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Relationships among Social Support, Life Purpose, and Stress in the Lives of Graduate Students

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021249/00001

Material Information

Title: Relationships among Social Support, Life Purpose, and Stress in the Lives of Graduate Students
Physical Description: 1 online resource (129 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Johnson, Beth A
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: graduate, life, purpose, social, stress, students, support
Health Education and Behavior -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Health and Human Performance thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Although universities can positively influence all aspects of young adult health, attempts to assist students in developing social support are often inadequate and the need to assist students in discovering life purpose is often ignored. Several personal development theorists posit that developing social support and discovering life purpose are necessary for positive human development. However, the association between social support and life purpose has not been empirically verified. The purposes of this study were to describe the association between social support and life purpose among graduate students; explain how main and interaction effects of social support and life purpose influence graduate student stress levels; and determine if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics. Phase One of the pilot study revealed that the design and layout of the web-based survey were easily understood. Phase Two of the pilot study revealed the reliability of conducting a web-based survey with instruments designed to measure levels of social support, life purpose, and stress among young adults. The main study included a random sample of 1979 graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during spring 2007. Bivariate correlation analyses provided empirical support for a relationship between social support and life purpose, revealing that these variables are significantly correlated in a positive direction among graduate students, regardless of most demographic characteristics. A multiple linear regression analysis revealed that social support, life purpose, and sex significantly contributed to the total variance in stress score. These main effects indicate that as social support and life purpose increase, stress decreases as well as that males have lower stress scores than females. A comparison of the change in R2 revealed that life purpose was better than social support at predicting stress levels. Another multiple linear regression analysis revealed the absence of a significant interaction effect between social support and life purpose with regard to stress. The findings from this study can be used to inform the health education profession by helping determine the need for initiatives designed to reduce stress as well as enhance social support and life purpose among graduate students.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Beth A Johnson.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Rienzo, Barbara A.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021249:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021249/00001

Material Information

Title: Relationships among Social Support, Life Purpose, and Stress in the Lives of Graduate Students
Physical Description: 1 online resource (129 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Johnson, Beth A
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: graduate, life, purpose, social, stress, students, support
Health Education and Behavior -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Health and Human Performance thesis, Ph.D.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Although universities can positively influence all aspects of young adult health, attempts to assist students in developing social support are often inadequate and the need to assist students in discovering life purpose is often ignored. Several personal development theorists posit that developing social support and discovering life purpose are necessary for positive human development. However, the association between social support and life purpose has not been empirically verified. The purposes of this study were to describe the association between social support and life purpose among graduate students; explain how main and interaction effects of social support and life purpose influence graduate student stress levels; and determine if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics. Phase One of the pilot study revealed that the design and layout of the web-based survey were easily understood. Phase Two of the pilot study revealed the reliability of conducting a web-based survey with instruments designed to measure levels of social support, life purpose, and stress among young adults. The main study included a random sample of 1979 graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during spring 2007. Bivariate correlation analyses provided empirical support for a relationship between social support and life purpose, revealing that these variables are significantly correlated in a positive direction among graduate students, regardless of most demographic characteristics. A multiple linear regression analysis revealed that social support, life purpose, and sex significantly contributed to the total variance in stress score. These main effects indicate that as social support and life purpose increase, stress decreases as well as that males have lower stress scores than females. A comparison of the change in R2 revealed that life purpose was better than social support at predicting stress levels. Another multiple linear regression analysis revealed the absence of a significant interaction effect between social support and life purpose with regard to stress. The findings from this study can be used to inform the health education profession by helping determine the need for initiatives designed to reduce stress as well as enhance social support and life purpose among graduate students.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Beth A Johnson.
Thesis: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Rienzo, Barbara A.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021249:00001


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RELATIONSHIPS AMONG SOCIAL SUPPORT, LIFE PURPOSE, AND STRESS
IN THE LIVES OF GRADUATE STUDENTS




















By

BETH ANN JOHNSON


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007

































2007 Beth Ann Johnson









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the people in my life whose support and

encouragement have helped me reach this point in my academic career. First, I would like to

thank Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo for serving as my academic advisor and dissertation committee

chair. In fulfilling these roles, Dr. Rienzo patiently offered her guidance as I made my way

through the doctoral experience. Our shared interest in exploring aspects of spiritual health and

the enthusiasm she demonstrated with regard to my research inspired me to continue pursuing a

career that will allow me to impact the spiritual health of young adults. I would also like to

thank Dr. R. Morgan Pigg, Jr.; Dr. Katherine Gratto; Dr. James Algina; and Dr. Michael

Murphy, for serving on my dissertation committee. Their guidance and expertise were

invaluable as I made my way through the dissertation process. Specifically, I am grateful to Dr.

Pigg and Dr. Murphy, for their encouragement; to Dr. Gratto, for her faith; and to Dr. Algina, for

his statistical expertise. I must also thank Dr. Dennis Thombs, for the additional statistical

expertise he provided.

