An Investigation Of Assertiveness, Locus Of Control, And Response To Stress In Streetwalkers As Compared To Other Working Women

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Purpose. This study has explored perceptual, emotional, and behavioral aspects of personal power and sexuality in adult female prostitutes. The purpose of the study was to investigate whether a group of street-walkers are significantly different from a group of non-prostitute working women on the dependent variables of assertiveness, locus of control and response to stress.The sample consisted of 12 Miami women involved in streetwalking who were either court- or self-referred to a university intervention program and 12 legally employed comparison women who were matched on variables of age, race, and socioeconomic backgrounds.The subjects completed the Adult Self Expression Scale, Rotter's Internal-External Scale, and then participated in a film-induced anxiety procedure focusing on themes of sexuality and aggression, while their heartrates and muscle tension were monitored and recorded by biofeedback equipment. State-Trait Anxiety Inventory measures were administered after each film.Hypotheses were tested by multivariate and univariate statistics. Significant differences between the groups were found on the variables of locus of control and physiological measures of anxiety. Street-walkers were found to be generally as assertive as other women, to be more externally oriented and to react very differently to induced stress by lowering their heartrates. Post hoc analyses revealed that the streetwalker group also experienced a general level of higher trait anxiety and functioned at a lower level of muscle tension when faced with situations involving aggression and sexuality.It was concluded that attempts to establish personal power and gain a sense of control by suppressing strong emotional reactions are actually learned behavioral patterns that serve as a general mode of adaptation to the victimized life styles inherent in this population and other subgroups with similar backgrounds.


Psychology, General

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