Date of Award

Spring 1990

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Frederick Samuels


The focus of this dissertation is the development of a non-gender-specific theory of success avoidance. Because success avoidance has traditionally been viewed as a phenomenon associated with female socialization, there is an initial look at the messages given to, and responses of, men and the issue of success.

In order to provide a foundation for a more expansive theory, there is an exploration of mixed-gender groups based on quantitative and qualitative data accumulated prior to the theory's generation.

Existing motivational constructs that influenced the theory's development are acknowledged and, to various degrees, assimilated into a new orientation. Ultimately, a theory of success avoidance based on self-esteem, identity, and self-consistency is presented in the form of propositions and a theoretical model. The underlying thesis is that the inclination to preserve identity congruence prevents people from accepting opportunities that will alter their perceived success, success-limited, or failure images.

Up until now, the predominant approach to this phenomenon has been Horner's gender-role theory of success avoidance. Proposed here is a self-esteem/self-consistency theory that explains success avoidance among males and females at a variety of life stages.

In the final chapter, the recommendations for research are accompanied by implications for social institutions. The theory requires a critical look at the assumptions on which social institutions base their services.