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Adjustment among College Students 3

Chapter I

Introduction

Adjustment is the behavioral process of balancing conflicting needs, or needs against

obstacles in the environment. It can be a process of altering one's behavior to reach a harmonious

relationship with their environment. Adjustment consists of two kinds of processes: fitting

oneself into given circumstances and changing the circumstances to fit one’s need. The stress of

this change causes one to try to reach a new type of balance or homeostasis between the

individual (both inwardly and outwardly), and with the environment (Calhon & Acocella,

1983).People like to recognize that their behavior is not based upon emotional stresses rather it is

governed by the operation of intellectual factors and self-control. There are varieties of

adjustments. Important among them are home, health, social, emotional and educational

adjustments (Mishra, 1994). The focus of this research was on overall adjustment in relation to

educational settings. College is an adjustment and growth process that takes a lot of effort,

patience, and common sense, but above all, college takes hard work. College is an experience

that some students find the most difficult experience of their lives; therefore, it is not hard to see

why some students drop out or have significantly low grades (Eileen, 2009).

Adjustment is something people engage in at every moment, something as natural and as

automatic as breathing. Adjustment may be natural but it is not necessarily automatic. It can be

purposeful and deliberate. Problems arise when the adjustment process starts going against a

person, when a person is influenced by himself or herself or bothers or the environment to do

things a person wishes he or she didn’t do or to feel things one doesn’t want to feel (Calhon &

Acocella, 1983).
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Adams defines ‘adjustment’ as the ‘efficiency with which the individual generates

positive rewards and avoids negative rewards and punishment. In an attempt to give a clear

picture of the meaning of ‘adjustment’, Good defines it as the process of finding and adopting

modes of behavior suitable to the environment or to changes in the environment and favorable,

neutral or unfavorable adaptation of an organism to external and internal stimulation. People like

to recognize that their behavior is not based upon emotional stresses rather it is governed by the

operation of intellectual factors and self-control. It is true that many human responses are

directed by objective reasoning and judgment but there are times when the thinking and behavior

of the people are almost completely influenced by emotional urges and drives and therefore, they

react to situation. The reactions in different situations may be due to personal conflicts or

frustrations or may be the demands of the environment. Whatever the level of reactions may be,

but people react to their personal conflicts and frustrations and to the demands of the

environment in divergent ways. These reactions, according to Shneiders, are known as ‘patterns

of adjustment’. Such an approach has to do with the kind of response that a person makes to

whatever problems, difficulties or demands he encounters (Mishra, 1994).

Adjustment may also be defined as one’s continuous interaction with oneself, with other

people, and with one’s world. These three factors are constantly acting on and influencing a

person. The relationship is reciprocal, for the person is constantly acting on them as well. One

self, that is the sum total of what one already is: one’s body, one’s behavior, and one’s thoughts

and feelings, is something that one is dealing with in every split second (Calhon & Acocella,

1983).

Adjustment occurs over time – in common speech; this is often referred to this as an

“adjustment period”. The length and depth of the adjustment required is dependent upon the
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complexity of the change that catalyzed it, and the underlying resilience of both the person and

their environment. Environment influenced the behavior and inturn behaviour influenced the

behaviour. The environment molds the self. The behaviours that specfic environments elicit may

become parmanent parts of the self, determining the direction of future personality development

(Hirsch & Ellis, 1996).

Adjustment, in other words, involves genuine crises as well as more ordinary, day-to-day

difficulties. When major crises occur, it is often a good idea to seek professional psychological

help to get one through the adjustment process. For most of students, however, major adjustment

crises are rare .The challenge of life is simply coping with a multitute of minor problems, things

that one’s influence, such as getting along better with parents, dealing with difficulities at work,

studing more efficiently, and controlling anxieties. The way a person adjust and one’s judgement

as to whether it is a healthy adjustment depend very much on what the person is adjusting to.

Some people can make a reasonable adjustment to one environment but not to another, in an

evironment that calls for spontaneous behaviour, a person who is very restrained emotionlly may

seem maladjusted –repressed, overcontrolled, and so forth .consider, on the other hand, a person

in a situation demanding emotional restraint (Calhon & Acocella, 1983).

The earliest definition of adjustment was given by Arkoff (1968) as a person’s interaction

with his or her environment. Arkoff (1968) further defined college or university adjustment in

terms of college achievement which covered students’ academic achievement and personal

growth. In his approach, the adjusted student is the one who obtains adequate grades, passes in

his or her courses, and eventually graduates. Conversely, the maladjusted student is the one, who

demonstrates unsatisfactory grades, marginal level of performance in course work, or failing, and

shows tendency in dropping out of university or college before graduation. Besides academic
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achievement, university adjustment also involves the idea of personal growth. An adjusted

student is the one who will show good personal growth in terms of non-academic potential with

reference to accomplishments outside of the classroom such as in art and music, creativity, and

leadership (Calhon & Acocella, 1983).

Baker and Siryk (1999) viewed college adjustment to university as multifaceted that

involved an array of demands varying in kind and degree which required a variety of coping

responses or adjustments. With this assumption, they developed an instrument namely The

Student Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ) to assess students’ adjustment to college.

Baker and Siryk (1999) suggested that there are four aspects of adjustment to college or

university that can be measured by the SACQ which are: academic adjustment, social

adjustment, personal-emotional adjustment, and institutional attachment. Studies have shown

that adjustment among first year undergraduates has a strong impact on their academic

achievement (Martin Jr. et al., 1999; Sennett et al., 2003; Wintre & Bowers, 2007; Zuria, Noriah,

& Syafrimen, 2004).

