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The Journal of Social Psychology, 1983, 119, 199-203.

ATTITUDE TO AUTHORITY AND AUTHORITARIANISM AMONG SCHOOLCHILDREN*



University of New South Wales and The University of Wollongong

JOHN J. RAY AND JENNIFER M. JONES

SUMMARY

Two scales were devised to measure not only attitude to authority but also rebellious or submissive behavior tendency among schoolchildren in Grades 7 to 11. Each of the two scales also had two subscales concerning teachers and parents. High (.86 and .84) reliabilities were demonstrated on a sample of 120 pupils drawn from several schools in the Wollongong area of Australia. Contrary to findings among adults, attitude and behavior among children were found to be highly correlated (.65).


A. INTRODUCTION

Since the publication of the Ray (5, 6) Attitude to Authority and Directiveness scales (the latter to measure tendency towards authoritarian interpersonal behavior), a common inquiry has been whether or not they can be used with schoolchildren. Informal trials of both scales on schoolchildren have suggested that even modified versions of these scales yield reliabilities (alpha) on such Ss that are unsatisfactorily low. There seems, therefore, to be a need for new scales in this area which will be usable with schoolchildren.

An important part of the theory underlying the present study is rejection of any automatic assumption that attitudes can be used as an index of personality. Statements such as "Hard work is a good thing" (attitude) and "I work hard" (personality) cannot be assumed to be very highly correlated. Particularly in the area of authoritarianism, there is now evidence of an attitude-personality discrepancy every bit as great as the well-known attitude-behavior discrepancy (3, 4, 6, 8). We reject, therefore, any assumption that students who express negative attitudes towards teachers will necessarily also tend to behave badly in class. Antiauthoritarian attitudes and anti authoritarian behavior must be regarded as at least potentially separate things -- each having an interest of its own. For this reason, the attitude to authority scale is supplemented by another scale asking direct questions about characteristic behavior. In the past, such "personality" scales have shown a prediction of behavior that is as strong as the prediction provided by attitude scales is weak (6, 8).

B. METHOD

Items were compiled for the scales by seeking free responses from students regarding their attitudes and behavior towards "parents" and "teachers." These seemed the only foci of authority likely to have immediate relevance to schoolchildren. Other possibilities such as "the Army" or "the Police" were not used because concepts of both could be expected to be rather inchoate, especially among the younger students.

A total of 84 attitude items and 51 personality items were finally collected and combined into a questionnaire which was administered to 120 pupils ranging from Grade 7 to Grade 11. Ss were deliberately gathered from several different schools in different socioeconomic areas in order to ensure a sample as variegated as possible. There was also a rough balance between males and females. All schools were in the area of Wollongong, a steel-industry city in Australia with a population of approximately 200,000.

C. RESULTS

The four initial groups of items all showed high internal consistency. Attitude to Teachers had a reliability (alpha) of .91, Attitude to Parents .87, Behavior towards Teachers .90, and Behavior towards Parents .82. They also correlated with one another in a way that suggested an underlying general construct. Attitude towards Teachers correlated .309 with Attitude towards Parents, and Behavior towards Teachers correlated .401 with Behavior towards Parents. These correlations justified the construction of two overall scales of Attitude to Authority and Authoritarian Personality.

The Attitude to Authority scale is a balanced scale of 28 items constructed by combining 14 items correlating highly with the total score on the Attitude to Parents scale with 14 items correlating highly with the total score on the Attitude to Teachers scale. Its reliability was .86. The Authoritarian Personality scale was similarly constructed by combining 10 items from the Behavior towards Teachers scale with 10 items from the Behavior towards Parents scale. Its reliability was .84. Both scales are balanced against acquiescent response set. They correlated .647, indicating that self-reported attitudes and self-reported-behavior were very highly correlated with this sample.

Whether the present scales can be used with very young children is not resolved. However, the reliabilities of the two scales on the 31 7th graders were .92 for the Attitude scale and .90 for the Personality scale, indicating that the scales were particularly suitable for the younger students.

D. DISCUSSION

The present results are similar to previous ones (5, 8, 9) in that they show attitude toward authority to have some generality. They differ markedly from previous findings, however, in showing the existence of a strong correlation between reported authoritarian behavior and reported authoritarian attitudes; normally little or no relationship exists between the two (3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10). The reasons for this difference are probably twofold: the present work focuses on authoritarianism as submissiveness rather than as dominance and the respondents are schoolchildren in whose consciousness the things measured (attitudes and behavior towards parents and teachers) should presumably loom very large.

The results could also be viewed simply as an expression of the uncomplicated world of childhood; but such an explanation is vague as well as unnecessary. It is simpler to say that for schoolchildren some congruence between attitudes and behavior is normally enforced. If a child expresses submission to some parental or teacher decree, he is expected to follow up that expression with some tangible action. Similarly, if he expresses non-submission, he is likely to attract little attention unless he shows some more tangible token of intransigence.

The fact that the present work concerns only authoritarian submission does not imply that there is no correlation between dominance and submission. To the contrary, all writers, other than Adorno et al. (1), from the Allports onwards (2, 6, 9) have found the negative correlation one would, by the connotation of the terms, expect. However, because it is possible to be both dominant and submissive in different contexts, the correlation never approaches - 1. The present respondents, given their situation, were offered the alternatives of describing their behavior as either submissive or rebellious. Previous adult samples have been offered the alternatives of describing their behavior as either submissive or dominant. The two approaches are obviously not the same and different correlations do not therefore necessarily imply any contradiction.

