Self-Defense and Martial Arts Evaluation for College Women: Preliminary Validation of Perceptions of Dangerous Situations Scale

By Hughes, Patricia Paulsen; Sherrill, Claudine et al. | Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, June 2003 | Go to article overview

Self-Defense and Martial Arts Evaluation for College Women: Preliminary Validation of Perceptions of Dangerous Situations Scale


Hughes, Patricia Paulsen, Sherrill, Claudine, Myers, Bettye, Rowe, Nancy, Marshall, David, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport


Martial arts and self-defense programs train fearful people, especially women, to be more competent and confident to defend themselves in dangerous situations. However; there are no validated instruments to evaluate the effectiveness of programs purporting to teach self-protection. The Perceptions of Dangerous Situations Scale (PDSS), composed of fear likelihood, and confidence subscales, was developed and validated for university women. Participants were 368 university women, ages 17 to 45 years (M age = 20.7 years). Content validity of the PDSS was established through an expert panel, and construct validity was established through principal components analysis and determination of instructional sensitivity. Reliability was established through alpha coefficients. The PDSS, when used with university women, offers promising measurement opportunities in self-defense and martial arts settings.

Key words: confidence, crime, fear, principal components

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Personal safety is a concern for many people, and women particularly (Ferraro, 1996; McCaughey, 1997; Snortland, 1998; Welsh, 2000). Women deal with fear about personal safety by practicing avoidance or constraining their behavior (Keane, 1998), carrying weapons (Meadows, 1982), implementing crime prevention tips (Davis & Smith, 1994), or by learning self-defense (Madden, 1995). College women are particularly vulnerable to danger, because the highest risk age group for rape is between 15-24 years of age (Koss, 1993), and up to one third of college women are sexually assaulted during their college career (Finley & Corty, 1993). College women are twice as likely to be stalked as women in the general population; as many as one woman in eight is stalked each year (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000). Estimates of courtship abuse have ranged from 20% (Arias, Samios, & O'Leary, 1987) to 66% (Laner & Thompson, 1982) to 81% (White & Koss, 1991). According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics (1997), almost half of vi olent victimizations to women occur between the ages of 16 and 24 years. Women have reason to be fearful.

The desire to become competent in self-defense prompts many college women to enroll in university classes for self-defense or martial arts, which are typically offered by departments of physical education and kinesiology (Chen, 1998). There appears to be agreement that classes in self-defense and, to a lesser degree, martial arts should teach persons how to (a) recognize and avoid or manage dangerous situations and (b) develop situation specific self-confidence (Cummings, 1992; Harding & Nelson, 1985; McCaughey, 1997; Ozer & Bandura, 1990). Some self-defense classes are presented solely as rape prevention classes (Chen, 1998), and these have become more commonplace on college campuses, particularly since the passage of the Clery Act for Higher Education in 1990, which mandated that universities in receipt of federal funding must provide rape prevention programming to their students. Typically, educational programs (as opposed to physical training) are offered for university students via personnel in counselin g departments, peer educators, or health services providers at the universities. Results of programming have not been consistent, however (Breitenbecher & Gidycz, 1998; Hanson & Gidycz, 1993; Kier, 1996), and evaluation about those types of programs is lacking (Hanson & Gidycz, 1993).

There is also a deficiency in the research relating to physical defense skills, such as those learned in self-defense or martial arts. Researchers have noted that the need exists for classes teaching physical defense skills (Harding & Nelson, 1985; Heyden, Anger, Jackson, & Ellner, 1999). Currently, though, effective components of such classes have not been well defined (Madden, 1995; Madden & Sokol, 1997), and evaluation has not been of high priority (Cummings, 1992; Madden, 1990, 1995; Ozer & Bandura, 1990), because there has not been a validated instrument to specifically measure the effects of instruction (Cummings, 1992). …

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