Assessing the Values Structure among United Arab Emirates University Students

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study is to clarify the values structure among United Arab Emirates University students in general and in terms of gender and citizenship. The study sample size was 242 males and 353 females. Results indicated that religious and cognitive values came first in the structure, while social and economic values came in last. This structure was a little different in terms of citizenship and gender. These results are discussed on the basis of the literature.

A growing body of evidence indicates that deep-rooted changes in world view are taking place. These changes seem to be reshaping the economic, political, and social life in societies and the world. The most important body of evidence comes from the World Values Survey (WVS), which measured the values and beliefs of the public in all six inhabited continents in 1981, 1990 and 1995. The WVS has detected a pattern of systematic changes in values and motivations among those advanced industrial societies. These changes reflect economic and technological changes that have tremendously reduced the likelihood that people will die prematurely from starvation and disease (Inglehart, 2000).

In fact, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have gone through dramatic changes in the last few decades because of the oil boom in the mid-seventies, which caused the UAE to move from a tribal system to the stage of operating as a state. However, traditional values still exist to some degree in UAE society (Wraikat & Simadi, 2001).

Values are defined as characteristics of individuals that clarify what is preferred, what is selected as being important and that then guides a person's life (Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz, 1992). The study of values is the main issue in the development of both individuals and societies. At the individual level, value priorities are the key to a person's beliefs, attitudes, and behavior, specifying what is preferred. At the cultural level, value structures of different cultural groups enable one to realize attributes characteristic of that particular culture (Aygun et al., 2002).

In one of the best-known approaches in the study of values, Rokeach (1973) defined values as modes of conduct and end states - namely instrumental and terminal values. He divided instrumental values into two categories: moral values are focused on interpersonal (e.g., helpfulness), and competence values with interpersonal (e.g., logical) modes of conduct. Rokeach classifies values as personal and social: personal values include self-centered values and self-respect, and social values include socially centered values such as equality, and world-at-peace.

There are several definitions of value: Allport, Vernon and Lindzey (1952) defined values as emotional-mental judgment toward some phenomenon. These researchers designed the first values instrument. Mouly (1982) defined values as a hypothetical concept, which illustrates the individual by work motivation toward some subjects, events, thoughts and other people. Rokeach (1973) considered values as being permanent beliefs about nature, behaviors and goals of life.

In Arabic literature Zahran (1982) defined values as a generalized emotional and mental judgment toward people, things, subjects and social events in life. Abu Neel (1985) defined values as a complicated system of evaluation of people, including positive and negative aspects, and with the evaluations starting from emotional or mental acceptance or rejection of subjects, individuals, and social events.

Schwartz (1992) assumed that values develop from three universal needs of individuals: biological, interactional, and social. These researchers and others derived motivationally distinct types of values from those universal requirements: self-direction, stimulation, hedonism, achievements, power, security, conformity, tradition, benevolence, and universalism. Moreover, they classified those values types into two dimensions according to conflicts and compatibility: openness to change (self-direction, stimulation) versus conservatism (conformity, tradition and security), and self-enhancement (power, achievement and hedonism) versus self-transcendence (universalism, benevolence). …