The Journal of Social Psychology, 1984, 122, 141-142.


University of Wollongong and University of New South Wales, Australia


Ray and Jones (1) have devised two new scales for use with older schoolchildren, to measure both respectful/disrespectful attitudes towards authority and submissive/rebellious behavior towards authority figures (i.e., parents and teachers). The latter was a self-rating scale intended as a measure of authoritarianism in the sense of personality as distinct from attitude. Neither scale was validated.

Both scales were administered to three mixed-sex classes with a modal age of 12 years in a working-class suburb of Wollongong, Australia. Rating of each S on three attributes -- dominance, submissiveness, and rebelliousness -- was done by a teacher who knew the S. The final N was 78.

The reliabilities of the scales held up well on the new sample. The alpha was .83 for the attitude scale and .80 for the personality scale. As before, the two scales correlated highly, .62. The correlations between the positive and negative halves of each scale were -.34 and -.52, respectively. The former is rather less than might usually be desired. The new sample was slightly more submissive in reported behavior towards parents and teachers (Mean = 49.07, SD = 6.02) and more respectful in attitudes (Mean = 98.70, SD = 12.48) than was the sample on which the scales were constructed. This difference may reflect a greater preponderance of children of Southern European immigrants in the present sample. For both scales, the differences were significant, < .05.

The original hypothesis that the personality scale would be more valid as a predictor of actual behavior was confirmed. The attitude scale showed a significant correlation with only one rating, submissiveness (r = .25). Pupils who expressed respect for parents and teachers were seen by their teachers as more submissive than others. A similar tendency for pro-authority attitudes to provide a weak prediction of submissive behavior only has been noted among adults also (2). The personality scale, by contrast, correlated significantly with all three ratings in the present study, .36 with submissiveness, -.25 with dominance, and -.25 with rebelliousness. In other words, pupils who reported themselves as submissive towards parents and teachers were seen by their teachers as more submissive, less dominant, and less rebellious than others.

As the personality scale is more valid, shorter, psychometrically sounder, and yet highly correlated with the attitude scale. it could well be used alone in future studies of the response of schoolchildren to authority.

The correlation between the two ratings of dominance and submission seemed of particular interest. The questions the raters answered were as follows: "How dominant is this student among the other children?" and "How submissive is this student to direction from teachers?" On the basis of theory of Adorno et al. (3) one would predict that students who dominated other students would be submissive to direction from above. A positive correlation between the ratings would be expected. In fact the correlation was -.39. Dominance and submission are opposites -- not allied aspects of a single syndrome.

Rigby and Rump (4) have reported that, contrary to Adorno et al., attitudes toward parents predict general attitude toward authority only during early adolescence. The attitude toward parents and the attitude toward teachers subscales were therefore separated out in the present data and were found to correlate .57. Given the age of the sample, this is a finding highly consistent with Rigby and Rump's generalization.

Perhaps the negative findings of the present study should be stressed: Students with favorable or positive attitudes towards parents and teachers were not found to be less rebellious or more likely to try to dominate their peers. They simply showed no polarization on either attribute. Theories, such as that of Adorno et al., then, would seem to be over simplifications.


1. Ray, J.J. & Jones, J.M. (1983) Attitude to authority and authoritarianism among schoolchildren. Journal of Social Psychology 119, 199-203.

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

3. Adorno, T.W., Frenkel-Brunswik, E., Levinson, D.J. & Sanford, R.N. The authoritarian personality. New York: Harper.

4. Rigby, K., &, Rump, E.E. Attitudes toward, parents and institutional authorities during adolescence. J. Psychology, 1981, 109, 109-118.

Department of Education, The University, P.O. Box 1144, Wollongong, New South Wales, 2500, Australia; and: School of Sociology, University of New South Wales, P.O. Box 1, Kensington, 2033, Australia


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 and 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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