Original Research

The implications of sex role identity and psychological capital for organisations: A South African study

Colleen Bernstein, Sara Volpe
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 42, No 1 | a1311 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v42i1.1311 | © 2016 Colleen Bernstein, Sara Volpe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 September 2015 | Published: 16 September 2016

About the author(s)

Colleen Bernstein, Department of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Sara Volpe, Department of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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Orientation: A large body of research evidence indicates that both sex role identity (SRI) and psychological capital (PsyCap) may have critical implications for individual and organisational well-being. As SRI is constituted of sex-based personality traits it is possible that SRI may have implications for individuals’ PsyCap.

Research purpose: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between SRI and the positive psychological construct of PsyCap.

Motivation for the study: Research on SRI and PsyCap has been explored independently of one another with a lack of research exploring the relationship between these two constructs. In addition, much of the previous research on SRI and organisational outcomes has only examined positive sex role identities, focusing almost exclusively on ‘positive’ or ‘socially desirable’ sex role identities. More recently, researchers have noted that this approach is theoretically and methodologically flawed, as it fails to account for negative traits or socially undesirable traits that may be contained within individuals’ SRI and which may have a number of deleterious implications for organisational outcome variables. Furthermore, there is a paucity of research within the South African context, which explores the adoption of positive and negative sexbased behavioural traits and their implications for PsyCap.

Research design, approach and method: A quantitative study was conducted using a crosssectional design and a convenience sampling method to explore the relationship between SRI and PsyCap. Four hundred and seventy-eight respondents, all currently working in South African organisations, participated in this research. The composite questionnaire utilised for this research included a demographic questionnaire, The Extended Personal Attribute Questionnaire-Revised (EPAQ-R), and the PCQ-24 which measures PsyCap in terms of self-efficacy, hope, resilience and optimism.

Main findings: Statistically significant differences were found between the positive and negative SRIs for levels of PsyCap. In particular, positive androgyny and positive masculinity scored the highest levels of PsyCap, whereas negative androgyny and negative femininity consistently scored the lowest levels. Although positive femininity fared significantly better than the aforementioned negative identities in most instances, this identity scored significantly lower levels on the positive PsyCap outcomes of hope and resilience, than the other positive identities of positive androgyny and positive masculinity. Furthermore, and counterintuitively, within this South African study, negative masculinity fared unexpectedly better on all dimensions of PsyCap, as compared to the poorer outcomes for negative masculinity evidenced in other international research.

Practical/managerial implications: Given the pervasive impact of SRIs and PsyCap on interpersonal and organisational functioning, this research has practical and managerial implications for organisations with regard to recruitment, selection, training and development, and workplace counselling interventions.

Contribution/value-add: The findings of this research contribute to the paucity of literature investigating both positive and negative SRIs and contribute further by exploring the interrelationship between these identities and PsyCap. As this study utilised a sample of individuals working in South Africa, its findings have a direct bearing on South African organisations.


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