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Title Page    -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        i

Cover Page  -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        ii

Certification -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        iii

Dedication             -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        iv

Acknowledgements        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        v

Table of Contents -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        vi

Abstract      -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        ix


1.1             Background of the study -        -        -        -        -        -        -        1

1.2             Statement of the Problem -        -        -        -        -        -        -        13

1.3             Purpose of the Study       -        -        -        -        -        -        -        15

1.4             Significance of the Study           -        -        -        -        -        -        15


2.1     Theoretical Framework   -        -        -        -        -        -        -        17

2.1.1  Theories of Civic Engagement  -        -        -        -        -        -        17 Social Cognitive Theory -        -        -        -        -        -        -        17 Theory of Moral Development and Civic Engagement   -        -        20

2.1.2  Theories of Defensive Pessimism       -        -        -        -        -        21 Disposition Theory (Norem & Chang, 2002)        -        -        -        21

2.1.3  Theories of Assertiveness         -        -        -        -        -        -        22 Instinct Theory of Assertiveness by Lorenz (1966)         -        -        22 Social Learning Theory -        -        -        -        -        -        -        22

2.2     Empirical Review -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        23

2.2.1  Defensive Pessimism and Civic Engagement -        -        -        -        23

2.2.2  Assertiveness and Civic Engagement  -        -        -        -        -        27

2.3     Summary of Empirical Review -        -        -        -        -        -        33

2.4     Research Hypothesis      -        -        -        -        -        -        -        34

2.5     Operational Definition of Variables    -        -        -        -        -        34


3.1     Design        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        36

3.2     Setting        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        36

3.3     Participants -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        36

3.4     Procedures  -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        38

3.5     Statistics     -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        41

3.6     Instruments -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        42


4.1     Defensive pessimism      -        -        -        -        -        -        -        44

4.2     Tests of Between-Subjects Effects      -        -        -        -        -        45


5.1     Discussion  -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        47

5.2     Conclusion  -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        -        50

5.3Implications and Recommendations   -        -        -        -        -        51

Limitations of the study  -        -        -        -        -        -        -        53

          Suggestions for further Research        -        -        -        -        -        54




The study investigated the influence of Defensive Pessimism and Assertiveness on Civic Engagement among rural dwellers in Akwa Ibom State. Four hundred and thirty-two (432) participants were randomly selected from five local governments in Akwa Ibom State (Abak, Itu, Oruk Anam, Ikot Ekpene and Oron Local Government Areas) consisting of 217males and 215 females. Their age range were from 18- 65 and their mean age was 41.5. A cross-sectional design was adopted for the study. Three instruments were used in the study: Defensive Pessimism Questionnaire (DPQ) developed by Norem and Canton (1986), Rathus Assertiveness Schedule developed by Spencer Rathus (1973) and Civic Engagement Scale (CES) developed by Doolittle and Faul (2013). A two way Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) was used to analyse the data. The result showed that there is no significant influence of defensive pessimism on civic engagement among rural dwellers.  The result also revealed that there is a significant influence of assertiveness on civic engagement among rural dwellers [F (1, 428)= 7.00, p< .05]. The result also revealed that there is no interaction influence between defensive pessimism and assertiveness on civic engagement among rural dwellers. It was therefore concluded that assertiveness is a predictor of civic engagement among rural dwellers. Implications and recommendations for future study were made.



1.1     Background of the Study

The surge in research on adult civic engagement can be attributed in part to the belief by some scholars that the participation of youth in society has decreased compared to previous generations (Putnam, 2000). However, other lines of research indicate a steady increase in youth volunteering since the 1970s and a recent increase in political activities such as voting and making political donations (National Conference on Citizenship, 2006).

Observation in a number of rural areas revealed that older adults and youths are losing faith in community driven development and policy planning. This implies that development planning at the community level is not socially inclusive. The experience of older adults today has been that of their complete severance from the process of local development. This is a negation of United Nation (2008) that governance in the public interest cannot be realized without the participation of all citizens. Citizens must be active participants in policy planning if their rights are to be realized.

The continued failure of older adults to participate in community-driven development is unhealthy for the overall growth and development of the rural economy. In the community, they live in deplorable conditions and there are no institutional provisions for them. Since their involvement in rural projects has reduced, their quality of life is negatively affected. Development measures in the community do not take into consideration the engagement of adult since they have no control over key project decisions. The consequences of this poor support of community-driven projects are socio-economic disempowerment and non- strengthening of community governance.

