Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Development and Validation of a Revised Measure of Adlerian Social Interest

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Development and Validation of a Revised Measure of Adlerian Social Interest

Article excerpt

The Social Interest Index (SII; Greever, Tseng, & Friedland, 1973) is the most frequently used measure of Adler's (1964) most important personality trait, and recent research has suggested that it may be the most valid among social interest measures available to researchers and therapists (Bass, Curlette, Kern, & McWilliams, 2002). Nevertheless, the SII has been criticized for key aspects of its construct validity (i.e., content validity and factorial validity). It was the purpose of this research to offer researchers a dramatically shortened version of the SII by eliminating poor items and yet without a loss in reliability or criterion validity. Several studies resulted in an 11-item short form of the SII that retains the scale's desirable psychometric qualities.

Keywords: social interest, SII, life tasks, Adler.

Adler's (1964) concept of social interest is one of the cornerstones of his personality theory and was his cardinal personality trait. Social interest involves a sense of social feeling toward all humankind, and the essence of social interest is the valuing of something outside the self without ulterior motives: a true absence of self-centeredness. Social interest is based on one's identification with others and a transcendence of self-interest that results in a genuine concern with, and striving for, community and human welfare. Social interest is manifested in the life tasks of friendship, love, and work. Successful coping with these major and pervasive challenges of life (life tasks) is based on the intersection of one's lifestyle and social interest.

Research has established that individuals with relatively high levels of social interest possess personality traits congruent with the construct of social interest, such as friendliness, empathy, cooperation, tolerance, nurturance, and constructive independence (e.g., Bubenzer, Zarski, & Walter, 1991; Crandall, 1981; Leak, Millard, Perry, & Williams, 1985; Watkins, 1994). Such individuals have lower levels of alienation from self and others (Leak & Williams, 1989) and fewer symptoms of neuroticism, such as anxiety, hostility, and depression (cited in Watkins).


Within the past three decades, at least six self-report measures of social interest have been developed (some unpublished). One of the oldest and most frequently used measures is the Social Interest Index (SII; Greever, Tseng, & Friedland, 1973). This social interest instrument is divided into four subscales of eight items each, and it is designed to measure one's level of social interest in the four life tasks of friendship, love, work, and self-significance. Prior research (Watkins, 1994) and a recent meta-analysis (Bass, Curlette, Kern, & McWilliams, 2002) have presented evidence supporting the validity of the SII.

Despite the recent analysis indicating that the SII may be the most promising measure of social interest based on effect sizes (Bass et al., 2002), the SII has received several criticisms. The area of greatest potential weakness concerns its muddled and difficult to replicate factor structure (Leak, 1982; Watkins, 1994). Citing several studies, Watkins stated that several factor-analytic studies have identified factorally weak items as well as problems with the factor structure of the scale itself. Not surprisingly, then, the subscales are plagued by low internal consistencies (alphas range from .35 to .64). Crandall (1981) has even questioned the theoretical relevance of the Self-significance subscale, while Zarski, Bubenzer, and West's (1983) empirical work prompted them to question the usefulness of distinguishing among the life tasks as operationalized in the SII, and they support the view that social interest is best viewed as a global concept.


The purpose of the present research was to develop (Study 1 and 2) and then validate (Study 3) a short form of the Social Interest Index. …

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