Preliminary Properties of a New Measure of Assertiveness,
Strategic Assertiveness and Passivity
Hadley Mates, Leigh Anne Pickett, Catherine Bryson, Jeannette Robb & C. Albert Bardi
Extant measures (e.g. Rathus, 1973) conceptualize
assertiveness as social boldness and frankness. Studies
assessing minority groups in the U.S. (e.g., Hall & BeilWarner, 1978) with a variety of measures of assertiveness
have yielded group differences that may be best accounted
for by the historic application of measures developed on
European-Americans to other cultural groups. A recent
qualitative study (Chandrasekaran, Clark, Croasdaile,
Mates, McNair, Pickett & Bardi, 2010) found that in addition
to traditionally-defined assertiveness, Latinos endorse
themes of strategic assertiveness as a mode of dealing
with interpersonal conflict. The current study seeks to
create a valid and reliable measure of three separate
behavioral categories: assertiveness, strategic
assertiveness and passivity. A sixty item pool was created
using qualitative study themes and theoretically-derived
alteration of existing scale (e.g. Rathus, 1973) items. In
order to gauge potential problems with item content, two
focus groups of students of minority identity were held.
Post focus group revision of the item pool yielded 50 items.
The 50-item pool was administered with a scale of social
desirability to several psychology classes. Results of
statistical analyses including item distributions, reliability of
proposed scales and social desirability responding are
 The Rathus Assertiveness Scale (RAS; Rathus, 1973) is
the most widely used measure of assertiveness and
conceptualizes assertiveness as social boldness and
 Studies assessing minority groups in the U.S. with a
variety of measures of assertiveness have yielded group
differences, for example:
 Less assertiveness for Japanese American compared
to U.S. white-collar workers (Niikura, 1999).
Scale Items
 Results of studies such as the above have been criticized
for using measures such as the RAS, which are largely
based upon White (dominant culture) conceptions of
assertiveness, and thus cannot accurately compare such
groups (Wood & Mallinckrodt, 1990).
 A recent qualitative study found that Latinos exhibit
strategic assertion as a mode of dealing with conflict over
assertiveness and passiveness.
 A passive person is someone who gives into conflict or
demands without due consideration for their own needs
while an assertive person is defined as someone who
gets their needs met, but does not avoid conflict
(considers the rights of others).
 A strategic person is defined as someone that gets their
needs met, but works to avoid areas of potential conflict.
 The current study seeks to create a reliable and unbiased
scale of assertiveness, strategic assertiveness and
This ongoing project is an effort to provide an
alternative measurement of assertiveness whereby the
culture-bound dichotomy of assertiveness versus passivity is
enriched with a third alternative for interpersonal behavior,
strategic assertiveness.
Generation of Items
Items were created upon themes from previously established
assertion scales (Bakker et al., 1978; Becker, 1980; Gambrill, 1975;
McCormick, 1984; Rathus, 1973; Schwartz & Gottman, 1976; Strahan
& Gerbasi, 1972) and the results of a qualitative study of Latino/a
concepts of assertiveness (Chandrasekaran, Clark, Croasdaile, Mates,
McNair, Pickett & Bardi, 2010) . Items fit into one of three categories:
assertiveness, strategic assertiveness, and passivity. 60 items were
generated with approximate 20 items per category.
The relationships among the three resultant subscales
point to support for the notion of a third avenue for getting
needs met within interpersonal contexts. Assertiveness and
Passivity were indeed inversely correlated, as expected by
the dichotomous view of the construct. Strategic
Assertiveness on the other hand, was associated strongly
with Passivity in the item pool sample and inversely with
Assertiveness (yet not as strongly as the inverse association
between Assertiveness and Passivity). The predominantly
White nature of the sample, however, may naturally respond
similarly to the Passivity and Strategic Assertiveness items.
Culturally, one would expect a non-White sample to respond
more differentially to the Strategic Assertiveness items as
indicated by previous qualitative work and the focus group
responses yielded in the earlier portion of the this study.
