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Dating Competence, Social Assertion,
and Social Anxiety Among College Students
Concerns about dating are prevalent and often related to serious problems among college students (Paul, Poole, & Jakubowyc, 1998; Prisbell, 1989). Apprehension about dating has been found to be associated with a variety of factors including dating frequency (Heimberg, Harrison, Montgomery, Madsen, & Sherfey, 1989), poor dating skills (Prisbell, 1997: Wallanger, Conger, Mariotto, Curran, & Farrell, 1980), assertion (Prisbell, 1986), loneliness and shyness (Jones, Cheek, & Briggs, 1986:). An interesting question to answer is whether there is a relationship between social anxiety and dating competence.
Social anxiety is defined as anxiety that results from the prospect or presence of personal evaluation in real or imagined social situations (Schlenker & Leary, 1982). Previous research asserted that interpersonal interactions for college students are stressful (Santiago-Rivera, Gard & Bernstein. 1999). Since the anticipation of social interaction can be relevant to social anxiety, a purpose of the present study was to assess the relationship between social anxiety, dating competence and social assertion.
Moreover, research has shown variations in social anxiety between different ethnic groups and has indicated that ethnic minority individuals have reported more social anxiety than did Caucasians (King & LeSure-Lester, 1999; Okazaki 1997; Sue, Ino & Sue, 1983; Uba, 1994). An important question to ask is whether there would be variations in dating competence and social assertion among ethnic groups. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to determine whether there will be ethnic differences in these constructs for college students.
The participants in the study consisted of 217 male and female students from two colleges in the Los Angeles area and were enrolled in lower division general studies classes. Students identified themselves and both parents as members of one of four ethnic groups: Asian American (of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean origin), 12; African American, 91; Caucasian, 60; Mexican American (Mexican-American or Mexican American of Mexican origin), 26; and Multiracial, 28. The participant's age ranged from 18 to 22 and they were from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds as indicated by self report.
Dating and Assertion Questionnaire (DAQ). This instrument is an 18 item questionnaire with two subscales: dating competence and assertion in social situations. The DAQ is documented to have a reliability of .92 for dating competence and .85 for social assertion (Levenson & Gottman, 1978). On the dating subscale subjects responded to a 4-point scale from "I never do this" to "I do this almost always" to several vignettes which separately described a variety of dating situations. An example of a dating anxiety vignette read: "You meet someone you don't know very well but are attracted to. You want to ask him/her out for a date." A high score reflects dating competence. Similarly, social assertion was assessed by a 4 point scale from never do this to I do this almost always. An example of an assertion vignette read: "You're waiting patiently at the checkout when a couple of people cut right in front of you. You feel really annoyed and want to tell them to wait their turn at the back of the line. One of them says, "Look, you don't mind do you? But we're in a terrible hurry." A high score reflects high social assertion.
Social Anxiety Thoughts Questionnaire (SAT). This 21 item instrument measures the frequency of cognitions which accompany social distress and anxiety and is documented to have a .95 reliability (Hartman, 1984). Participants responded to a 5-point scale from never to always to the question: "In social or interpersonal situations during the past week, how often did you have the following thoughts? (e.g., "I feel tense and uncertain," "I feel defenseless)." A high score reflects high social anxiety.
Social Avoidance and Distress Scale (SAD). This 28-item instrument measures two aspects of anxiety, an individual's experience of distress, discomfort, fear, and anxiety; and the avoidance of social situations. It is documented to have a reliability of .94 (Watson & Friend, 1969). Participants responded true or false to such items as, "I am usually at ease when talking to someone of the opposite sex;" "I try to avoid formal social occasions." A high score reflects high social anxiety.
Dating competence and social assertion were measured by the Dating and Assertion Questionnaire (DAQ), and social anxiety was measured by two scales: the Social Anxiety Thoughts Questionnaire (SAT) and the Social Avoidance and Distress Scale (SAD). Pearson correlation analyses were conducted between the mean dating competence score (M = 6.57, SD = 1.46) and social anxiety (SAT: M -45.26, SD = 13.95; and SAD: M = 6.83, SD = 5.99). A correlation analysis also compared the mean scores for dating competence (M = 6.57, SD = 1.46) and social assertion (6.94, SD = 1.25). See Table 1.
As predicted, a Pearson correlation showed a relationship between dating competence and social anxiety on both the SAD and SAT. There was a negative correlation (r = .-.43, p < .001) between dating competence and social anxiety on the SAD and a negative correlation (r = .-.35, p < .001) between dating competence and social anxiety on the SAT. Pearson correlation supported the prediction that there would be a positive relationship between dating competence and social assertion (r = -.60, p < .001). Pearson correlation analyses did not reveal any ethnic differences in dating competence and social assertion.
Discussion and Conclusions
The results showed that there was a positive relationship between dating competence and social assertion and social anxiety. Individuals who were competent about dating tended to be less socially anxious and more assertive in social situations. Perhaps, lower levels of social anxiety contributed to the individual's competence about social situations while simultaneously reducing his or her anxiety about dating. These findings support previous research contention that interpersonal interactions for college students are stressful (Santiago-Rivera, Gard and Bernstein, 1999). These results have practical implications for the reduction of social and dating anxiety. It is suggested that college counselors and personnel offer services to help increase social ease and dating competence in students.
Interestingly, the results did not indicate variations in dating competence and dating assertion among ethnic groups. Perhaps, due to the ethnic diversity of the two college campuses in this study, participants may have felt more similar than different about dating and social assertion. Therefore, it is possible that the diversity of this college climate reduced the likelihood that differential findings regarding levels of dating competence and social assertion would occur among members of different ethnic groups. It might be worthwhile for future research to replicate this study using a more representation of ethnic backgrounds among students located in college institutions.
Mean and Standard Deviation Scores for Dating Competence, Social Assertion, and Social anxiety
Measure M SD
Dating Competence 6.57 1.46[*]
Social Assertion 6.94 1.25[*]
Social Anxiety (SAT) 45.26 13.95[*]
Social Anxiety (SAD) 6.83 5.99[*]
* p < .001
- Lesure-Lester, G. Evelyn, College Student Journal, Jun2001The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Reflection Exercise #9
The preceding section contained information
about dating competence, social assertion, and social anxiety among college students. Write
three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section
in your practice.
What did Lesure-Lester’s study conclude concerning dating competence and social assertion and social anxiety? Record the letter of the correct answer
for this course