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The Protestant Work Ethic inBarbadosAdrian Furnham aa Department of Psychology, University CollegeLondonPublished online: 30 Jun 2010.
To cite this article: Adrian Furnham (1991) The Protestant Work Ethic in Barbados,The Journal of Social Psychology, 131:1, 29-43, DOI: 10.1080/00224545.1991.9713822
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00224545.1991.9713822
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The Journal of Social Psychology, 131(1), 29-43
The Protestant Work Ethic in Barbados
ADRIAN FURNHAM Department of Psychology University College London
ABSTRACT. This study first reviewed previous research on the cross-cultural differ- ences in the Protestant Work Ethic (PWE) as measured by psychometric question- naires. Second, it reported on a study of adolescents in Barbados, where over four hundred children completed eight different measures of the PWE. The different mea- sures were shown to be modestly significantly correlated, suggesting that they were measuring different dimensions of the PWE. Whereas there were no clear relation- ships between age, class position, and urban-rural residence in PWE scores, girls tended to have higher scores than boys. Overall, this sample of Barbados adoles- cents appeared to have higher PWE scores than comparable groups from developed countries.
WHETHER ADHERENCE to the Protestant Work Ethic (PWE) as described by Weber (1905) by individuals or groups in a specific society or country actually predicts or in some sense leads to economic development in that so- ciety is an issue that has fascinated academic and lay people alike. Mc- Clelland (1961), for example, attempted to demonstrate how need-for- achievement beliefs were consistently related to numerous economic variables in various societies at different points in history.
Psychological research on the PWE has been concerned mainly with de- vising psychometric questionnaires, investigating the relationship between PWE beliefs and work-related behaviors, and examining the relationship be- tween PWE beliefs and other individual differences measures of personality, values, and social attitudes (Furnham, 1982, 1983, 1984a,b,c,d, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988). Since PWE questionnaires were first developed over 15 years
1 would like to thank Monica Payne and Earl Newton of the Faculty of Education, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. Barbados, both for help in data collection and great hospital@ during my visit.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Adrian Furnham, Department of Psy- choLogy, University College, London, 26 Bedford Way, London WCI . Great Britain.
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30 The Journal of Social Psychology
ago, over 50 empirical studies have been published on the topic (Chusmir & Koberg, 1988; Engel, 1988; Furnham, 1984a, 1990).
People who believe in the PWE tend to have high internal locus of con- trol beliefs (Furnham, 1987; Lied & Pritchard, 1976; MacDonald, 1972; Mir- els & Garrett, 1971; Waters, Bathis, & Waters, 1975); conservative attitudes and beliefs (Furnham & Bland, 1982; Joe, 1974; MacDonald, 1971); high need for achievement (Furnham, 1987; McClelland, 1961); and individual- istic attribution styles (Furnham, 1982). Furthermore, as an individual differ- ence, independent variable PWE beliefs have been found to be powerful pre- dictors of work-related behavior (Greenberg, 1977, 1978, 1979; Merrens & Garrett, 1975).
Although it remains unclear how or indeed whether PWE beliefs are re- lated to economic development, both academic and lay people have been par- ticularly concerned with the PWE beliefs of young people (Schab, 1978). Harris and Stokes (1978), for instance, found evidence that certain groups of Black youth had lower PWE beliefs than Whites, paradoxically because the Blacks had higher self-esteem as a function of being able to fulfill lesser am- bitions.
Studies from numerous countries appear to show that young people re- main optimistic, highly motivated, and work oriented. In Belgium, Rosseel (1986) found they were instrumental and pragmatic in their choice of school subjects and that those who manifested an enterprising attitude, self- confidence, and optimism about the future developed an orientation to indi- vidualistic careerism. Similarly, in Australia in a study of nearly 1,000 young workers, Williams (1985) found strong adherence to the PWE. She argued that the PWE, measured by commitment to work, was stronger than ever because it provided ideological support for a system that still requires the discipline to labor. No doubt, until that changes, PWE beliefs are likely to remain high. In Great Britain, Breakwell and Fife-Schaw (1987) attempted to find which of a range of psychographic and demographic variables best predicted levels of motivation to use new technology in young people: The PWE came first, self-esteem second, year of school third, and fathers job fourth, with sex trailing behind and accounting for only a small, barely sig- nificant portion of variance in motivation.
