Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Fraternity and Sorority Membership and College Student Career Development

Academic journal article College Student Affairs Journal

Fraternity and Sorority Membership and College Student Career Development

Article excerpt

For more than 200 years, college students have had the opportunity to seek membership in Greek-letter social organizations, specifically fraternities and sororities. During the 2008 academic year, more than 90,000 women were initiated into sororities, 400,000 men initiated in fraternities, and there were approximately 10 million alumni nation-wide (The Interfraternity Council, 2010). Although participation in these groups can foster friendship, leadership, scholarship, service, and overall college satisfaction, there is significant debate across college campuses about the value of involvement in such social organizations (Pascarella, Flowers, & Whitt, 2001). For example, some research suggests that Greek-life membership leads to risky sexual behavior, higher levels of alcohol consumption, hazing injuries, and negatively impacts cognitive development (DeBard, Lake, & Binder, 2006).

Astin and Vogelgesang (2006) found that social interaction, active involvement, and student engagement are critical factors for promoting college success. While past research has assessed the relationship of Greek-life membership to academic achievement, college adjustment, and overall cognitive development, research related to career development factors has been limited (DeBard, Lake, & Binder, 2006). The present study sought to examine how membership in a sorority or fraternity was related to student career development, including vocational identity, career decision-making self-efficacy, and goal instability. For the purposes of this study Greek-life or Greek-letter social organizations refers to members in sororities and fraternities, and does not included academic or professional honorary groups.

Several theories were used to conceptualize and examine the constructs investigated in the present study. Holland's (1997) person-environment fit theory was utilized to examine vocational identity, while the social-cognitive career theory was used to examine career decision-making self-efficacy. Both of these theories emphasize the roles of environmental influences (e.g., living in sorority or fraternity housing) and interactions on behavior. Research by Scott and Robbins (1985) was used to examine the variable of goal instability and the influence of Greek- life membership on student motivation and goal directedness. Additionally, student and college identity development theories were incorporated to better understand the present population of interest. For example, Marcia (1980) focused on the process of exploration and commitment among individuals while Chickering and Reisser (1993) examined identity construction relevant to the college student population.

Student Identity Development

The concept of identity development and its formation are believed to be dynamic, changing based on roles, situations, tasks, interactions, and trials (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Internal and external information are used when forming an identity, and identities are often multifaceted and changing based on group memberships, relationships, and interests. Several theorists (e.g., Chicking & Reisser, 1993; Erikson, 1980) have provided theoretical and practical support for the literature on identity development. Additionally, this research suggests that one cannot separate the "self" from one's vocational knowledge obtained from interactions and experiences in society. In other words, having a sense of vocational identity is a critical part of one's overall identity.

Holland's (1997) research on vocational identity provides support for the idea that identity development occurs as students interact with specific environments to which they are exposed and complete various activities. For example, personal identity formation occurs as Greek-life students receive multicultural exposure, engage in reflection, perform self-exploration, and develop core values based on the mottos, morals, and principles of the overall organization. …

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