Social Adjustment of College Freshmen: The Importance of Gender and Living Environment

By Enochs, Wendy K.; Roland, Catherine B. | College Student Journal, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Social Adjustment of College Freshmen: The Importance of Gender and Living Environment


Enochs, Wendy K., Roland, Catherine B., College Student Journal


The relationship between living environment, gender and both overall adjustment to college and social adjustment in freshmen students was examined in this study. The College Adjustment Scales were administered to 511 freshmen students living in on-campus housing. There were 259 students living in Freshmen Year Experience (FYE) Halls verses 252 students living in traditional residence halls that participated in the research. The overall adjustment level and social adjustment scale was utilized to compare overall and social adjustment levels based on gender and type of living environment. Males were found to have a significantly higher overall adjustment levels than females regardless of living environment. However, when freshmen males and females in the FYE halls were compared there was no significant difference in their levels of overall adjustment. There was a significant difference in social based on type of residence hall with students in the FYE halls having a significantly better level of social adjustment than students in the traditional residence hall group. This manuscript addresses the relationship between gender and living environment on the social adjustment of college students.

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Without a successful adjustment and transition to college, students may drop out. Nearly 30-40% of college students drop out without obtaining a college degree, and many of these students never return to college to complete degrees (Consolvo, 2002). Individuals who are able to succeed at handling their independence and newfound freedoms are able to make new relationships while maintaining old relationships (Holmbeck & Leake, 1999). Developmental processes for male and female college students may differ, in that women tend to rely on relationships and socialization experiences to aid in adjusting to college more than their male counterparts (Kenny & Rice, 1995).

Research by Rong and Gable (1999) emphasized the importance that living environment, social support and making meaningful relationship connections have on students' overall adjustment to the college environment. Institutions that provide opportunities for not only academic support, but also social and personal support increase their retention rates (Consolvo, 2002).

Literature Review

Previous studies have suggested that relationships and making meaningful connections are important for students to adjust to the college environment. Students who have been able to establish bonds in their new environment adjusted better than students who were isolated and not as successful in establishing new friendships and relationships. The theory of attachment has been used to explain the importance of emotional bonds and healthy adjustment. Healthy individuals tend to have secure attachments to parents, guardians, and significant others in their lives. Individuals with secure attachments tend to have an easier time transitioning to college than individuals who do not have secure attachments (Rice, FitzGerald, Whaley, & Gibbs, 1995). Relationships with parents may change when students go to college, which can be a difficult transition for all involved, and cause additional stress and pressure on the students as they move through the developmental process and become adults (Mudore, 1999). The process of adjustment can be frustrating and overwhelming for many students, leading to emotional maladjustment and depression (Wintre & Yaffe, 2000), which may, in turn, negatively effect college performance.

High levels of social support buffer individuals from stress (Robbins, Lese, & Herrick, 1993). Attachment theory has emphasized the importance of healthy emotional bonds, and students who are able to create and maintain healthy bonds with others tend to have an easier time adjusting to college (Rice et al., 1995). Social adjustment may be just as important as academic adjustment, according to Gerdes and Mallinckrodt (1994) who studied 155 freshmen and found that "personal adjustment and integration into the social fabric of campus life play a role at least as important as academic factors in student retention" (p. …

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