Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Paul E. Panek


Assertiveness training is a psychological intervention strategy designed to develop the skills of individuals who fail to defend and express their rights, feelings, or beliefs in a straightfoward manner.

Currently there is no set procedure regarding the composition of assertiveness training when modified to suit the needs of various populations. However a vast majority of professionals do employ effective basic techniques, i.e. behavior rehearsal, coaching, feedback, and social reinforcement to shape assertive request and refusal behavior.

Low intelligence limits the mentally retarded person's ability to cope with emotional difficulties. Individuals that recognize their limitations often experience feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and humiliation. These feelings are often a constant reminder of inadequacy and become apparent in early childhood. Consider the mentally retarded child who often faces parental rejection, overprotectiveness, and guilt. As an adult, institutionalization can further mitigate a loss of coping skills as it has been determined to be linked to passivity and submissiveness.

While assertiveness training has been validated as an effective procedure to increase assertive behavior, a marked paucity of the literature exists validating the efficacy of assertiveness training with mildly mentally retarded institutionalized persons.

This study assessed the outcome effectiveness of an assertiveness training program via audiotaped feedback, behavior rehearsal, discussion, homework, social reinforcement, and videotaped feedback. The dependent variables were Latency of Response, Compliance Content, Content Requesting New Behavior, Affect, and Overall Assertiveness. Subjects were five male and five female trainees randomly assigned to either an experimental or a control group. Subjects resided in a privately-owned intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled in the midwest. Assessment for the experimental and control groups was conducted over consecutive days and was based on the Behavioral Assertiveness Test which consisted of role playing interpersonal scenes. An analysis of covariance was computed for each of the five dependent variables comparing the two groups, using pretest scores for each variable as the covariate. No significant differences existed between the two groups for age or IQ.

The results indicated that three of the five dependent variables (Compliance Content, Affect, and Overall Assertiveness) resulted in a significant increase of assertiveness. Implications for future research were discussed.