For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Job Conditions and Personality: A Longitudinal Assessment of Their Reciprocal Effects"

by Kohn, Melvin L; Schooler, Carmi (1982)


In earlier work, we assessed a longitudinal causal model of the reciprocal effects of the substative complexity of work and intellectual flexibility. In this paper, we greatly expand the causal model to consider sumultaneously several structural imperatives of the job and three major dimensions of personality-ideational flexibility, a self directed orientation to self and society, and a sense of distress. The analysis demonstrates that the structural imperatives of the job affect personality. Self-directed work leads to ideational flexibility and to a self-directed orientation to self and society; oppressive working conditions lead to distress. These findings strongly support a learning generalization model. Personality, in turn, has important consequences for an individual's place in the job structure and in the system of social stratification. In particular, both ideational flexibility and a self-directed orientation lead, over time, to more responsible jobs that allow greater latitude for occupational self-direction.

Key Passage

With longitudinal data, using confirmatory factor analysis and linear structural equations causal analysis, we did a prototypic longitudinal anal- ysis of the reciprocal effects of the substantive complexity of work and intellectual flexibility (Kohn and Schooler 1978). That analysis provided convincing evidence that the substantive complexity of work both affects and is affected by this one, obviously important, facet of psychological functioning. In the present analysis, we enlarge the causal model to take into account not only a broader range of job conditions (as we did in Kohn and Schooler 1981) but also a broader range of psychological variables. The goal of this paper is to develop and assess a general model of the re- ciprocal effects of job conditions and major dimensions of personality. (p.1258)


Intellectual Flexibility, Reciprocity, Personality, Identity, Self, Distress, Psychology, Work Complexity


Kohn-Schooler, Psychological Centrality of Work

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