Item Content Focus Groups & Consultation
In order to gauge potential problems with item content, two focus
groups were held with one group having nine participants and the other
ten. A total of four males and fifteen females participated in the focus
groups. All were between the ages of 18 and 25. Eight ethnic
identities were represented by the participants: 5 Asian-Americans, 5
African-Americans, 4 Hispanics, 1 Arab, 1 Native American, 1
Irish/African, 1 Indonesian, and 1 Chinese.
Both sessions lasted 90 minutes. The focus group discussions were
audio recorded. The discussion was facilitated by four students of an
upper-level psychology research seminar.
Participants were asked to provide their comments on each item,
specifically whether the items seemed to fit with the intended
categories. We asked whether the items were clear, universally
understandable and to the point.
After the focus group and a consultation with an nationally recognized
measurement expert (Hamby, 2010), the number of items was reduced
from 60 to 50.
Further work will focus on distributing the smaller pool
of items to a culturally-diverse sample large enough to
conduct factor analytic study of the constructs in question,
and to determine any cultural group differences on the
responses to the subscales.
Item Field Testing
The resultant pool of items along with a Social Desirability Scale
(Strahan & Gerbasi, 1972; α = .39 in our sample) was distributed to
Introductory Psychology classes in exchange for participation credit.
Bakker, C. B., Bakker-Rabdau, M.K., and Breit S. (1978). The
measurement of assertiveness and aggressiveness. Journal of
Personality Assessment, 42, 277-284.
The sample consisted of 73 total participants between ages 1822, 21 were males and 52 were females. There were 70 participants
who self-identified as only White; one participant self-identified as
Hispanic and White, and another participant self-identified as Native
American and White. One participant self-identified as Black. Out of the
73 participants, 59 were members of Greek organizations.
 Greater assertiveness for Black undergraduates
compared to White undergraduates (Lineberger &
Calhoun, 1983).
Becker, H.A. (1980). The Assertive Job-Hunting Survey, Measurement
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Gambrill, E.D. and Richey, C.A. (1975). An assertion inventory for use
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Table 1
Strategic Assertiveness, Assertiveness and
Passivity Scale Alphas
Cronbach’s Alpha
N of items
Reliability Analysis
An iterative approach was used whereby scale reliability
was computed and the item which would increase the
alpha the most by removal was removed. Scale reliability
was then recomputed. This process continued until
removing an item would no longer increase reliability. For
the Strategic Assertiveness scale, this resulted in the
removal of five items. For the Assertiveness scale, this
resulted in the removal of two items. For the Passivity
scale, three items were removed. Final scale reliabilities
and item counts are presented in Table. See Scale Items
for item content of resultant scales.
Total Correlations
For each personality construct, Assertiveness, Strategic
Assertiveness, and Passivity totals were calculated for
each participant. The totals for each construct were then
correlated with each other to determine validity. Results
of the correlation showed that Passivity and Assertiveness
were negatively correlated (r = -0.60). Assertiveness and
Strategic Assertion were negatively correlated (r = -0.49).
Passivity and Strategic Assertion were positively
correlated (r = 0.69).
Hall, J. R., & Beil-Warner, D. (1978). Assertiveness of male Anglo and
Mexican-American college students. Journal of Social Psychology,
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Lineberger, M. H., & Calhoun, K. S. (1983). Assertive behavior in Black
and White American undergraduates. Journal of Psychology:
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McCormick, I.A. (1984). A Simple version of the Rathus Assertiveness
Schedule, Behavior Assessment, 7, 95-99.
Niikura, R. (1999). The psychological process underlying Japanese
assertive behavior: Comparison of Japanese with Americans,
Malaysians and Filipinos. International Journal of Intercultural
Relations, 23(1), 47-76.
Rathus, S. A. (1973) A 30-item schedule for assessing assertive
behavior. Behavior Therapy, 4,398-406.
Schwartz, R.M. and Gottman, J.M. (1976). Toward a task analysis of
assertive behavior , Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 44,
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