Sociology ETDs

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This investigation explores and evaluates several causal models specifying alternative causal relations among a set of temporally ambiguous social variables. Using the method of path analysis and employing current techniques used in the evaluation of such models, several alternative causal models are estimated and evaluated in order to ascertain a pattern of causal relations among the variables which provides the best fit to the data. The study presents four ordinal path analyses of survey data analyzed in a previous Master's thesis (McBride, 1972). Following McBride's theoretical argument, which specifies subjectively experienced feelings of alienation among undergraduate students as a cause of their ideological dissent, path model I is empirically rejected as untenable. Alternative path models II and III, arguing a theoretical reversal in the causal sequence between these two variables, are found to be equally competitive in their compliance with the data. While the fit that the two alternative path models provide are identical in almost every respect, their recursive treatments of the causal relations between the two variables of religious defection and ideological dissent represent opposing theoretical arguments. In order to resolve the problem, a theoretical solution is offered in the form of yet another alternative causal model. Alternative path model IV, a reciprocal causal model specifying that religious defection among university students is just as likely to be a consequence of ideological dissent as ideological dissent is to be a cause of students' defection from institutionalized religion, seems to afford a more realistic, though complex, interpretation of the data as well as providing the best fit. The problems explored in this investigation point to a need for more sophisticated causal modeling techniques for estimating and evaluating the increasingly complex theoretical approaches to causal relations that are continuously emerging in contemporary sociology.

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Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Harold Charles Meier

Second Committee Member


Third Committee Member

Dodd Harvey Bogart



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Sociology Commons