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Psychosocial development in college students: A cross-sectional comparison between athletes and non-athletes

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Sarah Skopek Kohlstedt
Abstract:
Empirical research findings suggest that the college environment promotes intellectual advancement and occupational preparation, as well as the development of psychosocial strengths such as self-awareness, interpersonal skills, morality, and general health and well-being (Arnett, 2000; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). However, all students do not experience college in this same way, nor do they all reap the same benefits (King, 1994; Montgomery & Côté, 2003). For example, college student-athletes must manage the developmental challenges and stressors that all college students face, in addition to those imposed by the requirements and expectations of their athletic departments, coaches, teammates, and the NCAA. Although sport participation has the potential to promote the development of psychosocial skills (Potuto, 2007; Wright & Côté, 2003), evidence suggests that Division I intercollegiate athletic competition may interfere with students' adjustment to college (Downey, 2005), and with their transition out of college (Martens & Cox, 2000). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine differences in psychosocial development between varsity student-athletes ( n = 235) and non-athlete students (n =154) enrolled at Division I universities; post-hoc, recreational student-athletes (n = 59) were included as a third comparison group. Male (n = 195) and female (n = 253) freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors (N = 448) responded to measures of demographic information, psychosocial skills, athletic identity, parental and peer attachment, hyper-competitiveness, and depressive symptoms. MANOVA results indicated small to moderate, statistically significant differences in the reported-psychosocial skills of varsity student-athletes, recreational student-athletes, and nonathlete students ( F (12, 864) = 13.50, p < .001, η 2 = .158). Specifically, compared to non-athlete students, recreational student-athletes reported greater problem-solving (F (2, 436) = 3.76, p = .024, η2 = .017); varsity and recreational student-athletes reported greater health maintenance ( F (2, 436) = 44.76, p < .001, η2 = .170) and greater hyper-competitiveness (F (2, 436) = 15.09, p < .001, η2 = .065); and varsity and recreational student-athletes reported fewer depressive symptoms (F (2, 436) = 6.41, p = .002, η2 = .029). Findings are discussed in the context of participants' athletic identity, race, gender, and parental and peer attachment patterns. Theoretical approaches to college students' psychosocial development are also addressed.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ABSTRACT

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ii

A CKNOWLEDGEMENTS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . iv

LIST OF TABLES

. . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . viii

Chapter

1.

INTRODUCTION

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Theories of Psychosocial Developmen t . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . 2

Psychosocial Development A mong College Students . . . . .

. . . . . . . 8

The College Student - Athlete Experience . . . . . . . . . .

.

.

. . . . . 16

Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . 25

Purpose . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

.

. .

. . . . 25

Hypotheses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . 27

2.

METHOD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. .

. . .

. . 29

Study Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

Participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . .

. .

. . 29

Instrumentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . 29

Procedure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . .

. 35

3.

RESULTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . 38

Relationships Among Variables . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . .

38

Group Comparisons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . 42

Regression Analyses

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57

Post - h oc Analyses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . 58

vii

Exploratory Analyses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . 61

4.

DISCUSSION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . 68

Relationships A mong Variables . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . 69

Group Comparisons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . 70

Predicting Psychosocial Outcomes . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . 77

Participation in Athletic or Other Extra - curricular Activi ties . . . . .

. . . . 78

Cross - sectional Class Year Comparison . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79

Limitations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. .

. . . . . . 81

Implications and Future Directions . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . 82

Appendix

A.

RECRUITMENT COMMUNICATION WITH ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT COACHES

. . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88

B.

RECRUITMENT COMMUNICATION WITH ACADEMIC DEPARTMENT PROFESSORS

. . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90

C.

RECRUITMENT CO MMUNICATION VIA E - MAIL AND ELECTRONIC ADVERTISEMENT

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92

D.

COVER SHEET

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. .

. . . 94

E.

INFORMED CONSENT

. . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . .

95

F.

DEMOGRAPHIC QU ESTIONNAIRE

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . 97

G.

LIFE SKILLS DEVELOPMEN T INVEN TORY –

COLLEGE FORM

. . . . . 99

H.

AT HLETIC IDENTITY MEASUREMENT SCALE

. . .

.

. . . . .

. . .

107

I.

THE INVENTOR Y OF PARENT AND PEER ATTACHMENT

. . . . . . . 108

J.

THE HYPERCOMPETI TIVE ATTITUDE SCALE

. .

. . . . . . . . . . 116

K.

CENTER FOR EPIDEMIOLOGIC STUDIES DEPRESSION SCALE

. . .

