Ethnocultural Person-Environment Fit and College Adjustment: Some Implications for College Counselors
Hutz, Aida, Martin, William E., Jr., Beitel, Mark, Journal of College Counseling
The authors investigated the relationship between students' ethnocultural person-environment (P-E) fit and college adjustment. They hypothesized differences between P-E fit of ethnocultural minority versus majority students at a predominantly White university but did not expect differences in adjustment. Furthermore, they explored the effects of ethnicity and sex on P-E fit and adjustment. Findings generally supported the hypotheses. The authors provide recommendations to increase college counselors' effectiveness in working with diverse clients.
It is estimated that by the year 2020, the majority of people in the United States will belong to ethnocultural groups other than White, European American (Sue & Sue, 1999). Currently in the United States, 45% of all students enrolled in public schools belong to socioracial minority groups (Sue & Sue, 2003), a figure that has increased from 28% in 1982 and from 33% in 1992 (Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). Thus, not only is the number of ethnocultural minority students pursuing a college education currently increasing, but it is predicted that this trend will continue ha years to come. As a result, college counselors must continue refining their awareness, knowledge, and skills (Sue & Sue, 2003) to more competently work with a diverse student population.
In addition to understanding students' concerns from a universal perspective, multiculturally competent counselors must also be able to identify external (i.e., environmental) factors that are likely to have a negative impact on ethnocultural minority individuals. This study attempted to investigate the influence these factors may have on the college adjustment of ethnocultural minority, students.
College adjustment is a multifaceted psychosocial process that imposes stressors on students and requires an array of coping skills. All students are expected to experience adjustment demands in the following areas: (a) academic, (b) social, (c) personal-emotional, and (d) attachment to the institution (Baker & Siryk, 1989).
Along with experiencing the various adjustment demands, which tend to confront all college matriculants, cultural minority students also appear to face unique difficulties that majority students do not face. Perhaps most notably, because on most college campuses the majority of students tend to be White, European Americans, those who belong to an ethnocultural minority group often face unique social adjustment challenges (Kenny & Stryker, 1996). Such challenges include perception of a racially hostile climate (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Schwitzer, Griffin, Ancis, & Thomas, 1999), a feeling of social isolation (Schwitzer et al., 1999; Smedley, Myers, & Harrell, 1993), and a general sense of incongruence with the university environment (Chavous, 2000).
Although the hurdles faced by ethnocultural minority students have been well described in the literature, students' responses to these hurdles appear to be less well understood. It is interesting that the literature remains unclear as to whether the additional hurdles necessarily lead to poorer adjustment. For instance, on one hand, Tomlinson-Clarke (1998) found no significant differences between White and Black female college students' perceptions of academic adjustment, social adjustment, and institutional attachment, that is, three of the four adjustment domains as measured by the Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ; Baker & Siryk, 1989). In the fourth domain, personal-emotional adjustment, she found that minority students actually experienced higher levels of adjustment than nonminority students did (Tomlinson-Clarke, 1998).
Additionally, African American female students, attending a predominantly White university, indicated higher levels of "psychological and physical wellbeing and less general psychological distress" (Tomlinson-Clarke, 1998, p. 368) than White female students did. Likewise, in another study investigating models of college adjustment, researchers found no differences in 1st-year minority versus majority students' perceptions of adjustment to a predominantly White university (Hutz, 2003; Hutz, Fabian, & Martin, 2003).
On the other hand, several studies seem to contradict such findings, with results suggesting that some minority students may experience lower levels of academic adjustment than White students do. For instance, Smedley et al. (1993) found that minority status stressors were associated with higher levels of psychological distress when adjusting to the university environment and poorer academic performance. Loo and Rolison (1986) found that minority students felt a greater sense of sociocultural isolation and cultural domination than did White students. Given these mixed findings, more appears needed to better understand the factors influencing minority students' adjustment at predominantly White institutions.
College Adjustment and Person-Environment (P-E) Fit
One potentially important variable influencing minority student adjustment is ethnocultural P-E fit. P-E fit is a measure of a person's general sense of belonging within a particular environment, and it addresses the relationship between the person and the environment (Swartz-Kulstad & Martin, 2000). According to Tinto's (1993) model of student departure, perceived level of P-E fit, from an academic …
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Publication information: Article title: Ethnocultural Person-Environment Fit and College Adjustment: Some Implications for College Counselors. Contributors: Hutz, Aida - Author, Martin, William E., Jr. - Author, Beitel, Mark - Author. Journal title: Journal of College Counseling. Volume: 10. Issue: 2 Publication date: Fall 2007. Page number: 130+. © 2007 American Counseling Association. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
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