Privacy Regulation and College Adjustment: A Comparison of American and Turkish Freshmen Living in Residence Halls

Article excerpt

This study examines the ways in which freshmen regulate their privacy via contact-seeking and contact-avoiding behaviors in residence halls. The survey was conducted at an American university in the Midwest (n=200) and at a Turkish university in Ankara, Turkey (n=208). The results revealed that students who can regulate their privacy display better adjustment to college life. The use of passive contact-seeking behaviors was common for the American students. The perceived degree of individual adjustment suggests that American university setting may not be well-suited to serving students' social needs. Turkish students appear to develop much more favorable social networks and they seem to accomplish this via more proactive social behaviors. Practical applications of the findings are discussed and future research areas are also identified.

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Privacy regulation is an optimizing process in which individuals are motivated to achieve their desired levels of privacy (Altman, 1975). Although the desire for privacy varies from one situation to another, it appears that some cultures have a stronger preference for privacy and more privacy needs and gradients than others (Altman and Chemers, 1980). Hall (1966) proposes cultures as contact and non-contact. The contact culture is composed of individuals (e.g., Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Hispanic) who interact more closely with one another than individuals of the non-contact culture (e.g., Northern European, North American). Hall (1966) uses the term American to refer to the dominant non-contact group of Americans of Northern European ancestry. According to Hall's classification of cultures, individuals from contact cultures who prefer closer social interaction would have less privacy needs than non-contact cultures.

The privacy regulation model proposed by Altman (1975) defines privacy as a dialectic process that involves both the opening and closing of the self to others. When an individual's achieved privacy equals what he/she desires, an optimum state of privacy occurs. The individual experiences a sense of solitude when he/she wants to be alone or a sense of connection when he/she wants to be with others. However, when the achieved privacy level is greater than the desired privacy level, an individual feels isolated. On the other hand, if the achieved privacy level is less than the desired privacy level, an individual feels crowded. When these two levels are disparate, attempts will be made to resolve the discrepancy. In each case, an individual employs behavioral mechanisms to either gain social contact or avoid social interaction with others.

In a study of first year college students living in residence halls, Vinsel et al. (1980) found that students who use a variety of contact-seeking or contact-avoiding behaviors to regulate their privacy are less likely to drop out of school by the end of the second year. Thus, the effective usage of behavioral mechanisms was associated with better adjustment at a university. Further, Harris et al. (1996) explored the relationship between privacy regulation and place attachment in the home. When privacy regulation is facilitated, family functioning and feelings of control are enhanced, which in turn increases the feelings of attachment to the home.

During the transition from high school to college, many students face challenges in social, academic, and personal adjustment (Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991). Important elements of social adjustment include becoming integrated into the social life of college, managing new social freedoms and forming a social network, as well as receiving emotional support and having a sense of competence (Janosik et al., 1988). Several studies recognized the potential influences of separation from parents on personal and social adjustment (Gerdes and Mallinckrodt, 1994; Holmbeck and Leake, 1999; Wintre and Yaffe, 2000), because separation-individuation issues are particularly relevant during the first year of college (Berman and Sperling, 1991). …