Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (MSW)


Social Work

Physical Description

1 online resource (87 p.)


Alienation (Social psychology), Teenage boys




The study examined the relationships between subjects' degree of alienation and descriptions of their behaviors. The subjects were 42 male, senior students at Benson Polytechnic High School who attended one of two required social science classes. Benson High School is an all male, technical high school which admits students from all parts of the City of Portland, Oregon. Alienation was defined as a syndrome of feelings consisting of apathy, distrust, pessimism, cynicism, and emotional distance. The degree of subjects' alienation, as defined, was measured by the Multiple Alienation Measure devised by Dr. Laurence J. Gould. Subjects' were thereby divided into three alienation groups: high alienation, moderate alienation, and low alienation. School personnel described subjects' behaviors by selection of descriptions from a questionnaire. Two counselors described subjects' engagement in extra-curricular activities in terms of (1) whether they were inactive, (2) active in sports or other extra-curricular activities only, or (3) active in both sports and other extra-curricular activities. Two teachers described subjects' involvement in their social science classes in terms of (1) whether they did well in assigned work and did extra work, (2) did well in assigned work only, (3) or did not do well in assigned work. The vice-principal described the conduct of subjects in terms of whether they were (1) well behaved, (2) had problems that were handled in the classroom, (3) had problems for which they were sent to the office and, perhaps, suspended once, or (4) had problems for which they had been suspended more than once.

A positive relationship was found between the degree of alienation and the degree of conduct problems as described by the vice-principal. This relationship was significant at the .05 level by a chi-square test. No relationships were found between the degree of alienation and extracurricular activities and behavior in social science classes. However, the alienated were described by teachers as either unmotivated or very motivated students. A tendency for the alienated to be described by the extreme statements concerning activities also appeared.

The findings of the study were interpreted by a theory developed in the introduction and in the concluding chapter of the thesis. The theory presented the alienation process as an interaction of the individual and his social world in which difficulties in the formation of identity result in a tension expressed by the feelings measured as alienation by the Multiple Alienation Measure. The tension gives rise to intense and, often extreme attempts to explore the social world in order to establish identity, or to a lapse into apathy. The greater conduct problems of the highly alienated was seen as a result of the intense activity of the search for identity. The highly alienated subjects' tendency to be either very good or poor students was seen as an intense, and therefore, extreme drive to resolve alienation tension by embracing the student role or by rejecting it.

Persistent Identifier