These results suggest that young peoples PWE beliefs are highly adap- tive in the modem world. Indeed, having low PWE beliefs seems to be asso- ciated with low self-esteem, poor well-being, and reactionary views. It is all the more important, then, according to numerous observers, that adolescents be inculcated with PWE beliefs. Nearly all the studies on PWE beliefs among young people have been conducted in developed countries, with two excep- tions. Munroe and Munroe (1986) found that school children in Kenya who were educated within the Quaker tradition held stronger PWE beliefs than those educated in nonreligious schools. Stones (1988), in his study of South
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African school children, also emphasized the role of religion, in this case Calvinism, in the development of PWE beliefs. He found, as predicted, that Whites had stronger PWE beliefs than Blacks.
Some of the studies that have examined PWE beliefs in young people have looked at which demographic factors in socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and religion seem to determine PWE beliefs (Harris & Stokes, 1978; Schab, 1978; Stones, 1988), whereas others have looked at the consequences of hav- ing these beliefs (Breakwell & Fife-Schaw, 1987). However, these studies appear to have two major, significant drawbacks. The first concerns how the PWE is measured. Many studies purporting to measure the PWE have used highly diffuse and often unreliable and invalid measures. Indeed, it is only the minority of studies mentioned above that have used psychometrically val- idated questionnaires (Breakwell & Fife-Schaw; Stones), though as Furnham (1984a, 1990) pointed out, there are numerous self-report measures, all of which have slightly different psychometric properties. To measure PWE be- liefs comprehensively, combining more than one measure, would seem ideal (Furnham & Koritsas, 1990).
Second, although the studies have been conducted in many different countries, few attempts have been made to compare results systematically. By far the most popular measure has been the Mirels and Garrett (1971) ques- tionnaire, which has been used in Africa (Heaven, 1980; Philbrick, 1976; Vandewiele & Philbrick, 1976); America (Beit-Hallahmi, 1979; Dorst, Leon, & Philbrick, 1978; Eisenberger & Shank, 1985; Ganster, 1980, 1981; Goiten & Rosenberg, 1977; Gonsales & Bernard, 1983; Greenberg, 1977, 1978, 1979; Hooker & Ventis, 1982; Iso-Ahola & Buttimer, 1982; Kidron, 1978; Lied & Pntchard, 1976; MacDonald, 1971; Merrens &Garrett, 1975; Stake, 1983; Waters et al., 1975; Australia (Feather, 1982, 1983 a,b, 1984, 1985); Belgium (Rosseel, 1986); Britain (Breakwell & Fife-Schaw, 1987; Furnham, 1983, 1984 a,b,c,d, 1985, 1986, 1987; Wagstaff, 1983); Israel (Shamir, 1985, 1986); Malaysia (Furnham & Muhuideen, 1984); and Taiwan (Ma, 1986). Table 1 illustrates some of these studies, which by virtue of the fact that they provide some means and standard deviations allow for numerical comparison.
Less well-known and frequently used measures have also been used in different countries, such as the Blood (1969) measure in America (Aldag & Brief, 1975; Armerakis, Field, Bederan, & Ledbetter, 1977; Greenberg, 1978; Iso-Ahola & Buttimer, 1982; Wanous, 1974); Britain (Furnham, 1987); and Israel (Rim, 1977). Although there are clearly problems of comparison because of the unrepresentative nature of the sampling, problems with ensur- ing comparative samples, and the fact that the studies have been conducted at different points in time, comparing results allows one to test the hypothesis that PWE beliefs lead to capitalistic enterprise put forward by Weber (1905) and supported by McClelland ( 196 1).
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34 The Journal of Sociul Psychology
The present study examined PWE beliefs among young people in Bar- bados in the West Indies. It had three major aims: The first was to examine the relationship between different measures of the PWE in the same sample, which has been reported elsewhere only by Waters et al. (1975) and Furnham and Koritsas (1990). It was predicted that all measures would be highly sig- nificantly correlated and that the pattern of correlations would match the con- tent analysis of the various measures (Furnham, 1990). Second, it was pre- dicted that various demographic factors, such as sex, age, religion, and urban-rural residence, would determine PWE bel