. 119

REFERENCES

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. .

121

viii

LIST OF TABLES

1. Eri kson’s (1968) Stages of Psychosocial Developmen t . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . 4

2. Chickering and Reisser’s (1993) Seven Vectors of College Student

Psychosocial

Development . .

. . . .

. . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

3. Descriptive Data for Study Measures . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . 39

4. Sample Demo graphic Characteristics

. . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . 40

5. Sample Demographic Characteristi cs by Sport . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . 41

6. Pearson - Product M oment Correlations

. . . . . . . . .

. . . .

. . . . . . . . . 43

7. Pearson - Product M oment Correlations

. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

8. Psychosocial Comparison by Class Y ear

. . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . .

. . . . . 46

9. Psychosocial Compa rison by Athletic Status . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . 49

10. Psychosocial Comparison by Pa rental

and Peer Attachment . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56

11. Frequency of Secur e Attachment by Athletic Status . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59

12. Frequency of Parental Marital Status an d Income by Athl etic Status . . . . . . . . . 60

13. Psychosocial Correlates of Academic Ac hievement . . . . .

. . . . . . . .

. . . 63

14. Academic Achievemen t Comparison by Athletic Status

. . . . . . . .

. .

. . . . 65

15. Psychosocial Comparison by Activity Type

and Time

. . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . 67

1

CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTION

American colleges and universities focus on students’ educational advancement and occupational preparation, but college life also presents students with many opportunities for personal growth (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Several theorists have claimed that college is a time for students to explore and develop psychosocial strengths s uch as self - awareness, interpersonal skills, morality, and general health and well - being (Arnett, 2000; Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Medalie, 1981). However, students experience college in different ways, and the college environment has different effects on

students’ development (King, 1994; Montgomery & Côté, 2003; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005).

Several studies have indicated that student - athletes are one group that may struggle with various aspects of their development as a result of their unique college e xperience. For instance, Blann (1985) compared athletes and non - athletes, upperclassmen and underclassmen, and found that among males, upperclassmen and non - athlete students reported significantly greater educational and career development than underclassm en and student - athletes, respectively. More recently, Downey (2005) found that compared to non - athlete freshmen, Division I freshmen student - athletes were significantly less committed to earning an undergraduate degree. Furthermore, during their first seme ster, freshmen student - athletes reported a decline in their academic and personal - emotional adjustment compared to increased adjustment reported among their non - athle te counterparts (Downey, 2005).

2

While the majority of studies that indicate developmental delays or deficits among college student - athletes have focused on academic or career - related outcomes, Downey’s study is one of an emerging body of research that addresses psychosocial outcomes as well. Still, no known studies have examined or compared psy chosocial “ development ”

(i.e., positive change over several years) among college student - athletes and non - athlete college students. Given that psychosocial development is one of the primary tasks facing college students, this represents a significant gap i n the current knowledge.

Therefore, the current investigation was designed to contribute to the existing literature by (a) focusing on psychosocial outcomes including, but not limited to: communication skill, problem - solving, health maintenance, and ident ity development, and (b) aiming to address the issue of “development” through a cross - sectional comparison that included male and female college student - athletes and non - athlete college students who were freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors of variou s racial backgrounds. The researcher also designed this investigation with the intent to inform the work of mental health practitioners by identifying specific psychosocial strengths and challenges that are most salient for college students, depending, in particular, on their athletic status, athletic identity, and class year.

In order to provide a basis for understanding the motivation behind this investigation, the following literature review addresses the current knowledge base regarding the experiences of college students and college student - athletes, including: (a) theories of psychosocial development, (b) psychosocial development of students during their college years, and (c) the college student - athlete experience.

Theories of Psychosocial Developmen t

Medalie (1981) and Chickering and Reisser (1993) each offer a compelling framework for the specific processes and tasks that are essential for adolescents and young adults

to achieve

3

an age - appropriate level of psychosocial skill. In addition, Medalie ’s (1981) “mini - life cycle” and

Chickering and Reisser’s (1993) “seven vectors of psycosocial development” each propose that

students work through various psychosocial tasks during their college years and achieve a sense of identity and/or purpose toward s the end of their undergraduate careers. In a slightly different vein, Arnett’s (2000) contemporary theory of “emerging adulthood” suggests that throughout college, students remain in a period of self - exploration, and may not have an established sense of identity until later in their 20s. While the tenets of Chickering and Reisser’s theory provided the basis for the current hypotheses that self - reported psychosocial skills would be greater among students at each consecutive year, Medalie’s (1981) and Arnet t’s (2000) theories provide additional context as other paradigms, one older and one more recent, which have guided research in this field.