Nonetheless, the correlation between attitude and personality in the present study is so high as to raise the question of whether two separate scales are in fact necessary. As the present personality scale is shorter than the attitude scale and as personality scales in general are better predictors of actual behavior, it alone could probably be relied on in most subsequent studies. The present work has, in other words, given a warrant for what would previously have been a most unwarranted assumption.

The items of the new scales are given in Table 1.

TABLE 1

ATTITUDE TO AUTHORITY AND AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY SCALES FOR CHILDREN


.....................Teacher Items..................................Parent Items

..........................................Attitude to Authority scale

1. You should be polite to teachers..............15. Children are not allowed to do anything.
2. Some teachers are terrible.......................16. I do not like my parents.
3. Teachers care about us...........................17. When parents pounce on me I know it is for my own good.
4. Teachers should not stick up for..............18. I like parents because they take care of each other........................................................you.
5. Teachers are smart................................. 19. My father is a pain in the neck
6. Teachers look at us like we are in jail......20. If my parents punish me I know I've done wrong and it is for my own good.
7. You should always listen to teachers...... 21. Some parents are nosy and can't keep their noses out of other people's business.
8. Some teachers are nice. ........................ 22. You should always respect your parents.
9. Some teachers are stuck up.................... 23. I am grateful to my parents.
10. Teachers are thoughtful sometimes. .... 24. I like my parents.
11. Some teachers are friendly.................... 25. My parents are very nice.
12. Some teachers are mean...................... 26. I don't ever really talk to my parents.
13. Teachers think they are superior. ......... 27. My parents don't take any notice of me.
14. School uniforms are useless.................. 28. Parents can be too bossy.


...................................Authoritarian Personality Scales

1. Do you muck up in front of teachers?......... 11. Do you apologize to parents if you've yelled at them?
2. Do you cheek your teachers?..................... 12. Are you good to your family?
3. Do you work very hard for your teachers? ..13. Do you want to annoy your parents sometimes?
4. Do you behave badly for teachers?............ 14. Do you cheek your parents if they make you cranky?
5. Are you a good student? ............................ 15. Do you answer your parents back rudely?
6. Do you tell teachers off? ............................ 16. Do you sometimes find you can't cope with your parents?
7. Do you ignore your teachers? .................... 17. Are you cheeky to your parents when you are in the mood?
8. Do you listen to your teachers?....................18. Do you treat your parents all right?
9. Do you do what your teachers tell you?...... 19. Do you try to be good for your parents?
10. Do you behave nicely to teachers ............. 20. Are you well-behaved for your
..........if they speak to you?..................................... parents?


Note: Items 2, 4, 6, 9, 12 to 16, 19, 21, 26, 27, and 28 of the attitude scale are scored 1 for Strongly Agree, 5 for Agree, 3 for "?," etc., while the remaining items get 5, 4, 3, etc. for the same answers. Items 1, 2, 4, 6, 7 and 13 to 17 of the personality scale are scored 1 for Yes, 2 for "?," and 3 for No, while the remaining items are scored 3, 2, and 1 for the same answers, respectively.

REFERENCES


{Articles below by J.J. Ray can generally be accessed simply by clicking on the name of the article. I am however also gradually putting online a lot of abstracts, extracts and summaries from older articles by other authors so if an article not highlighted below seems of particular interest, clicking here or here might just save you a trip to the library}


1. ADORNO, T. W., FRENKEL-BRUNSWIK, E., LEVINSON, D. J., & SANFORD, R. N. The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harper, 1950.

2. ALLPORT, G. W., & ALLPORT, F. H. The A-S Reaction Study. Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton-Mifflin, 1928.

3. HEAVEN, P. C. L. Do authoritarians hold authoritarian attitudes? The case of South Africa. J. of Psychol., 1977, 95, 169-171.

4. HEAVEN, P. C. L., & RAJAB, D. Authoritarianism and patriotism: A study among Afrikaners and Indians in South Africa. In P. C. L. Heaven (Ed.), Authoritarianism: South African Studies. Blcemfontein, South Africa: DeVilliers, 1980.

5. RAY, J.J. (1971) An "Attitude to Authority" scale. Australian Psychologist, 6, 31-50.

6. RAY, J.J. (1976) Do authoritarians hold authoritarian attitudes? Human Relations, 29, 307-325.

7. RAY, J.J. (1981) Do authoritarian attitudes or authoritarian personality reflect mental illness? S. African J. Psychology 11, 153-157.

8. RAY, J.J. & LOVEJOY, F.H. (1983). The behavioral validity of some recent measures of authoritarianism. Journal of Social Psychology, 120, 91-99.

9. RIGBY, K., & Rump, E. E. The generality of attitude to authority. Hum. Relat., 1979, 32, 469-487.

10. TITUS, H. E. F scale validity considered against peer nomination criteria. Psychol. Rec., 1968, 18, 395-403.

School of Sociology, University of New South Wales, P. O. Box 1, Kensington, 2033 Australia



POST-PUBLICATION ADDENDUM

Replication is one of the cornerstones of science. A new research result will normally require replication by later researchers before the truth and accuracy of the observation concerned is generally accepted. If a result is to be replicated, however, careful specification of the original research procedure is important.

In questionnaire research it has been my observation that the results are fairly robust as to questionnaire format. It is the content of the question that matters rather than how the question is presented (But see here). It is nonetheless obviously desirable for an attempted replication to follow the original procedure as closely as possible so I have given here samples of how I presented my questionnaires in most of the research I did. On all occasions, respondents were asked to circle a number to indicate their response.




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