Civic engagement refers to the process whereby citizens participate in the governance of their political entity (Adler & Goggin, 2011). Ehrlich (2000) sees it from a moral perspective, as a duty of an individual to be a contributory member of his/her society. In his words, a morally and civically responsible individual recognizes himself or herself as a member of a larger social fabric and therefore considers social problems to be at least partly his or her own; such an individual is willing to see the moral and civic dimensions of issues, to make and justify informed moral and civic judgments, and to take action when appropriate.

“Civic engagement [is] an individual’s duty to embrace the responsibilities of citizenship with the obligation to actively participate, alone or in concert with others, in volunteer service activities that strengthen the local community” (Diller, 2001).

In other words, civic engagement has many elements, but in its most basic sense it is about decision making, or governance over who, how, and by whom a community's resources will be allocated. The principle of civic engagement underscores the most basic principle of democratic governance, i.e. that sovereignty resides ultimately in the people (the citizenry). It is defined here as “individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern.

In the case of Nigeria, such political entity could refer to the federation, a state or a local government. At whatever level of governance, civic engagement ensures that citizens are carried along in the governing process community development. This term civic engagement in past few years, involved a new movement to promote greater civic engagement by older adults but nowadays it has been used primarily in the context of younger people. Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.

Discussing civic engagement’s intrinsic tie with democracy, Adler and Goggin (2011) note that it denotes civic cooperation in an atmosphere of equal rights. They maintain that civic engagement is about the right of the people to define the public good, determine the policies by which they will seek the good, and reform or replace institutions that do not serve that good.

Civic engagement has an interrelated relationship within the various entities of the state. Through the values, knowledge, liberties, skills, ideas, attitudes and beliefs the population holds, civic engagement cultivates and shapes the state to be a representation of vast cultural, social, and economic identities.

Civic engagement applied within the state is not possible without local civic engagement. As in a democratic society, citizens are the source to give life to a representative democracy. Application of this principle can be found within programs and laws that states have implemented based in a variety of areas concerns for that particular state. Health, education, equality, immigration are a few examples of entities that civic engagement can shape within a state.

Hope and Jagers in 2014 studied civic engagement among Black youth using data acquired from the Youth Culture Survey from the Black Youth Project. The assumption is that Black youth who experience racial discrimination are fueled to be aware and participate in politics (Hope, Elan, & Jagers, 2014).

Another study described the effect of the association of development and environmental factors among a group of at-risk youth such as African-Americans and Latino participants who come from low-income families that dwell in inner-city neighborhoods. Their research resulted in variations according to their participants as the racial minority youth were motivated and had aspiring goals for their futures due to early participation in civic engagement activities, but there was no sufficient evidence that this type of mindset will follow them into their adulthood (Chan, Wing, Suh-RuuOu, and Arthur, 2014).

Shah writes that Putnam found that the more TV a person watches, the less they are active in outside activities. This is shown with the rise of TV in the 60s and the fall of civic engagements. They found that though news and educational programming can actually aide in a citizen's knowledge, but the lack of engaging in outside activities and social events hurts civic engagement in general (Shah, 2000).

Bowman’s (2011) meta-analysis examined the relationship of collegiate diversity experiences and civic engagement, specifically leadership skills and civic action. Bowman (2011) investigated whether a relationship between college diversity experiences and civic engagement exists, if there is variation across studies, and what study characteristics, such as type of civic outcome or type of diversity experience, are associated with the magnitude of this proposed relationship. For the meta-analysis 27 studies were included in the sample. Bowman found diversity experiences are related to increased civic engagement. These diversity experiences were specifically related to civic skills, attitudes, and behaviors as well as a variety of diversity experiences. Interpersonal interactions with racial diversity appear to have the strongest relationship with promoting civic engagement. The relationship between diversity experiences and civic engagement did vary based on the type of civic outcome. Diversity experiences have a stronger relationship with civic outcomes when those civic outcomes are diversity related.

