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Interpersonal Effects of Belonging: A Brief Intervention for University Students

posted on 2023-09-07, 05:05 authored by Kate Stewart

Previous experiments demonstrate that college students benefit academically from learning that early challenges in college are common and impermanent, rather than diagnostic of a lack of belonging. The current project expanded this focus by examining interpersonal functioning – namely, relationship goals and responsiveness – as one mechanism underlying the academic benefits of social belonging. A large-scale experiment (N = 604) utilizing a social belonging intervention for first-year college students tested this possibility. The intervention increased two measures of course credits completed (but not GPA) among socially and economically disadvantaged students, and also increased students’ responsiveness to their roommates; it did not affect compassionate or self-image goals with roommates. None of the relationship variables mediated the effects of the intervention on academic outcomes. Exploratory analyses revealed that the intervention shifted compassionate and self-image goals in expected directions among participants who were relatively low in these goals prior to the intervention. Results suggest that the interpersonal effects of social belonging interventions may be moderated by current interpersonal functioning, and relationship goals and responsiveness do not explain the academic benefits of these interventions. Limitations of this study and future directions are discussed.



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Degree Awarded: Ph.D. Psychology. American University.; Electronic thesis available to American University authorized users only, per author's request.


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American University. Department of Psychology

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  • Doctoral

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