It is rather common knowledge that the first year of collegiate education is one of the

hardest. College is an adjustment and growth process that takes a lot of effort, patience, and

common sense, but above all, college takes hard work. One study (Lapsley, Rice, & FitzGerald,

1990) found that for many adolescents, departure from home is a major transition; it takes its toll

on the level of adaptation achieved by the students. College is an experience that some students

find the most difficult experience of their lives; therefore, it is not hard to see why some students

drop out or have significantly low grades (Martin Jr. et al., 1999; Sennett et al., 2003; Wintre &

Bowers, 2007; Zuria, Noriah, & Syafrimen, 2004).


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The dynamic relationship between the person and environment is magnified in college

students. During college, adjustment is a huge factor towards accomplishment. The environment

in which college students live is quite different. Different environmental factors affects

adjustment level among students as stessors, crowding, noise, temperature, rooms situation etc.

The pressure to earn good grades and to earn a degree is very high (Calhon & Acocella, 1983).

The environment influences behavior in four ways. First the environment puts constraints

on the behavior. It limits what a student can do. Second the environment elicits behavior; it tells

us how to act. Third, the environment molds the self. The behaviors that specific environments

elicit may become permanent parts of the self, determining the direction of future personality

development. Fourth, the environment affects the self-image (Calhon & Acocella, 1983).

Stress is a sense of threat accompanied by coping efforts aimed at reducing that threat.

Environmental stressors influence our behavior and thus affect one’s social adjustment in the

environment. In situations in which a student is surrounded by a crowd of others, students are not

always pleasant to each other. The fact that being in a crowd may or may not be perceived as

stressful has led environmental psychologists to develop a distinction between two conditions –

population density and crowding. Population density is the number of people per unit of space.

Crowding is the psychological state of stress that sometimes results from high population

density. One apparent result of crowding is that it lessens interpersonal attraction. High density

robs us of interaction with others. The sense of control over social interaction appears to be a

powerful human need and the lack of it can result in lack of adjustment among students (Calhon

& Acocella, 1983).

A second important environmental stressor is unwanted sound, generally known as noise.

The noise has a negative effect on interpersonal behavior. Noise that is predictable is apparently
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easier to adapt to and produces fewer negative effects than unpredictable noise, which can

damage task performance and frustration – tolerance. Unpredictable noise robs the individual of

his feeling that he controls his environment; it makes him feel helpless. A third environmental

stressor that can reduce tolerance of other human beings is heat (Calhon & Acocella, 1983).

One environmental factor that can have effects ranging from the most positive to the most

negative is called built environment. One interesting line of investigation has to do with the

relationship between interpersonal attraction and the beauty and ugliness of the classrooms. The

more the ugliness the less will be the interpersonal attraction and vice versa. A second aspect of

room design, furniture arrangement, has an even clearer impact on interpersonal behavior.

Furniture arrangement guides thought and action, a student’s role and his or her behavior. One

type of behavior that seating arrangements definitely control is socializing. According to

Osmond (1957), seating can create either sociopetal space or sociofugal space. In sociopetal

space, seats face one another and are close together, encouraging us to interact. In sociofugal

space, seats are either placed side by side, encouraging us to ignore the person next to us and

simply stare straight ahead, or they are so far apart that it is impossible to talk (Calhon &

Acocella, 1983).

One study (Valios, Thatcher, Drane, & Reininger, 1997) found that both Public and

Private high school students participate in high risk behavior, of which Public high school

students were more likely to participate in high risk behavior, this was while the students were

still in attendance at their respective high schools. The results of this study also suggested that

attending a private high school was a safeguard against high-risk behavior. Another study (Stein,

Soskin, & Korchin, 1975) found that when they examined public urban, public suburban, and

private residential schools there was a greater amount of high-risk behavior, i.e. drug use, among
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suburban and private residential schools than in the urban environment. This study brings the

idea of the suburban and residential students having more high-risk behavior than their urban

counterparts, which had previously been a stereotype. The researchers found that the reason

behind the elevated quantity of high-risk behavior amongst suburban and private residential

schools was that the students came from predominantly well-educated and wealthy families. The

cause of these students elevated high-risk behavior was straightforward: lack of entertainment

(Eileen, 2009).

Earning high grades is not the only source of stress for college students. Stress is defined

by psychologists including Lazarus (1960) as a sense of threat accompained by coping efforts

aimed at reducing that threat. For most people final exams produces stress. It poses the threat of

failure, a threat that one’s try to cope with by studying. Other potential sources of stress include

excessive homework, unclear assignments, and uncomfortable classrooms (Kohn & Frazer,

1986). In addition to academic requirements, relations with faculty members and time pressures

may also be sources of stress (Cohen & Lowental, 1988). Relationships with family and friends,

eating and sleeping habits, and loneliness may affect some students adversely in adjusting

(Wright, 1967). A student with adjustment problems often experiences feelings of depression or

anxiety or combined depression and anxiety. As a result, may act out behaviorally against the

"rules and regulations" of college, family, work, or society (Calhon & Acocella, 1983). High

levels of social support buffer individuals from stress (Robbins, Lese, & Herrick, 1993).

Attachment theory has emphasized the importance of healthy emotional bonds, and students who

are able to create and maintain healthy bonds with others tend to have an easier time adjusting to

college (Rice et al., 1995). Social adjustment may be just as important as academic adjustment,

according to Gerdes and Mallinckrodt (1994) who studied 155 freshmen and found that
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"personal adjustment and integration into the social fabric of campus life play a role at least as

important as academic factors in student retention" (Enochs & Roland, 2006).

