Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Bernice Lott


Previous research has suggested a high positive correlation between agentic characteristics and self-esteem. Psychotherapists have noted, however, that as women clients become more agentic, they experience distress and heightened concerns about betraying their mothers. The present study utilized a non-clinical sample of adult women engaged in the process of personal change (i.e., women reentering college) to explore relationships among the variables of Self-esteem (SE), Fear-of-success (FOS), Educational Goals (EG), Agency (A), Communion (C), agentic similarity to mother (ASI), and comfort with agentic attributes (ACI). In addition, More Advanced and Less Advanced students were compared on these variables. One hundred and fifty-six participants completed a questionnaire which contained measures of the variables understudy. No significant relationships were found among the three dependent variables, SE, FOS, and EG. None of the predictors contributed significantly to EG, and FOS was found to be correlated slightly but significantly with ASI. SE was significantly predicted by Agency, with some contribution by ACI. Agency and ACI were highly correlated. The More Advanced student group was found to be significantly higher than the Less Advanced group in ACI and EG. The significant relationship between SE and Agency supports the empirical literature and disconfirms the clinical literature. The findings were discussed in terms of the social value of Agentic attributes, possible bias in therapists' interpretations of their women clients' distress over non-traditional behaviors and non-traditional choices, and differences between clinical and large N research methodologies. The findings also suggest that women involved in an agentic environment for longer periods of time experience more comfort with self-described agency than women in such environments for briefer periods.



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