Interestingly, the concept of defensive pessimism would be correlated with civic engagement to examine if there is an influence of the former on the later. Defensive pessimism is a cognitive strategy that anxious individuals use in the face of challenging situations (Norem, 2001). The defensive pessimists think of all possible negative outcomes, sets low expectations and plans through the potential bad outcomes. This bracing against the impact of impending failure by dwelling on the possibility of lack of success helps them gain control over their anxiety and mobilizes them for the desired goal as explained by Norem and Cantor in 1986. Indeed, a range of laboratory studies have demonstrated that people who expect the worst do not underperform relative to their optimistic counterparts. Expecting to receive a bad grade on an exam or a low score in a laboratory task does not actually lead to low scores (Golub, 2004) and this is applied in every situation in a man’s life. Studies have linked pessimism to depression (Fernadez-Abascal, Martin-Dias & Molina, 2018), suicide (Mukamal, Wee, & Miller, 2008), poor coping and physical illness (Scheier and Carver, 2010). A defensive pessimist, despite of a history of good performance in the past in a specific domain calculates the possibility of negative outcomes in the face of difficult situation. The dissipation hypothesis suggests that “negative reflections” are essential for the defensive pessimists to be able to remove potential distraction during performance, and concentrate on the task at hand. Perry and Skitka (2009) found that women high on defensive pessimism performed better on the mathematics test under conditions of high stereotype threat than the low stereotype threat. These participants showed a decreased anxiety on psycho-physiological measures when they were allowed to prepare for the worst compared to when they were distracted and therefore unable to ruminate.

          However, one particular line of research has challenged established, prevailing notions of optimism and pessimism: research conducted on what has been termed “defensive pessimism” (Norem, 2000, 2001). Defensive pessimism is a coping strategy used by certain individuals in preparation for important situations that hold the potential for either success or failure. Defensive pessimists set low expectations for themselves in such situations in order to both motivate themselves to work hard to prevent failure and to protect themselves from undue distress should failure actually occur. Perhaps the classic example of a defensive pessimist is a farmer who convinces himself that he will not have what to cultivates in the next farming season in order to motivate him to cultivate harder and to cushion the negative emotions lack of seed may cause. Unlike realistic pessimists, whose negative expectations are justified by poor past performance, defensive pessimists are individuals who have previously performed well in similar situations. The defensively pessimistic student has usually received high marks on examinations; her negative expectations are not based on prior experience, but rather adopted for motivational and protective purposes. These findings were established by Norem and Cantor in 1986 when they were investigating the influence of defensive pessimism on academic performance.

The strategy of defensive pessimism is often contrasted with that of strategic optimism. Quite contrary to defensive pessimists, strategic optimists are people who motivate themselves to expect positive outcomes in similar self-relevant situations: a student who convinces herself she will do well on an upcoming exam and who does not think about the chance that she may receive a low grade (Norem & Cantor, 2001). What is unusual about research on defensive pessimism is that it represents the first time a type of pessimism has been deemed adaptive and beneficial for those who employ it (Norem, 2001). Firstly, defensive pessimism does not appear to hamper an individual’s performance. In a range of both laboratory tasks and academic situations or in a natural situation, defensive pessimists have been found to perform quite well despite their negative expectations, perhaps due to the motivational aspects of their preferred strategy (Norem, 2008). Moreover, strategic optimists do not outperform defensive pessimists on any of these tasks. Finally, when defensive pessimists are forced to abandon their negative expectations and think optimistically, their performance suffers. It seems tempting to conclude, then, that modern research has identified a form of pessimism that challenges the widely-accepted notion that pessimism is bad and optimism is good: defensive pessimism appears to be a positive, adaptive, and effective sub-set of pessimism. However, from the researches done by Cantor and others on defensive pessimism in academic situations, one may suggest that the defensive pessimists despite their negative expectations would be more likely to be civically engaged in the community so as to reduce their fears and negative expectations in the community. Although there is no empirical evidence to back this up, this research is interested in determining the possibility of significant difference between defensive pessimism and civic engagement among the rural dwellers.

Furthermore, the curiosity on the concept of assertiveness on both psychological and social variables is in increase. Questions like, how does assertive individual behave in the community? Do they contribute to the community growth and development actually? And other rhetorical questions have been asked among youths and members of communities. However, this research is also interested in determining if assertiveness has influence on civic engagement among rural dwellers.

          Assertiveness is defined as behavior that enables one to “stand up” for one’s rights without infringing on the rights of others (Gorman, Raines, & Sultan, 2002). It can be used as an instrument for initiating and maintaining socially supportive relationships and hence enjoying better emotional wellbeing (Eskin, 2003).  Alberti and Emmons in 1970 added that assertive individuals are capable of acting in their own best interest without experiencing excessive anxiety or disregarding the rights of others. Conversely, non-assertiveness is said to be characterized by communicating one’s viewpoints and feelings in such an over-apologetic

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