In some cases college students use several different forms of stress-relief to cope with

their classes and assignments, ranging from smoking to alcohol consumption. Park and Levenson

(2002) performed a survey that found that students’ drinking to cope is a considerable factor in

college student alcohol consumption. The researchers also found that men are more likely to use

alcohol to cope with stress than women are. Alcohol use to cope with a situation is a common

occurrence due to the prevalence and accessibility of alcohol on college campuses. However, in

some cases these habits have already been developed fully within the student’s high school

careers. However, in college going out and drinking have a more harsh effect than just a

reputation for being a heavy drinker. In college, drinking and late nights often can cause missed

classes, missed appointments, and missed opportunities, not to mention a lowered GPA. One

study (Chemers, Hu, & Garcia, 2001) used two sets of questionnaires to record data about

college adjustment. The questionnaires were handed out at the beginning of the fall semester and

the end of the second semester. The researchers calculated how academic self-efficacy and

optimism affect a student’s academic performance, stress, health, and commitment to remain in

school results within each set of surveys. This study found that academic self-efficacy and

optimism had a strong correlation to performance and adjustment, but also had a direct

correlation to academic performance (Frederickson & Schrader, 1951).

Based on the adjustment model by Baker and Siryk (1984), a study aimed to explore

college adjustment processes experienced by 250 first year university students who were

attending various undergraduate programmes in a Malaysian public university. In addition it

examined the role of gender in college adjustment and the impact of college adjustment on
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students’ academic achievement. The study employed a correlation design and data was analyzed

using descriptive and inferential statistics to address the research objectives. Findings from the

study showed that students’ overall adjustment was at a moderate level and male students were

found to be better adjusted compared to female students (Calhon & Acocella, 1983).

According to classsical behaviourism, people engage in certain behaviors because they

have learned, through previous experiences, to associate this behaviour with rewards.

Likewise ,people stop engaging in certain behaviours because these behaviour either have not

been rewarded or have been punished .All behaviour ,no matter how wholesome or destructive

,are learned behaviours, well-adjusted people who have learned behaviour that help them deal

successfully with life’s demands and maladjusted people who have learned behaviour that

prevent them dealing sucessfully with life’s demands. A good illustration of the behaviorist’s

recent interest in internal events is Walter Mischel’s (1973) theory that human’s behaviour is the

product of the interplay of the charactertists of the situation. According to Mischel, however,

behaviour issues from the interaction of the internal and external events. On the other hand, there

are situatinal variables; these external factors will definitely affect one’s behaviour, but not

witout the added influence of one’s person variables, internal factors such as one’s abilities,

habits of mind, expectations, values, and plans (Calhon & Acocella, 1983).

According to the cognitive behaviorists, good adjustment is the ability to interpret events

in a realistic and within reason positive manner, so that the resulting behaviour will be self-

fillfilling rather than self-defeating. The humanists argues that ideal adjustment involves a great

deal more than simply coping,or even coping sucessfully ,with the circumstances of one’s life.

Rather, it means develpoing all one’s potentials to the fulliest. Maslow (1954) felt that the kinds

of adjustment challenges addresssed by psychodynamics and behavioural theories, satisfying


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biological needs, finding friends, learning to respect one were actually only the preparation for

the ultimate challenges, self-actualization defined as the fulfillment of one’s own completely

unique potentials. Viktor frankl agree with the humanisticts that each person’s perceptions and

capabilites are utterly unique and good adjustment means the full reailzation of one’s capabilities

(Calhon & Acocella, 1983).

A study (Tao, Dong, Pratt, Hunsberger, & Pancer, 2000) at new friendships and

adjustment among 1st-year university students, students at six Canadian universities completed

questionnaires that assessed the quality of new friendships and adjustment during first academic

year. In-depth, face-to-face interviews about students' new friendships were conducted with a sub

sample of the students. Results indicated a significant positive relation between quality of new

friendships and adjustment to university; this association was stronger for students living in

residence than for those commuting to university. The transition from high school to college is a

major life change for many adolescents. Attending college presents students with learning

experiences and opportunities for psychosocial development. However, entering college may be a

source of strain and an acute stressor (Gall, Evans, & Bellerose, 2000). Academic demands

increase and new social relations are established (Tao et al.). Students are often uncertain of their

abilities to meet these demands (Dwyer & Cummings, 2001). For students who move away from

home, the transition to college reduces contact and, likely support, from family as well as friends.

Difficulties handling these stressors associated with the transition may lead to decreased

academic performance and increased psychological distress (Tao, Dong, Pratt, Hunsberger, &

Pancer, 2000).

Psychodynamic theory explains human behavior as the product of forces operating within

the mind, often without the awareness of the individual. According to Freud, maladjustment, or
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neurosis occurs when a person’s childhood has resulted in the development of a weak ego that

cannot mediate between the id’s demands for instant gratification and the superego’s demands

for morally acceptable conduct. Therefore, all the elements of personality are not equally

balanced. On the other hand, a well-adjustment student is one in which childhood development

has allowed the elements of personality to develop in some harmony. In this case, the ego can

find ways to satisfy id instincts without violation the limits imposed by the superego and by

reality. The id’s irrational instincts still form the basis of emotion and behavior but they are

routed by the ego into realistic and morally accepted channels – ideally, working and loving.

Well adjusted students are still at the deepest level, impelled by the id and therefore they still

suffer id – superego conflicts. But with the help of a strong ego they are able to resolve these

conflicts in constructive ways (Calhon & Acocella, 1983).

