The Role of Generational Status, Self-Esteem, Academic Self-Efficacy, and Perceived Social Support in College Students' Psychological Well-Being

By Wang, Chia-Chih D. C.; Castaneda-Sound, Carrie | Journal of College Counseling, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

The Role of Generational Status, Self-Esteem, Academic Self-Efficacy, and Perceived Social Support in College Students' Psychological Well-Being


Wang, Chia-Chih D. C., Castaneda-Sound, Carrie, Journal of College Counseling


This study examined the influences of generational status, self-esteem, academic self-efficacy, and perceived social support on 367 undergraduate college students' well-being. Findings showed that 1st-generation students reported significantly more somatic symptoms and lower levels of academic self-efficacy than did non-1st-generation students. In addition, students' generational status was found to moderate predictive effects of perceived family support on stress. Implications for professional practices, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.

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Among various groups of undergraduate students served by college counselors, first-generation college students (FGCSs) are considered special population and possess unique needs (Lippincott & German, 2007). FGCSs are those students whose parents did not attend a post-secondary institution. Relative to peers with college-educated parents, FGCSs tend to be less prepared for the university environment and subsequently feel overwhelmed (Hertel, 2002). In addition, FGCSs have reported perceiving less support from their families compared with their non-FGCS (NFGCS) counterparts and tend to experience challenges in the areas of academic performance and persistence (McConnell, 2000). Their experience has been described as bouncing between two cultures (Hsiao, 1992) because FGCSs often find themselves torn between the obligations of friends and family, on the one hand, and those of the college community, on the other hand (London, 1989). Demographically, approximately 22% of college freshman students between the school years of 1992 and 2000 were FGCSs, and they were more likely to be female, older in age, racial/ethnic minorities, and from low socioeconomic status families and to have more off-campus working hours compared with NFGCSs (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005).

The research literature on FGCSs has increased in the past decade. Extant studies on this population have focused on academic persistence (Lohfink & Paulsen, 2005), factors contributing to FGCSs' school performance and attainment (McCarron & Inkelas, 2006; Ting, 1998), and FGCSs' adjustment to the university environment (Bui, 2002). At the same time, although researchers have recently called for more attention on nonacademic factors and for better examinations of FGCSs' psychosocial functioning (Pascarella, Pierson, Wolniak, & Terenzini, 2005), few empirical studies have examined FGCSs' psychological well-being. As a result, little is known about factors uniquely influencing FGCSs' psychological well-being or how well common models of college student well-being seem to apply to this unique population.

The concept of psychological well-being has been widely used by counselors, researchers, and health providers to refer to one's mental health status or general psychological functioning (Andrews & Robinson, 1991). It is generally defined as an individual's subjective perception of her or his psychological health or quality of life. This construct is considered multidimensional, consisting of at least two general components: cognition and affect (Lubin & Whitlock, 2004). The cognitive component refers to the subjective evaluation of an individual's mental health or satisfaction with life. By comparison, the affective component refers to an individual's emotional experience related to her or his psychological status and can be positive (e.g., happiness, clarion, joy) or negative (e.g., depression, anxiety, stress). In addition, researchers have suggested that Asian students are likely to express experiencing psychological difficulties through manifestation of physical symptoms, which could be an important indicator of their well-being (Gurejc, 2004; Parker, Cheah, & Roy, 2001). Previous studies have typically relied on just one or two aforementioned variables to represent the general construct of psychological well-being. …

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