Medalie’s Mini - Life Cycle

Medalie (1981) describes the college environment as a socially sanctioned place where st udents learn about their interests, enjoy intellectual stimulation, test out their identities, and experiment with relationships. Similar to Erikson’s stages (1968) (see Table 1 for a summary), Medalie’s series of psychosocial tasks is based on the assumpt ion that during freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior year, students face a different, central developmental issue that is relevant to the needs and transitions associated with that class year. Specifically, the freshman’s task is to divest childhood ties

and to invest in college life; the sophomore’s task is to consolidate separation and choose interests and goals; the junior’s task is to master and commit to educational work; and, the senior’s task is to anticipate and prepare for his/her future after co llege. According to Medalie, if students fail to accomplish each task in a sequential and timely manner, they become vulnerable to maladaptive coping styles that can interfere with future psychosocial

development. If students are successful, however, thei r social and intellectual experiments during

4

college should lead to specific, established interests; and, further investment in those interests should then lead students to feel committed, satisfied, and purposeful in their personal and professional lives.

Table 1.

Eri kson’s (196 8) Stages of Psychosocial Development

Stage

Conflict

Infancy

Trust vs. Mistrust

Early Childhood

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Preschool

Initiative vs. Guilt

School Age

Industry vs. Inferiority

Adolescence

Identity vs. Role Co nfusion

Young Adulthood

Intimacy vs. Isolation

Middle Adulthood

Generativity vs. Stagnation

Maturity

Ego Integrity vs. Despair

Medalie’s theory provides a linear stage model for college - students’ psychosocial development. While it suggests some fluid ity across tasks, her model maintains a temporal structure based on the premise that if a student has not successfully accomplished the task of one year, the student cannot effectively address the task of a later year. Chickering and Reisser’s (1993) theor y also proposes specific processes by which college students develop psychosocial skills, but in contrast to Medalie, their theory posits that development can occur in more dynamic and variable ways.

Chickering and Reisser’s Seven Vectors

of Psychosoc ial Development

Chickering and Reisser’s (1993) theory of college - student development proposes seven focal areas, or “vectors”: (a) developing competence, (b) managing emotions, (c) moving through

5

autonomy toward interdependence, (d) developing mature int erpersonal relationships, (e) establishing identity, (f) developing purpose, and (g) developing integrity (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; see Table 2 for a description). This theory shares Medalie’s focus on several psychosocial skills or tasks, but each task

is not tied to a specific year of college. Rather, Chickering and Reisser conceptualize the first four vectors as specific processes that contribute to the core developmental task for all college students –

establishing identity. As a student develops a m ore cohesive sense of him/herself, s/he gradually develops personal purpose and integrity as well. Accordingly, development within the first four vectors may occur in different combinations, and at different rates and times. However, the theory does presum e that during college students’ undergraduate careers, they should achieve positive change, gaining awareness, skill, and confidence, as well as a more integrated sense of oneself and one’s purpose.

Arnett’s Theory of Emerging Adulthood

In contrast, Arne tt’s (2000) recent conceptualization of emerging adulthood suggests that psychosocial gains (in particular, identity development), are not necessarily achieved by the time students graduate from college. He describes emerging adulthood as a distinct develo pmental period of life –

an age of possibilities, self - exploration, and instability (Arnett, 2007). Arnett highlights the fact that in industrialized nations, normative expectations for post - graduate

events such as employment, marriage , and parenthood have

become more variable, and that young adults tend to reach these milestones in their later 20s and older ( Schwartz, Côté ,

&

Arnett, 2005 ).

Thus, college students are often free and encouraged to continue exploring themselves and their seemingly infinite po ssibilities. Arnett suggests that, as a result, is it likely that college students will not have resolved major psychosocial decisions regarding their roles in work, love, and life by the time they complete their undergraduate careers (Arnett, 2000). Furth ermore, for some students, the increased freedom comes with increased

anxiety about the future

(Arnett, 2007) .

6

Table 2.

Chickering and Reisser’s (1993) Seven Vectors of College Student Psychosocial Development

Vector

Description

Developing Competence

Includes intellectual, physical, and interpersonal competence. Intellectual competence refers to skill and sophistication wit h comprehending, analyzing, and synthesizing information, as well as the ability to take multiple perspectives regarding one’s obse rvations and experiences. Physical competence refers to athletic and artistic achievement that may reflect strength, creativity, and self - discipline. Interpersonal competence refers to skill in listening, cooperating, and communicating, as well as in negot iating roles and goals in a group setting .