Maslow (1954) felt that the kinds of adjustment challenges addressed by psychodynamic

and behavioral theories, satisfying biological needs, finding friends and learning to respect

oneself, were actually only the preparation for the ultimate challenge that is self-actualization.

Self-actualization is defined as the fulfillment of one’s own completely unique potential.

Student’s needs are ranked in the following order: physiological needs, safety needs,

belongingness and love needs, esteem needs, and the need for self-actualization. Each type of

need must be reasonably satisfied before the next can be tackled. Optimum adjustment occurs

when the student has satisfied the first four categories of needs sufficiently to move on to self

actualization: the full, free expression of his or her own talents and capabilities (Calhon &

Acocella, 1983).

Attending college is supposed to be a very appealing experience that could give

satisfaction to students. However, there are many students who are unable to complete their
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studies. A study conducted by Tinto (1996) showed that 40% of all students in America who

started out in a four year college failed to earn a degree; and nearly 57% of all dropouts left

before the start of their second year. Another study conducted by Wintre and Bowers (2007) on

the persistence to graduate amongst 44 undergraduate students in a Canadian university reported

that within six years, 57.9% of the students had graduated, 9% remained enrolled, and 33.1%

were neither enrolled nor graduated (Protinsky & Gilkey, 1996).

Research by Rong and Gable (1999) emphasized the importance that living environment,

social support and making meaningful relationship connections have on students' overall

adjustment to the college environment. Institutions that provide opportunities for not only

academic support, but also social and personal support increase their retention rates (Consolvo,

2002). In a recent study on college students, Lee, Keough and Sexton (2002) found that college

men and women appraised the college experience differently, and had different perceptions of

stress relative to social connectedness. According to Lee, Keough and Sexton, women who

experienced feelings of low connectedness on campus negatively appraised the collegiate

experience or campus climate. Self-esteem, assertiveness and confidence may also be impacted

by the perception of acceptance into the new college community, academic achievement and

personal safety (Protinsky & Gilkey, 1996).

Adjustment to a new culture is considered an important psychological process due to its

effects on the performance and functioning of the individual (Robie & Ryan, 1996). International

students may face various cross-cultural adjustment problems such as adapting to new roles,

academic difficulties, language difficulties, financial problems, homesickness, lack of study

skills, and lack of assertiveness (Charles & Steward, 1991; Hayes & Lin, 1994; Barratt & Huba,

1994; Parr, Bradley, & Bingi, 1992). They need to learn a wide range of culturally defined and
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typically unfamiliar roles in a short time while they are under considerable stress (Pedersen

1991). Once international students learn and adapt to the requirements and roles of the new

culture, however, their experience is likely to be successful. Not being able to adapt, on the other

hand, may affect their psychological (e.g. stress, depression) and physical (e.g. headaches)

health, which may present serious obstacles to the achievement of their educational objectives. It

is believed that the faster international students adapt to the new culture, the better they will do

academically (Charles & Steward, 1991).

A study (Braithwaite, Robillard, Woodring, Stephens, & Arriola, 2001; Grief & Hewitt,

1998; Loimer & Werner, 1992) was conducted to examine the association between body

modification practices and psychosocial adjustment. Participants were 198 undergraduate college

students, 129 of whom had I or more piercings (other than in earlobe) or tattoos. Findings

showed that individuals with body modifications reported more symptoms of depression and trait

anxiety than individuals without body modifications. It is recommended that health care

providers in college settings be vigilant for possible associated psychological issues in

individuals with body modifications (Protinsky & Gilkey, 1996).

Research conducted showed that this failure is caused by adjustment difficulties. (Tinto,

1993; Martin Jr., Swartz, & Madson, 1999). According to Tinto (1996), seven major causes of

students’ withdrawal from college are academic difficulties, adjustment difficulties, uncertain,

narrow, or new goals, weak and external commitments, financial inadequacies, incongruence

between the students and the institution, and isolation. Previous studies on students’ retention

and adjustment have reported that the transition to college can be a stressful experience for many

new students (Cantor, Norem, Niedenthl, Langston, & Bower, 1987; Perry, Hladkyj, Pekrun, &

Pelletier, 2001). They are often confronted with a variety of new personal and interpersonal
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challenges. These challenges include the need to make new relationships (especially if the

students attended college outside of their home town), to modify existing relationship with

parents and family members, and to develop learning habits for new academic environment

(Parker, Summerfeldt, Hogan, & Majeski, 2004). Failing to meet these demands and challenges

appears to be the most common reason for undergraduate students withdrawing from university

(Charles & Steward, 1991).

According to Smith and Renk (2007), the combination of many stressors of college life,

such as planning for the future, struggling with exams and assignments, coping with demands

and challenging professors, deciding on a major, and

transitioning into financial and emotional independence, can be an overwhelming experience for

many students. Hence, almost all new students go through an adjustment phase upon entry to a

college with each student varied in his or her own pace of development (Blimling &

Miltenberger, cited in Dyson & Renk, 2006). Past researches also showed that adjustment

difficulties are found to be the most common problems among first year students who are going

through an active adjustment phase in colleges. (Aspinwall & Taylor, 1992; Baker, 2003; Baker

& Siryk, 1986; Cantor et al., 1987; Halamandaris & Power, 1999; Martin Jr. et al., 1999; Perry et

al., 2001; Ruhani, 1998; Sennett, Finchilescu, Gibson, & Strauss., 2003; Strauss & Volkwein,

2004). As a matter of fact, the first six weeks of the first semester in an institution is considered

to be a crucial period in determining retention (Charles & Steward, 1991).

