The Role of Trajectories of Social Support and Perceived Stress in Underrepresented College Students' Academic Achievements

Wittrup, Audrey, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hurd, Noelle, AS-Psychology, University of Virginia

Adopting a longitudinal latent profile approach, the core research objective of this dissertation was to examine the impact of trajectories of perceived stress and social support from parents, friends, romantic partners, and natural mentors throughout underrepresented students’ college careers on their subsequent educational success. Participants were drawn from an existing study of underrepresented students attending a public, predominantly White institution (n = 340) and were surveyed during the fall and spring of their first year and again in the spring of their second, third, and fourth years of college. The outcomes of interest (i.e., on-time graduation, pursuing career goals, and goal-setting skills) were self-reported during the fifth wave of data collection. I measured social support and perceived stress across all time points, and longitudinal latent profiles were estimated based on fluctuations in both variables over time. Three latent profiles of social support and perceived stress emerged: Early Stress Spike, Late Support Increase, and Decreasing Social Support. Results suggested that participants in the Decreasing Social Support group contained the fewest on-time graduating students, and students in this profile were less likely to pursue career goals than the Late Support Increase group. Interpretation of these findings is provided and areas for future inquiry are discussed.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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