Term of Award

Spring 1998

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Social Sciences

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)


Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair

W. Jay Strickland

Committee Member 1

V. Richard Persico

Committee Member 2

Candy B. Schille


This study utilized identity theory to examine the effect of institutional identity salience on role commitment for university presidential wives. The effects of presidential prestige, presidential wife prestige, and traditional gender norms on presidential role identity salience and presidential wife role commitment were also examined. Identity salience is the degree of relevance an identity holds to an individual's self-perception. Identity salience theory posits that the importance of a role to self-identity positively impacts the level of commitment to that role. Role commitment is the degree of responsibility assumed by an individual in regard to the duties attached to a role. Role-related activities are often the expression of role commitment.

Data for this study were gathered from university and college presidential wives whose husbands preside at American institutions. An eight-page questionnaire was mailed to university presidents, selecting for masculine first names, excluding schools located in Puerto Rico, and excluding Catholic clergy. A cover letter was included requesting that the survey be completed by the presidential wife. Four hundred and sixty useable surveys were returned.

Aggregate regression analysis revealed that job prestige, mission, age, and education were significantly related to identification with traditional gender norms. Presidential income was significantly related to presidential wife identity salience. Job prestige, funding, presidential wife prestige, traditional gender norms, and presidential income were significantly related to presidential wife role commitment Residence, funding, and presidential wife prestige were also found to be significantly related to presidential prestige. Residence and satisfaction with the broader community were also significantly related to presidential wife prestige.

Controlling for university funding revealed that age and presidential wife role identity salience were significantly related, as were formal employment salience, traditional gender norms, and commitment to the presidential wife role Public school respondent data revealed a significant relationship between presidential prestige, presidential wife role commitment, and presidential wife role identity salience. Among public school respondents, job prestige and residence were significantly related to presidential wife role commitment.

Controlling for religious mission revealed that significant relationships existed between presidential income, presidential wife commitment, and presidential wife role salience as well as between formal employment salience and presidential wife commitment. University population and presidential wife identity salience were also significantly related. In addition, gender norms and job prestige were significantly related to presidential wife commitment.


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