Communication Studies, Department of


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Bejerano, A.R. (2014). An Examination Of The Role Of Social Support, Coping Strategies, and Individual Characteristics In Students’ Adaptation To College. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska—Lincoln). Retrieved from


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Communication Studies, Under the Supervision of Professor William J. Seiler. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Arleen R. Bejerano


Adaptation, or adjustment, is a psycho-social process that occurs when an individual accepts and integrates into his or her life a transition from one situation to another situation (Schlossberg, 1981). Many individuals struggle with transitions because transitions involve changes in the environment, roles, routines, and/or ways of looking at the world. The present investigation examines the transition from high school to college, and explores the interpersonal and individual ways that students manage the changes accompanying this transition. Using Transition Theory as a framework, students’ social support networks, coping strategies, self-esteem, and depression are posited to influence students’ adaptation to college through educational commitment.

197 students took part in the study by completing an online survey. Students answered questions about their communication with peers, family, and teachers, the coping strategies they employed during the transition, their level of self-esteem, their level of depression, their degree of educational commitment, their extent of adjustment, and questions pertaining to demographic information. A path analysis examined the relationships under investigation.

The results of the present study revealed that self-esteem was the strongest predictor of students’ adjustment, followed by depression, educational commitment, teacher support, peer support, and family support. While previous studies have not explored the role of educational commitment in the adaptation process, the findings revealed mediation effects. In particular, educational commitment mediated the effects of peer support, family support, teacher support, and self-esteem on students’ adaptation. Contrary to the hypothesis, students’ coping strategies were not significant predictors of students’ adaptation to college.

Together, the findings indicate that adaptation is not just a process that happens psychologically within students, but rather adjustment is also a social process that occurs between individuals. Overall, the present study extends the current literature on the transition and adaptation process by clearly identifying and comparing the effects of individual-level variables and interpersonal variables, and by introducing a mediator variable that captures new relationships in the adaptation process.

Advisor: William J. Seiler