Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Bernice Lott


The purpose of this investigation was to examine a model of interacting with life situations which does not carry with it the restrictions implicit in the masculinity-femininity-androgeny concepts. However, the model includes positive aspects of behavior generally imbedded in the masculinity- femininity concepts. This model utilizes David Bakan's (1966) concepts of agency and communion, modifying his description of these modes of interacting and positing a complementary (completing, non-conflicting) relation between them. An agency/communion theoretical model was developed which emphasizes the potential for balance between the modes. Problems with the traditional gender dichotomy were discussed. The transcending of sex roles and agency/communion balance were then considered in relation to each other.

Existing measures of agency and communion are tied to the assumptions of bipolarity and/or gender (agency as male and communion as female). Therefore, an exploratory instrument, the Ways of Interacting Questionnaire (WIQ), was developed to measure indications of agency and communion which assumes the unity of each construct, the independence of the constructs from each other and their independence from gender. Data obtained from 162 undergraduates at the University of Rhode Island were used to analyze the WIQ to determine whether predictions based on those three assumptions were supported. The WIQ consists of 15 situations, for each of which three agentic and three communal behavioral alternatives were given. The participants were asked to rate the likelihood that (s)he would respond in that situation in each of the alternative ways described. Two dominant constructs emerged from a component analysis, but more than one component reflected each mode and in some situational contexts the complementarity of the modes over-rode their independence. Agency and communion, as measured, were independent of gender.

It was hypothesized that persons who manifest balance between agency and communion will be less stereotypic in their attribution of characteristics to men and women than persons who manifest lesser balance. From the component analysis of the WIQ one component was selected to best represent agency (A) and one, communion (C). Sex role stereotyping was measured for self, same sex and opposite sex using three administrations of the Bem Sex Role Inventory. Data from 135 of the same participants used in the component analysis were used to test the hypothesis. The hypothesis was not supported, however there were differences between imbalanced groups depending on whether A > C or C > A. A > C men and women stereotyped themselves less than C > A persons, but C > A men and women stereotyped the opposite sex less than A > C persons. Questions were raised about other facets of the theoretical model that could be explored.



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