Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Attachment, Well-Being, and College Senior Concerns about the Transition out of College

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Attachment, Well-Being, and College Senior Concerns about the Transition out of College

Article excerpt

This study examined the relationships among attachment, psychological well-being (PWB), life satisfaction, and concerns about the transition out of college among a sample of college seniors. A path analysis was conducted predicting that PWB and life satisfaction would mediate the relationships between attachment and 3 types of graduation transition concerns: career, change and loss, and support. Significant mediation effects affecting career concerns and change and loss concerns were discovered. Implications for college counseling are discussed.

Keywords: attachment, college graduation, transition.

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It is widely accepted that the college experience is a time of significant development with regard to identity (Chickering & Reisser, 1993) and autonomy (Kenyon & Koerner, 2009). It is also often a time of increased leisure activities and moratorium from adult responsibilities (Sherrod, Haggerty, & Featherman, 1993). As such, college students are free to engage in identity exploration and experimentation without the pressures of having to commit to firm decisions (Lemme, 2006). The senior year of college, then, represents a significant transition, during which individuals prepare to leave behind the freedom of the college experience and to assume ownership of adult roles (Hunter, Keup, Kinzie, & Maietta, 2012). Despite the significance of this transition, it has received little empirical attention, particularly when compared with the extensive body of research detailing the psychological impact of the 1st year of college (e.g., Wei, Russell, & Zakalik, 2005). A frequent focus of 1st-year transition literature has been on the important facilitating role of attachment relationships in providing students with a secure base of support from which to explore and adjust to college life (e.g., Kenny, 1987; Wei et al, 2005); based on this association, the present study explored the extent to which attachment dimensions similarly affect the transition out of college.

The Transition Out of College

Existing conceptual literature has described the transition out of college as a turning point with considerable implications for functioning and well-being (Gardner, 1998; Lane, 2013). In support of this position, a small but growing body of qualitative research has empirically identified increasingly ambivalent and negative attitudes among college seniors regarding the transition out of college. For example, a sample of first-generation college seniors reported, in part, the experience of anxiety about the inability to anticipate changes in priorities ( Overton-Healy, 2010). College seniors have also described fears of the unknown variables associated with exiting college life and of the pressure to develop career plans and become financially independent (Yazedjian, Kielaszek, & Toews, 2010). Such fears seem warranted, because college graduates often experience considerable difficulties adjusting to life after college (Perrone & Vickers, 2003). Those who are able to secure employment experience significant culture changes (Wendlandt & Rochlen, 2008) and are susceptible to frustrations with adjusting to new learning curves and little structure (Polach, 2004). Those who are unsuccessful in securing employment experience stagnation and frequently describe the 1st year after graduation as a low point in their lives (Perrone & Vickers, 2003). These qualitative studies make useful contributions to conceptualizing the challenges of the graduation transition. Examination of this transition using quantitative methodology, however, remains a gap in the existing literature.

Part of the complexity of life transitions is that they generally involve both anticipated and unanticipated changes (Anderson, Goodman, & Schlossberg, 2012). It would seem that this concept applies to the transition out of college as well. For example, most seniors can reasonably anticipate that the end of college necessitates seeking employment or graduate school; however, graduation involves unanticipated transitions as well, such as losing the structure afforded by the student lifestyle, leaving behind social networks, and feeling pressured by societal expectations that graduates assimilate adult roles (Lane, 2013). …

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