Based on the research conducted in a local public university in Malaysia, the adjustment

difficulties faced by first year students are found to be academic problems, health problems,

financial crisis as well as social and personal problems (Ahmad, Noran Fauziah, Azemi, Mohd.

Zailani, 2002). It is also found that the major problem faced by majority of the students are
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financial problem such as receiving funds late from the provider or the received amount of fund

are not enough to cater for the expenses during the course of the study. This is followed by

academic problems such as unable to register courses, difficulties to understand textbooks

written in English language and also the difficulties to attend lecture as early as 8 in the morning.

Other than that, students also faced health problems where they have difficulty in taking care of

their health. Therefore, adjustment difficulties among students should be given serious attention

as a serious adjustment problem could lead to students’ failure to complete their studies

(Protinsky & Gilkey, 1996).

A study (Towbes and Cohen ,1996) was conducted to assess personal and interpersonal

variables as predictors of college adjustment among a sample of 883 freshmen. Specifically, they

examined the extent to which self-esteem, parental education, parental support, and peer support

predicted adjustment during the first year of college. Furthermore, they were interested in

determining if these predictor variables varied by race and gender. Regression analyses revealed

that self-esteem is predictive of better adjustment to college among all groups except Hispanic

males. In addition, parents' education level is predictive of overall college adjustment for females

regardless of race. Moreover, White females who have supportive peers reported being better

adjusted to college (Charles & Steward, 1991).

Peers can also provide both emotional and instrumental support, thus serving as an

additional source of social capital that students can access in college. For example, Martin,

Swartz-Kulstad, and Madson (1999) found that perceived support from peers and family

contributed to the college adjustment process above and beyond academic ability. In addition, in

a study of first-generation college students' adjustment experiences, Dennis and colleagues

(2005) noted the importance of students' ability to access new forms of social capital once in the
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college environment. Specifically, they hypothesized that when students realized theft families

were unable to provide the instrumental support necessary, they were more likely to turn to peers

when dealing with academic issues. Further, Grant-Vallone and colleagues (2003-2004) found a

positive relationship between peer support and social adjustment, concluding that peer support

appeared to be more critical to college adjustment than family support. This finding may be

particularly relevant for Hispanic students because peers provide needed emotional support and

resources in contexts where they may often be the numerical minority (Charles & Steward,

1991).

Studies also have indicated that gender is a significant predictor of students’ adjustment

in university (Martin Jr. et al., 1999) and male students are found to be better adjusted compared

to the female students (Enochs & Roland, 2006; Ruhani, 1998; Wintre & Yaffe,2000). Female

students are found to demonstrate more adjustment problems such as establishing social

relationships in campus compared to the males students (Cook, 1995). They are less involved in

campus activities and have less opportunities to be appointed as leaders in clubs and societies in

campus (Enochs & Roland, 2006).

The relationship between living environment, gender and both overall adjustment to

college and social adjustment in freshmen students was examined in a study (Consolvo, 2002).

The College Adjustment Scales were administered to 511 freshmen students living in on-campus

housing. There were 259 students living in Freshmen Year Experience (FYE) Halls verses 252

students living in traditional residence halls that participated in the research. The overall

adjustment level and social adjustment scale was utilized to compare overall and social

adjustment levels based on gender and type of living environment. Males were found to have a

significantly higher overall adjustment levels than females regardless of living environment.
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However, when freshmen males and females in the FYE halls were compared there was no

significant difference in their levels of overall adjustment. There was a significant difference in

social based on type of residence hall with students in the FYE halls having a significantly better

level of social adjustment than students in the traditional residence hall group (Kerr, Johnson,

Gans, & Krumrine, 2004).

When events are experienced as stressful, emotional processing has been hypothesized to

play a key role in coping. How one manages the emotions that arise from stressful events is

thought to be central to the ability to respond adaptively. Salovey, Mayer, Goldman, Turvey, &

Palfai (2002) describe a three-component model of emotion processing and management

(Emotional Attention, Clarity, and Repair) derived from factor analysis. The first component,

Attention, involves awareness of one's emotions and a belief that emotions are a positive source

of information. The second factor, Clarity, is the ability to identify and discriminate among one's

emotions accurately. An individual with high levels of emotional clarity can distinguish sadness

from anger, for example, and that individual is comfortable with his or her own feelings. The

final factor, Repair, involves the ability to adjust or regulate one's emotions when needed; for

example, finding something to be happy about during a period of sadness. Mayer and Salovey

(Mayer & Salovey, 1993; Salovey & Mayer, 1990) coined the term "emotional intelligence,"

which has been popularized by others to describe these joint abilities (Kerr, Johnson, Gans, &

Krumrine, 2004).

Individuals differ in the extent to which they can process emotional information; further,

those differences are linked to distress and adjustment. Salovey et al. (2002) found that those

who had difficulty identifying their own emotional reactions reported greater adjustment

problems. In addition, higher levels of emotional clarity were associated with a lower likelihood
Adjustment among College Students 20

of experiencing distress. In other words, individuals who were confused or at a loss about their

emotional reactions had poorer reactions to stress, whereas participants who recognized and

differentiated their emotional responses were less distressed. Individual differences in incoming

students' ability to identify their own emotions might be linked to college adjustment. Students

who report difficulty knowing what they are feeling will be more poorly adjusted than more

adept students (Kerr, Johnson, Gans, & Krumrine, 2004).

