found that Mexican-American women were less assertive. Comas-Diaz and Duncan (1985) found that Puerto Rican women exhibited difficulties in asserting themselves uniformly because they were aware of the differences between Puerto Rican norms and Anglo assertiveness norms. In a study identifying new sets of criteria to measure assertiveness in low-income minority women, Yoshioka (1995) found that fewer Hispanic women believed that they have the right to act assertively with friends and family as compared to African American and Anglo women. …