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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Submissiveness : a re-conceptualized view Johnson, Joanne Edythe


Volitional submissiveness is proposed as the adaptive dimension of trait submissiveness. The intention to be self-giving is a critical factor distinguishing this dimension of submissiveness from the traditional (low dominance) view of the trait. Volitional submissiveness is described as an intrapersonal orientation manifest by intentionally choosing to place the well-being of another person ahead of one's own needs in order to achieve a goal or purpose that is consistent with internalized values and deemed worthy of the cost of self-giving. This behavior was found to be motivated by caring, helping, propriety, and desire to enhance or maintain a relationship. The Volitional Submissiveness Scale (VSS) was developed to measure the trait. The following coefficients of reliability were obtained: an internal consistency reliability (Cronbach alpha) of .78; test-retest reliability (Pearson r) of .68 (p < .001); correlation with peer ratings of .60 (n = 40, p < .0001). Construct validity was demonstrated by significant positive correlations between the VSS and ego development, self-efficacy, intimacy, altruism, and satisfaction with social relationships; negative correlations with neuroticism and exchange orientation; and a finding of no relationship with the CPI (Gough, 1987) dominance scale. Evidence of criterion related validity was provided by obtaining significant differences (p < .0001) in the mean VSS scores of two targeted groups (therapists versus addicts); and a significant relationship (p < .01) between volitional self-giving behavior and VSS score in an experimental condition. In a principal component analysis (n = 234), three factors (caring, affirming, and enhancing) accounted for 28% of the total variance. This study provided initial evidence for an adaptive dimension of trait submissiveness that was unrelated to gender and a traditional measure of submissiveness, but was correlated with several personality and behavioral characteristics that are associated with well-being. By taking the meaning of behavior into account, the tendency to care and to be responsive to the needs of others surfaced as the primary motive for volitional submissiveness, suggesting a personality profile characterized by higher levels of psychological development and well-being. These findings contradict the conceptualization of submissiveness as a weak, feminine trait opposite dominance on circumplexes of interpersonal behavior.

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