Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Joseph S. Rossi


As the world becomes more complex and demanding, effective leadership is a progressively more important resource. Effective leadership skills are a valuable commodity in many areas of life, such as government, business, community and educational systems. Although there are a considerable number of studies pertaining to adult perceptions of leadership (Fiedler, 1967, Gouldner, 1950, Hook, 1955, Klonsky, 1983, Morris & Hackman, 1969, Suedfeld, & Rank, 1976, Wood, 1913), there is a limited amount of research available regarding the development of leadership perceptions in adolescents. This is somewhat surprising given several research findings that identify the development of leadership skills in adolescents as an important indicator of positive social adjustment (McCullough, Ashbridge & Pegg, 1994; Scales, Benson & Leffert, 2000). Similarly, the literature pertaining to the measurement of adolescent perceptions leadership is sparse. In fact, most measures of leadership for children and adolescents have been found to be psychometrically inadequate (Oakland, Falkenberg & Oakland, 1996). Presently, there are no published measures of adolescent perceptions of peer leaders. Although there is some literature on adolescents and leadership emerging within the gifted child literature, there are remarkably few studies pertaining to ways that adolescents develop perceptions of effective leadership (Karnes, & Bean, 2001, Oakland, Falkenburg & Oakland, 1996).

The goal of this project was to test a newly developed 20-item measure of adolescent perceptions of peer leadership. This scale is based upon the integrated use of Fielder's Contingency theory of leadership and Selman's theory of social awareness development. The hypothesized model for understanding adolescent perception of peer leaders suggested that the development of social awareness will impact an adolescent's perception of effective peer leadership. Thus, it was hypothesized that as adolescents develop higher levels of social awareness, decisions regarding the effectiveness of a potential peer leader will be determined by the goodness of fit between individual leader characteristics and the social context. It was hypothesized that there are three main factors that adolescents consider when making decisions about peer leaders: instrumental behaviors, physical attributes and personality characteristics.

In this study, adolescents were asked to rate peers that were perceived to be effective leaders in three separate scenarios (government, athletic, social contexts). Confirmatory factor analysis and principal component analyses were utilized to investigate the hypothesized three factor structure. Results revealed that the factor structure was not well supported by the original 20 item scale. Post hoc analyses guided the revision of the scale and led to an improved overall fit of the measurement model that maintained an acceptable level of fit across all three situations. It was concluded that further research was needed to verify the appropriateness of the post hoc revisions and to provide independent replication of the hypothesized three factor structure. Although additional analyses did not reveal the presence of significant age differences, some gender differences were noted.



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