Female students face unique problems adjusting to college. For example, there are more

roles and opportunities for women than ever before; however those roles may not be acceptable

to their families. Some parents and families still put pressure on their daughters to follow

traditional career paths and to find a mate while in college (Baxter-Magolda, 1999). In addition,

the ways in which males and females cope with stress and depression differs. Males tend to

suppress depression via isolation and escape while females tend to engage in self-blame, crying,

and are more likely to seek assistance (Arthur, 1998). However, the suicide rate continues to rise

for people between the ages of 15 and 24. Suicide is on the increase for college students and

becoming an issue on college campuses. Most students send outward signs before attempting or

committing suicide. Students may isolate from others and give away possessions. These students

may begin to miss classes and not turn in assignments. Females are more likely to send outward

signs than their male counterparts and are three times more likely to attempt suicide than males.

However, males are more likely to use lethal means and succeed in completing the suicide act

(Erickson-Cornish, Kominars, Riva, Mcintosh, & Henderson, 2000; Eshun, 2000). Alfred-Liro

and Sigelman (1998) found females more likely to have greater levels of depression and

struggles with adjustment during their freshmen year than their male counterparts. In fact, a

recent study indicated that 84% of college counseling directors are concerned with the number of
Adjustment among College Students 21

student coming to campus with severe problems (O'Conner, 2001).This difficulty in adjustment

for females may be due in part to the lack of social connections in the environment and the

perceived oppression from male members of the university community. Thus, self-confidence

and assertiveness may play a role in a woman's ability to adjust to college (Enochs & Roland,

2006).

Women face additional problems with violence that is often denied or even condoned on

college campuses. In a study conducted by Sands (1998), female undergraduate students

experienced more demeaning, intimidating, and hostile behavior than their male counterparts.

This behavior was exhibited by their male peers and by male faculty members. In fact, male

faculty members and other members of the university community sometimes displayed negative

attitudes toward female students. This additional stress of dealing with hostile behavior and

demeaning actions and attitudes can lead to difficulty with adjustment, stress, and anxiety

(Enochs & Roland, 2006).

The degree to which a woman is able to adjust may be directly linked to her level of

confidence and general self-esteem. Women who perceive themselves as "having a high sense of

Personal Authority would also fare better in perceived college adjustment" (Protinsky & Gilkey,

1996, p.292). The social aspect of entering college and becoming involved in campus life may be

more valued by female students than male students. Women have been thought to be more social

and require a social connection than males in late adolescence (Gilligan, 1987), which is the

profile of the traditional age college freshman. Although friendship and social activity for both

males and females is important during the developmental process of late adolescence to early

adulthood, women may tend to express feelings more openly, and be affected more emotionally
Adjustment among College Students 22

by social situations that occur through any transition period, such as entering college (Enochs &

Roland, 2006).

With regards to women, the living environment may be an even greater factor in terms of

social adjustment than for men. Women tend to use relationships and socialization experiences in

college to adjust more than their male counterparts. Females have traditionally been thought of

as being more social and having a more difficult time adjusting to the college environment and

making social connections than their male counterparts and numerous studies have found high

levels of differences in the social adjustment of males and female. However, the differences in

the adjustment levels for the groups in this study were not as high as other studies have reported.

This may be due to several factors such as the changing roles of women in society, as well as the

fact that more opportunities for leadership are now available for women than ever before. What

is unclear is the amount of impact gender had on adjustment. Freshmen are in a new environment

where they may not know anyone and programs that foster social relationships and connections

can assist students in not feeling lonely, depressed and can alleviate fears. McWhiter (1997), in

his study of 625 college students, found that female students are more likely to experience

loneliness and social isolation than their male peers. This study found that female students had a

more difficult time fitting into the college environment and were less likely to be involved in

campus activities and less likely to have leadership positions in campus organizations (Enochs &

Roland, 2006).

Judgements as to whether people well adjusted depends not only on the situation, but also

on values, ideas about how people should behave. Every judgment that is make about whether

someone has problems reflects values. judgements as to what is good or bad adjusted depends on

values and on the situation in which the behaviour takes place . Behaviour that seems normal in
Adjustment among College Students 23

one situation may not seem so in another, and what looks like good adjustment according to one

set of values may look like maladjusted according to another ( Calhon & Acocella, 1983 ).

Significance:

Although the reasons for studying adjustment may seem obvious to the professional person,

it is important to make explicit for the lay person the scope of the problem of adjustment and the

form that the problem assumes for the society and for the individual person. Aside from the

intellectual curiosity about people and their problems, the study of adjustment is motivated by

practical problems of enormous scope and significance. The most pressing and dramatic problem

is the high incidence of mild and severe maladjustments frequently considered the number one

health problem of our era. The focus of this research is adjustment of students, because

maladjustment tends to penetrate in the society through our educational institutions as they are

one of the basic interactional places

Objectives:

Given the many implications of transition to university life for new students, this study has been

warranted to examine students’ characteristics and adjustment experiences upon entry to a

university. Specifically the objectives of this study are:

1. To find out the level of adjustment amongst first year undergraduates.

2. To find out the differences between male and female students in college adjustment.

3. To compare the adjustment level of students in public sector institution and private

sector institution.

4. Also to know the difficulty areas which students find hard to cope with.
Adjustment among College Students 24

Hypothesis:

1. The students attending a private institute will have a higher level of adjustment

than students attending a public institute.

2. The male students will have a higher level of adjustment than female students.

3. The adjustment level of students belonging to upper class will be higher as

compared to the adjustment level of students belonging to middle class.

