- 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
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
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
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
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.