A comparison of social class differences in adolescents' self-disclosure, parent-cathexis and self-cathexis Public Deposited

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  • The purpose of this study was to investigate the differences between middle- and lower-class adolescents and the extent of their self-disclosure to their mothers and their fathers; and their feelings both positive and negative toward their parents and themselves. The subjects consisted of 50 middle-class and 50 lower-class adolescents who were randomly selected from 297 sophomores and juniors attending the same high school in a rural town in Oregon. Hollingshead's Index of Social Position (1958), which uses the occupation and education of the father as criteria for social class, was used to classify the adolescents by social class. Sex comparisons were also analyzed for differences between the middle- and lower-class adolescents. In attempting to realize this purpose, two major hypotheses were tested: Hypothesis 1: There are no differences between these middle-class and lower-class adolescents in the extent of self-disclosure to their parents. Hypothesis 2: There are no differences between these middle-class and lower-class adolescent's in the extent of positive and negative feelings toward their parents and themselves. The extent of self-disclosure was measured by Jourard's Self-disclosure Questionnaire (1964). This 60 item instrument which permits the subjects to indicate the extent to which they are willing to talk to another person about themselves on the following six categories: A attitudes and opinions, B tastes and interests, C work or studies, D money, E personality, and F body. Total scores from the questionnaire were used in testing Hypothesis 1. The results indicated that the null hypothesis could not be rejected. Comparison of middle- and lower-class males and middle- and lower-class females also did not indicate any significant differences on total scores from the Self-disclosure Questionnaire. The extent of the adolescents' positive and negative feelings toward their parents and themselves was measured by the use of Jourard's Cathexis Questionnaire. This instrument consists of 40 personality traits such as: sense of humor, philosophy of life, temper, and happiness. Total scores from the questionnaire were used in the test of Hypothesis 2. Once again, the results of the test indicated that the null hypothesis could not be rejected. In addition analysis was made of differences between middle- and lower-class males and middle- and lower-class females on total scores from the Cathexis Questionnaire for mothers, fathers and themselves. No significant differences were found for the social class differences for the middle- and lower-class males and females. The items within each questionnaire were then analyzed for significant differences between the middle- and lower-class adolescents. To test for significant differences between social classes for each item within the questionnaires, Chi Square and the Kolmogrov- Smirnov Test were used. Sixteen of the 60 items on the Self-disclosure Questionnaire were found to be significantly different between the middle- and lower-class adolescents, with the middle-class adolescents talking more extensively to their parents than did the lower-class adolescents. More specifically five items were significantly different for both mothers and fathers which were: attitudes on drinking, feelings about how work is appreciated, feelings about people at work, trouble controlling feelings, being attractive to the opposite sex or not. While these five items were significant for both mothers and fathers the following eight items were of significance for mothers: attitudes on racial integration, tastes in music, style of house, how much money is made, to whom money is owed, amount in savings, aspects of personality that are disliked, and feelings about one's appearance in the past. The following three items were significant for fathers: tastes in food, source of income, and ideals of overall appearance. In addition analysis of differences between middle- and lower-class males and females on the items within the Self-disclosure Questionnaire with the lower-class adolescent indicating no self-disclosure in contrast to the middle-class adolescents extensive self-disclosure. Slightly more items were significantly different on self-disclosure to the parent of the same sex than to the parent of the opposite sex. The items of significance for males to fathers were: religion, food, social gatherings, feelings about people at work, and adequacy in sexual behavior. The items of significance for females to mothers were: style of house, present work, ambitions and goals, choice of a career, people at work, things that makes one furious, and adequacy in sexual behavior. The items of significance for the males to mothers were: appreciation of work, amount of savings, and being attractive to the opposite sex. The items of significance for the females to their fathers were: how much money is made and trouble controlling feelings. For the Cathexis Questionnaire there were three target persons: mother, father, and self. Only four of the 40 items in this questionnaire were significantly different between middle- and lower-class adolescents. The lower-class adolescents indicated negative feelings toward their fathers and themselves in contrast to the positive feelings expressed by the middle-class adolescents. Of the four items three were for fathers' general knowledge, intelligence level, and philosophy of life. The only significant item for the adolescents' feelings about themselves was their ability to control emotions. An additional comparison was made for differences between the middle- and lower-class males and females for feelings about their mothers, fathers and themselves. There were only two significant items for the sex comparisons for the items from the Cathexis Questionnaire. The lower-class males indicated negative feelings toward their fathers' general knowledge in contrast to the positive feelings of the middle-class males. The lower-class females indicated negative feelings for their fathers' intelligence level in contrast to the positive feelings of the middle-class females. An extension of the analysis of the differences between the extreme ends of the social class continuum was done by going back to the original 297 subjects and taking all of those in Classes I and II (N = 20) and all of those in Class V (N = 23). The two hypotheses were again tested by using the Self-disclosure and Cathexis Questionnaires. Total scores from the two questionnaires were used in the test of Hypothesis 1 and 2. The results of the t-test indicated that the null hypotheses could not be rejected, for both Hypothesis 1 and 2. The sex comparisons for the two hypotheses also indicated no significant differences on total scores from the two questionnaires. The analysis of the differences in the extent of self-disclosure between the extreme ends of the social class continuum provided a pattern which was the reverse for the random sample of middle- and lower-class adolescents. For the random sample there were more items of significant difference for mothers than for fathers, while there were more items of significant difference for fathers than for mothers for the extreme ends of the social class continuum. The lower socio-economic adolescents indicated no self-disclosure for the significant items in contrast to the upper socio-economic adolescents' extensive self-disclosure to their parents. The three items which were significantly different on self-disclosure to mothers were: attitudes toward other religious groups, satisfaction from present work, and who owes me money. The nine items which were significantly different on self-disclosure to fathers were: religion, standards of beauty, tastes in food, present work, ambitions and goals, who owes me money, different parts of the body, physical measurements, and adequate sexual behavior. The analysis of the differences in the extent of self-disclosure between the males and females of the upper and lower extremes of the social class continuum showed no significant difference. The analysis of the differences between the extreme ends of the social class continuum on the items within the Cathexis Questionnaire indicated one item for mothers and six items for fathers. For all of the items the lower socio-economic adolescents indicated negative feelings in contrast to the positive feelings of the upper socio-economic adolescents. The one significant item for feelings about mothers was her general knowledge. The six significant items for feelings about fathers were his: general knowledge, intelligence level, capacity to work, ability to meet new people, and business sense. The sex comparisons of the extreme ends of the social class continuum of the items within the Cathexis Questionnaire found two items of significant differences. The lower socio-economic females indicated negative feelings about fathers' general knowledge and intelligence level, while the upper socio-economic females indicated positive feelings on these items. The items within the questionnaires which indicated significant differences agreed with the literature on social class which suggests that there is more communication between middle-class parents and their children than for lower-class parents and their children, and that the lower-class adolescents report more negative feelings toward their parents than do the middle-class adolescents. The findings of this study suggest the necessity of additional studies of social class differences in rural settings and comparisons of rural and urban samples which use the same criteria for measuring social class and which use the same instruments for measuring differences among the social classes.
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