4. The adjustment level of students with a high GPA will be more than that of

students with a low GPA.


Adjustment among College Students 25

Chapter II

Methodology

Research Design

The research design used was Cross-sectional Survey Design.

Sample

Sample size: The participants were 60 students (N=60) 30 students from a public institute

(n=30) and 30 students from a private institute (n=30). The participants included in the sample

consisted of 15 males & 15 females from a private institution, and 15 males & 15 females from a

public institution.

Sample strategy: The sample was collected through purposive sampling technique.

Inclusion criteria: Those individuals were included in the study who met the following

inclusion criteria:

• Were studying in the first year of Bachelors and first year of Masters

• Were in the age range of 18 to 24 years.

Exclusion criteria: Those individuals were excluded who met the following exclusion

criteria:

• Were not studying in the first year of Bachelors and first year of Masters

• Were not in the age range of 18 to 24 years.


Adjustment among College Students 26

Table 2.1 Descriptive Analysis of Demographic Variables

Demographic characteristics Frequency Percentage

GPA
Low 25 41.7
High 35 58.3

SES
Lower 0 0
Middle 34 56.7
Upper 26 43.3

Gender
Male 30 50.0
Female 30 50.0

Operational Definition

Adjustment: Adjustment is operationally defined as a score of 127.5 on The Rotter

Incomplete Sentence Blank.

Assessment Tools

The Rotter Incomplete Sentences Blank (RISB): The Rotter Incomplete

Sentences Blank by Julian Rotter, Michael Lah, and Janet Rafferty (1950) is a projective

measure of maladjustment with a semi-objective scoring system. The Rotter Incomplete

Sentences Blank is designed as a screening instrument of overall adjustment. It consists of a total

of 40 items. Responses are rated on a 7-point ordinal scale (higher scores suggesting greater

maladjustment) on the basis of responses. The scale range is from 0 – 240. The psychometric
Adjustment among College Students 27

property of RISB was determined by split-half estimates ranging from .74 to .86, and a Cronbach

alpha coefficient of .69. It relies predominantly on face validity.

Omission responses are designated as those for which no response is given or for which

the thought is incomplete. Omissions and fragments are not scored. “C” or conflict responses are

those indicating an unhealthy or maladjusted frame of mind. Responses range from C1 to C3

according to the severity of the conflict or maladjusted expressed. The numerical weight of the

responses are C1 = 4, C2 = 5, C3 = 6. “P” or positive responses are those indicating a healthy or

hopeful frame of mind. Responses range from P1 to P3 depending on the degree of good

adjustment expressed in the statement. The numerical weight for the positive responses are P1 =

2, P2 = 1, P3 = 0. “N” or neutral responses are those not falling into either of the above

categories. All the N responses are scored 3.

Procedure

The University of the Punjab was selected as the public sector institution and an

institutional permission was sought to draw sample from different departments with the approval

from the chairperson of the departments. The Lahore School of Economics was chosen to

represent private sector institution and an approval was sought from the dean of the institution.

After getting permission from authorities of departments, the researchers briefly

described the purpose of the study to the participants. Confidentiality regarding information and

results was assured. The participants who were willing to be a part of the research were given

consent forms and the demographic forms were also administered. It consists of items focusing

on individual's personal information e.g. age, gender, education, socioeconomic status, and GPA,

and father’s designation. Then they were asked to respond on Rotter Incomplete Sentences Blank

(RISB) to assess the level of adjustment.


Adjustment among College Students 28

In order to examine the data, SPSS version 11.5 was used for statistical analysis. An

independent samples t-test was applied on the collected data to find out the difference in

adjustment of students in private and public sector institution. Descriptive statistics and

demographic data were also tabulated.

Ethical Considerations

The participants were given consent forms and they were informed about the nature of

the research. Firm privacy regarding their results was ensured to the participants and they were

also assured that the information gathered from them will not be used for any other purpose other

than this research. No intentional harm was meant to be done to the participants through the

research and any of their reservations in regard to the research were cleared at the spot.

The participants were ensured that their identity obtained in the course of the project shall

be kept strictly confidential. At the conclusion of the project, any information that reveals the

identity of individuals who were subjects of research shall be destroyed unless the individual

concerned has consented in writing to its inclusion beforehand. No information revealing the

identity of any individual shall be included in the final report or in any other communication

prepared in the course of the project, unless the individual concerned has consented in writing to

its inclusion beforehand

Institutional consent was also taken from the respective institutions with the approval

from their deans and chairpersons in order to conduct the survey in their varsity premises.

A standardized tool RISB was used to measure the overall adjustment of students and a

formal permission was sought from the authorities for the usage of the RISB as the tool for the

research project.
Adjustment among College Students 29

Chapter III

Results

The present study investigated the difference in the level of adjustment among students of

public and private sector institutions. A sample of 30 students from public institute and 30

students from private institute were taken for the research project.

Table 3.1

Descriptive table of the variable

Variable M SD

Adjustment 115.133 17.00694


Adjustment among College Students 30

It was hypothesized that the students attending a private institute will have a higher level

of adjustment than students attending a public institute. An independent sample t-test was

conducted to compare the adjustment level among students of public and private sector institutes.

Table. 3.2

Mean Differences in Adjustment of Students of Public and Private Sector Institutes

Variable M SD t

Public sector 122.33 15.05

Adjustment

Private sector 107.93 15.97 3.60

df= 58, ***p<0.01

There was a significant difference in scores for level of adjustment in students of public

and private sector institutes, and therefore the hypothesis is accepted. There is a significant

difference on the basis of institute. Private sector students were more adjusted as compared to

public sector students.


