Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2018

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Hitlin, Steven

First Committee Member

Glanville, Jennifer

Second Committee Member

Lynn, Freda

Third Committee Member

Harkness, Sarah

Fourth Committee Member

Neel, Rebecca


Grit, the concept consisting of perseverance and passion towards a desired long-term goal, has been spotlighted as a key psychological resource that is predictive of positive life outcomes including academic achievement, professional success and subjective well-being. Despite its popularity within and outside of academia, much more needs to be researched before we can understand its properties and sociological utility.

This dissertation explores the potential location of grit within various sociological discourses, including literature on agency, stratification, and perceived meritocracy. In addition, I explore the relationship between social status, subjective agency, the social valuation of grit, and grit cross-culturally to place grit within proper cultural and structural contexts. In Chapter 2, I propose the psychological notion of grit as a potentially useful variable in sociological analysis and explore its potential for contributing to addressing sociological concerns including human agency and stratification. Grit could work as a “behavioral engine” transforming subjective beliefs about agency (e.g., sense of control) to agentic practices that potentially produce better life outcomes.

In Chapter 3, using new cross-cultural data collected from South Korea and the United States, I test the current measure of grit, the Grit-S scale, that is developed and predominantly tested in the United States, in two different countries, South Korea and the United States. I find in both countries grit is better understood as the concept consisting of two separate dimensions, perseverance and passion, rather than a global concept. In addition, I find the perseverance facet of grit, but not the passion facet, shows the distinctive utility in explaining subjective well-being beyond subjective agency (i.e., sense of control) in both countries.

In Chapter 4, I analyze novel cross-cultural data collected from four nations (France, South Korea, Turkey and the United States) and find an indirect linkage between a person’s socioeconomic status and the level of grit through positive associations with the sense of control. That is, people with a higher socioeconomic status tend to hold stronger beliefs about one’s agency, and those who are strong believers in one’s control over life outcomes, in turn, are more likely to develop grit in these four countries.

In Chapter 5, using the same cross-cultural data used in Chapter 3, I investigate the social valuation of grit and whether and how the valuation of grit is associated with individual development of grit in South Korea and the United States. In both countries, grit is valued as a desirable virtue that leads to success in life. However, there is within-society variance: people from lower social statuses tend to value grit as a virtue that leads to success more than those from higher statuses in both country samples. In addition, I find people with a higher sense of control are more likely to value grit as a virtue, and valuing grit is positively associated with the individual development of perseverance in both countries.


Agency, Cross-cultural approach, Grit, Stratification


ix, 126 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 118-126).


Copyright © 2018 Hye Won Kwon

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