A Study of The Influence of Stereotypical Male-Female Attitudes And Behaviors On Role Transition In Nursing And on Nurse-Physician Interprofessional Relationships

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Thetis Group

Second Advisor

Sol Gordon

Third Advisor

George Bodine


Sex Roles, Role Theory, Family Roles, Empowerment, Socialization

Subject Categories



The purpose of this study was to investigate transition from the traditional role of the nurse to an expanded role. Stereotypically male-female attitudes and behaviors in the interprofessional relationships between female nurses and male physicians were examined in the study. The conceptual framework for the study was the transfer of stereotypical sex roles within the family to the institutional context. The relationships of attitudes toward domestic and professional roles of women were found to be related to these issues.

The study used a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods. In the pilot study conducted in an Eastern United States hospital, participant observation, interviews, and survey questionnaires were used to examine attitudes and behaviors of 14 nurses in traditional roles and 11 nurse practitioners. In a larger-scale, follow-up phase conducted in a Western city, attitudes of 138 subjects made up of nurses and several comparison groups were surveyed. For the quantitative stages, several standardized measures and one instrument developed especially for the study were used. Data analysis procedures included both univariate and multivariate methods.

Among the number of findings were: (a) In the first phase, both nurse practitioners and nuses in traditional roles reported egalitarian attitudes but displayed submissive behaviors toward physicians; (b) In the second phase, subjects' perceptions of domestic and professional roles for women were significantly related, but differed in rank order for all groups tested. Nurse practitioners were the most egalitarian and physicians were the most traditional; and (c) The new instrument supported the finding that what nurses said they believed and how they behaved were radically different.

It was concluded that, in spite of pressure on society to change, and innovative roles, subordination of female nurses to the physician still existed. Stereotypical male-female roles learned in the family and transferred to the institutional context were strongly implicated as a cause of continuing subordination. A major implication of the study was that changes in role, without changes in attitudes and behaviors translates into role confusion and continuing status inequality.


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