Adjustment among College Students 31

It was hypothesized that the male students will have a higher level of adjustment than

female students. An independent t-test was conducted to compare the adjustment scores of male

and female students.

Table 3.3

Mean Differences in Adjustment between Male and Female Students

Variable M SD t

Males 113.50 19.65

Adjustment

Females 116.77 14.07 -.74

df =58, p > .05

There was no significant mean difference between male and female students in

adjustment.
Adjustment among College Students 32

It was hypothesized that the adjustment level of students belonging to upper class will be

higher as compared to the adjustment level of students belonging to middle class. An

independent sample t-test was conducted to compare the adjustment scores of students of middle

and upper class socioeconomic status.

Table 3.4

Mean Difference in Adjustment between Socioeconomic Status of Students

Variable M SD t

Middle 118.59 17.82

Adjustment

Upper 110.61 15.04 1.84

df =58, p > 0.05

There was no significant mean difference between socioeconomic statuses of students in

adjustment.
Adjustment among College Students 33

It was hypothesized that the adjustment level of students with a high GPA will be more

than that of students with a low GPA. An independent sample t-test was used to compare the

adjustment scores of students having low and high GPA.

Table 3.5

Mean Difference in Adjustment between GPA of Students

Variable M SD t

Low GPA 119.24 15.19

Adjustment

High GPA 112.20 17.82 1.60

df =58, p > 0.05

There was no significant mean difference between GPA of students in adjustment.


Adjustment among College Students 34

The above results showed that there was a significant difference in adjustment among

students of public and private sector institutes. Private sector students were more adjusted as

compared to public sector students. There was no significant mean difference between male and

female students in adjustment. Similarly there was no significant mean difference between

socioeconomic statuses of students in adjustment and also there was no significant mean

difference between GPA of students in adjustment.


Adjustment among College Students 35

Chapter IV

Discussion

The present study was conducted to investigate adjustment level in the students of private

sector institutes and public sector institutes. Main objective of the study was to investigate that

the students of the private sector institutions are more adjusted than the students of the public

sector institutions. The result revealed that the adjustment level is higher in the students of the

private sector institutions than the students of the public sector institutions.

It was hypothesized that the students attending a private institute will have a higher level

of adjustment than students attending a public institute. Different environmental factors affect

adjustment level among students such as stressors, crowding, noise, temperature, and the

pressure to earn good grades, relationships with family and friends, eating and sleeping habits,

and loneliness. A study (Tao, Dong, Pratt, Hunsberger, & Pancer, 2000) was conducted on new

friendships and adjustment among 1st-year college students. In-depth, face-to-face interviews

about students' new friendships were conducted with a sub sample of the students. Results

indicated a significant positive relation between quality of new friendships and adjustment to

college; this association was stronger for students living in residence than for those commuting

to college. In the present study an independent sample t-test was conducted to compare the

adjustment level among students of public and private sector institutes. There was a significant

difference in scores for level of adjustment in students of public and private sector institutes,

which accepts the hypothesis that there is a significant difference on the basis of institute. Private

sector students were more adjusted as compared to public sector students.


Adjustment among College Students 36

It was hypothesized that the male students will have a higher level of adjustment than

female students. This finding is consistent with some of the existing researches as Baker and

Siryk (1984) carried out a study to explore college adjustment processes experienced by 250 first

year college students, it examined the role of gender in college adjustment and the impact of

college adjustment on students’ academic achievement. Findings from the study showed that

students’ overall adjustment was at a moderate level and male students were found to be better

adjusted compared to female students. French (1990) also found gender difference in the

academic adjustment of both boys and girls. These findings of existing researches are

inconsistent with the results of the present research because of the some factors which are

discussed in limitation section.

It was hypothesized that the adjustment level of students belonging to upper class will be

higher as compared to the adjustment level of students belonging to middle class.Research by

Rong and Gable (1999) emphasized the importance that social support has meaningful

relationship connections with students' overall adjustment to the college environment. In the

present study, I found no significant mean difference between socioeconomic statuses of students

in adjustment may because of the small sample size and vague information given by the students.

It was hypothesized in the present study that the adjustment level of students with a high

GPA will be more than that of students with a low GPA. One study (Chemers, Hu, & Garcia,

2001) used two sets of questionnaires to record data about college adjustment. The

questionnaires were handed out at the beginning of the fall semester and the end of the second

semester. The researchers calculated how academic self-efficacy and optimism affect a student’s

academic performance, stress, health, and commitment to remain in school results within each

set of surveys. Chemers and Garcia found that academic self-efficacy and optimism had a strong
Adjustment among College Students 37

correlation to performance and adjustment, but also had a direct correlation to academic

performance (Frederickson & Schrader, 1951). This finding of existing research is inconsistent

with the results of the present research because of the some factors which are discussed in

limitation section.

Limitations

No study is perfect in design or methodology, and this investigation is no exception.

• The sample size of the research is very small which can result in partiality of the findings

when applied to the larger population

• The generalization of the research is very less, as the sample is collected from only two

institutions, which may not be the proper representation of the population and may not go

beyond the institutions studied.

• The differences in the results of the present study in comparison to the previous studies

can also be due to a very small sample size; whereas, those studies are conducted with

large samples.

Suggestions

• The study should be replicated using a larger sample.

• To increase the generalization of the research, sample should be drawn from various

private and public institutions.

• The study should be replicated in such time of year when exams are being conducted

so that the adjustment of students can be measured in stress time.