Personal construals of nonviolence and developmental stages of belief systems: A repertory grid analysis

Ketrin Saud, Fordham University


This study examined whether personal construals of nonviolence differed systematically according to psychological development. The study sought to augment the sparse theoretical and empirical psychological literature on nonviolence by examining how individuals construe nonviolence. The study drew upon Kool's (1993) theoretical propositions about the psychological nature of nonviolence and utilized Kelly's (1955) Personal Construct Theory (PCT) and Harvey's (1985, 1986) Belief Systems Theory (BST) to examine individuals' idiosyncratic “theories” about nonviolence. BST, a developmental theory of personality based on the theoretical work of Kelly and derived from Conceptual Systems Theory (CST) (Harvey, Hunt, & Schroder, 1961) provided a developmental framework to examine systematic differences in the content and structure of individual systems of construal pertaining to dimensions of nonviolence. The participants in the study were 70 adults who were enrolled in, or had completed, graduate degree programs in diverse fields of study. Participants completed the “This I Believe” test (Harvey, 1964, 1965), a sentence completion instrument constructed for the purpose of measuring conceptual system functioning, and a Repertory Grid (RepGrid). The RepGrid is the methodological component of PCT and it was used in this study to elicit and examine the interlinking system of constructs individuals use in their personal, informal theories about nonviolence. By considering the construct scores of the quantitative measures derived from the RepGrid, the thematic content of the clustered patterns of each individual RepGrid was qualitatively analyzed to determine whether the clustered patterns reflected the developmental variations described by BST. A chi-square analysis was then performed to determine whether individuals' system classifications on the RepGrid converged with individuals' system classifications on the TIB. The structural features of the personal theories of nonviolence were also analyzed by examining the patterns of structural scores derived from the RepGrid, structural scores that the literature in PCT suggests denote conceptual complexity, differentiation, and integration. The directional distribution of the structural scores was examined through ANOVAs to determine whether the pattern was consistent with the developmental notions of BST. Results of this study suggest that there is no “monolithic” way of construing nonviolence. The findings indicate that individuals' theories of nonviolence varied according to developmental differences in complexity, dimensionality, differentiation, integration, and independence-interdependence. Findings of this study have implications for psychologists, human-relations trainers, and educators interested in developing peacemaking and conflict resolution programs.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Saud, Ketrin, "Personal construals of nonviolence and developmental stages of belief systems: A repertory grid analysis" (2001). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3021712.