Managing Emotions

A process of increasing awareness of one’s range of emotional experiences. It involves the ability to find an appropriate bal ance between expression and control of positive and negative feeling s in a way that shows respect to the self and others.

Moving through Autonomy towards Interdependence

Involves emotional and instrumental independence, as well as recognition and acceptance of interdependence. This means becomi ng more self - sufficient, feeling free from needs for reassurance and approval, standing by convictions, translating ideas to focused action, and self - directing, all while revising and developing reciprocal relationships among family, peers, community, society and the world .

Deve loping Mature Interpersonal Relationships

Involves tolerance and appreciation of differences as well as the capacity for intimacy. Tolerance should be seen in intercul tural and interpersonal contexts, evidenced by increased openness, curiosity, and empath y, and decreased bias and ethnocentrism. The capacity of healthy intimacy should be seen in the choice of committed relationships based on honesty, responsiveness, unconditional regard, and interdependence.

Establishing Identity

A process of discovering comfort with one’s body, appearance, gender and sexual orientation, a sense of self in multiple contexts, a self - concept based on one’s roles and lifestyle, self - acceptance and self - esteem, and personal stability and integration. The process may involve re flecting on one’s family of origin, race and ethnicity, religious or cultural traditions, and the self within a social and historical context in order to uncover genuine expressions of the self that promote self - definition.

Developing Purpose

Entails th e ability to integrate priorities and to exercise intentional action regarding vocational aspirations, personal interests, an d family commitments. Clear values assist in the process of making decisions and compromises.

Developing Integrity

Involves three

sequential but overlapping stages: humanizing values, personalizing values, and developing congruence. These stages refer to a shift away from rigid and toward relativistic thinking, the adoption of flexible guidelines that suit one’s personal lifestyle, and the achievement of behavior that is consistent with one’s personal values.

7

Chickering and Reisser’s (1993) model of college student development was chosen as the theoretical basis for the current investigation because it posits that the college years

are a time of complex developmental transition (King, 1994; Thomas & Kuh, 1982), rather than a series of definitive stages, as suggested by Medalie’s (1981) temporally - framed model. Because Chickering and Reisser’s (1993) seven vector model grants more fl exibility than Medalie’s

Full document contains 144 pages
Abstract: Empirical research findings suggest that the college environment promotes intellectual advancement and occupational preparation, as well as the development of psychosocial strengths such as self-awareness, interpersonal skills, morality, and general health and well-being (Arnett, 2000; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). However, all students do not experience college in this same way, nor do they all reap the same benefits (King, 1994; Montgomery & Côté, 2003). For example, college student-athletes must manage the developmental challenges and stressors that all college students face, in addition to those imposed by the requirements and expectations of their athletic departments, coaches, teammates, and the NCAA. Although sport participation has the potential to promote the development of psychosocial skills (Potuto, 2007; Wright & Côté, 2003), evidence suggests that Division I intercollegiate athletic competition may interfere with students' adjustment to college (Downey, 2005), and with their transition out of college (Martens & Cox, 2000). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine differences in psychosocial development between varsity student-athletes ( n = 235) and non-athlete students (n =154) enrolled at Division I universities; post-hoc, recreational student-athletes (n = 59) were included as a third comparison group. Male (n = 195) and female (n = 253) freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors (N = 448) responded to measures of demographic information, psychosocial skills, athletic identity, parental and peer attachment, hyper-competitiveness, and depressive symptoms. MANOVA results indicated small to moderate, statistically significant differences in the reported-psychosocial skills of varsity student-athletes, recreational student-athletes, and nonathlete students ( F (12, 864) = 13.50, p < .001, η 2 = .158). Specifically, compared to non-athlete students, recreational student-athletes reported greater problem-solving (F (2, 436) = 3.76, p = .024, η2 = .017); varsity and recreational student-athletes reported greater health maintenance ( F (2, 436) = 44.76, p < .001, η2 = .170) and greater hyper-competitiveness (F (2, 436) = 15.09, p < .001, η2 = .065); and varsity and recreational student-athletes reported fewer depressive symptoms (F (2, 436) = 6.41, p = .002, η2 = .029). Findings are discussed in the context of participants' athletic identity, race, gender, and parental and peer attachment patterns. Theoretical approaches to college students' psychosocial development are also addressed.