I would also like acknowledge my family and friends, for their love and support. My

parents, Bob and Gail Johnson, instilled within me the belief that I could accomplish anything

because no dream was out of reach. They provided numerous opportunities for me to experience

all that life had to offer so that I could decide for myself what dreams I wanted to pursue.

Through their selfless love and support, my parents made it possible for me to become the person

I am today. In addition to my parents, the people whose supportive presence helped me

persevere even when feeling overwhelmed include my sister, Terry; and my friends, Kasey,

Brooke, Randi Marie, Lindsay, Tami, Kristi, and Abbie. I am also blessed to have additional

family and friends who kept me in their thoughts and prayers as I made my way through the

doctoral experience. I am truly grateful for love and support.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A CK N O W LED G M EN TS ................................................................. ........... ............. 3

LIST OF TABLES .............. ......... ...................................................7

ABSTRAC T ..........................................................................................

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ............... ................. ........... .............................. 10

State ent of the R research Problem .............................................................................11
Purpose of the Study ............... ................ .......... .................... ......... 12
Significance of the Study ....................................................... .......... ......... ..... 13
Research Questions................... ......... .......... ...... .... .......... 14
D e lim ita tio n s ..................................................................................................................... 1 5
L im itatio n s ................... ...................1...................5..........
A ssu m p tio n s ..................................................................................................................... 1 6
D efin itio n o f T erm s ................................................................................................................ 16

2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ................................................................. 17

P personal D ev elopm ent ................................................................................ 17
M aslow 's H ierarchy of N eeds ........................................................................... ..............17
Parks' Faith D evelopm ent Theory .......................................................... 18
Chickering's Seven Vectors of Development (Revised) ..............................................19
Health-Related Benefits ............ ........ ...... .......................................................20
Theoretical Explanation of Health Benefits of Social Support ............................20
D irect/m ain effects theory ............................................................... 21
Stress-buffering theory .................. ... ..... ..................... ............... 21
Health Benefits of Social Support ............ .............. ........ 21
P hy sical health benefits .............................. ....................... ............... .... ........ ..22
Psychological health benefits ......... ......... ......... ......... 22
Health Benefits of Life Purpose .................... ................... ........................................22
A cadem ic-R elated B benefits ....................................................................................23
Reducing Burnout and Attrition ............................................................. ..............23
Burnout ......... ....... E......... ...................................... 23
A ttritio n ...................... ................................................... ....2 5
Encouraging Vocational Pursuits .............................................................................25
The role of life purpose ....... ................................................. 25
The role of social support............................................................... ............... 26
H higher E education Issues .............................................................................................27
Inadequate Social Support ......................................................................... ............... 28
Faculty-student interaction .............. .......................28
Department involvement ............... ......... ................29


4









Disregard for M meaning and Purpose in Life........................... ...................................... 30
Theoretical Association between Social Support and Life Purpose.................. ............31

3 METHODS .........................................32

Research Design ................................. ... ...................... ......... 33
Cross-Sectional, W eb-Based, Survey Research ................................... .................33
P ilo t S tu d ie s ............................................................................................................... 3 5
P h a se o n e ........................................................................................3 5
P hase tw o ..............................................................36
Research Variables and Instrum entation ........................................................ 38
Social Support and Life Purpose ................................ ........................ ............... 38
Stress......... ................................................................ 3 9
D em graphics .............................................. 40
S tu d y P o p u latio n ............................................................................................................... 4 1
D ata C o lle ctio n ................................................................................................................. 4 2
D ata A analysis ................................................... 43

4 R E SU L T S .............. ... ................................................................45

Sam pling F ram e ................................45.............................
R esp on se R ates ................................5.............................
Demographic Characteristics......................................................46
Internal C consistency ..................... ........................47
Levels of Social Support, Life Purpose, and Stress ........... .....................48
R research Q question # 1 ....................................................... 48
R research Q question #2 ....................................................... 48
R research Q question #3 ....................................................... 54
R research Q question #4 ....................................................... 55
R research Q question #5 ....................................................... 56
L im itatio n s ............. .......... .................... ........................................................................... 5 6

5 SUMMARY, CONCULSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS .............. ......... 61

Su m m ary ............. ...............................................6 1
R research Q question # 1 ....................................................... 62
R research Q question #2 ....................................................... 62
R research Q question #3 ....................................................... 63
R research Q question #4 ....................................................... 64
R research Q question #5 ....................................................... 64
C onclu sions.......... ..........................................................65
R e co m m en d atio n s......................... .... .. ......................................................................... 6 7
Recommendations for Professional Practice ......... ................. ......... 67
Recomm endations for Future Research............................................... 70

APPENDIX

A ORIGINAL INSTITITUIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPLICATION ................73









B INSTITUTIONAL REIVEW BOARD REVISION FORM 1 ..............................................91

C INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD REVISION FORM 2 .............. ............... 99

D INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD REVISION FORM 3 .............. ............... 101

E PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: FEEDBACK QUESTIONS..........................................105

F PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: COVER LETTER E-MAIL ...........................................108

G PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: NON-RESPONDENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL......................110

H PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: RESPONDENT THANK YOU E-MAIL ....................... 112

I PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: COVER LETTER E-MAIL ..............................................113

J PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: NON-RESPONDENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL......................114

K PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: RESPONDENT THANK YOU E-MAIL ....................... 115

L DEM OGRAPHIC QUESTION S............... .............................. .................. ............... 116

M MAIN STUDY: PRE-NOTIFICATION E-MAIL ..............................118

N MAIN STUDY: COVER LETTER E-MAIL.................................................................... 119

O MAIN STUDY: NON-RESPONDENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL ............ ... .................120

P MAIN STUDY: NON-RESPONDENT DEMOGRAPHIC REQUEST E-MAIL............121

Q MAIN STUDY: RESPONDENT THANK YOU E-MAIL .......... .. ...................122

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ......... .. ............... ................. ....................... ...................................123

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ......... ................. ............................................. .......................... 129









LIST OF TABLES


Table page

3-1 Demographic characteristics of the study population............................. ...............44

4-1 Categorical demographic characteristics of the main study participants...........................57

4-2 Bivariate correlation coefficients between social support & life purpose as compared
by dem graphic variables ......................................................................... ................... 58

4-3 Bivariate correlation coefficients between stress & the quantitative independent
v a ria b le s ................... .......................................................... ................ 5 9

4-4 Levels of stress as a function of the categorical independent variables ............................59

4-5 Main study multiple linear regression unstandardized regression coefficients,
standardized regression coefficients ............................................................................ 60

4-6 Multiple linear regression unstandardized regression coefficients, standardized
regression coefficients & t-test statistics................................................. ....... ........ 60









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

RELATIONSHIPS AMONG SOCIAL SUPPORT, LIFE PURPOSE, AND STRESS
IN THE LIVES OF GRADUATE STUDENTS

By

Beth Ann Johnson

August 2007

Chair: Barbara A. Rienzo
Major: Health and Human Performance

Although universities can positively influence all aspects of young adult health, attempts to

assist students in developing social support are often inadequate and the need to assist students in

discovering life purpose is often ignored. Several personal development theorists posit that

developing social support and discovering life purpose are necessary for positive human

development. However, the association between social support and life purpose has not been

empirically verified. The purposes of this study were to describe the association between social

support and life purpose among graduate students; explain how main and interaction effects of

social support and life purpose influence graduate student stress levels; and determine if the

association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics.

Phase One of the pilot study revealed that the design and layout of the web-based survey were

easily understood. Phase Two of the pilot study revealed the reliability of conducting a web-

based survey with instruments designed to measure levels of social support, life purpose, and

stress among young adults. The main study included a random sample of 1979 graduate students

enrolled at the University of Florida during spring 2007.

Bivariate correlation analyses provided empirical support for a relationship between social

support and life purpose, revealing that these variables are significantly correlated in a positive









direction among graduate students, regardless of most demographic characteristics. A multiple

linear regression analysis revealed that social support, life purpose, and sex significantly

contributed to the total variance in stress score. These main effects indicate that as social support

and life purpose increase, stress decreases as well as that males have lower stress scores than

females. A comparison of the change in R2 revealed that life purpose was better than social

support at predicting stress levels. Another multiple linear regression analysis revealed the

absence of a significant interaction effect between social support and life purpose with regard to

stress. The findings from this study can be used to inform the health education profession by

helping determine the need for initiatives designed to reduce stress as well as enhance social

support and life purpose among graduate students.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

Social health and spiritual health represent two vital dimensions of health. One component

of social health-social support-promotes both physical health (Bolt, 2004; Clara, Cox, Enns,

Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Thoits, 1995) and psychological health (Bolt, 2004; Clara, Cox,

Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hodges, 2002; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Lawson &

Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Thoits, 1995; Vaux & Wood, 1987). Two theories

explain how social support influences health: the direct or main effects theory (Bolt, 2004;

Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992), and the stress-buffering theory (Bolt,

2004, Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong,

1992).

Meaning and purpose in life, a component of spiritual health, also promotes health

(Hodges, 2002; Kass, Friedman, Leserman, Zuttermeister, & Benson, 1991; Kennedy &

Kanthamani, 1994; Laurence, 2005; Love & Talbot, 1999; Mahoney & Graci, 1999; Strange,

2001; Tanyi, 2002; Young, Cashwell, & Woolington, 1998). As people understand their

meaning and purpose in life, several health benefits accrue, including "a heightened sense of

physical and emotional well-being" (Tanyi, 2002, p. 506), due in part to a stress-buffering effect

(Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994, p. 357; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). A sense of meaning and

purpose in life buffers against stress because it "provides direction and fulfillment in life"

(Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994, p. 357).

These particular benefits may become most evident during young adulthood, which

involves "a time of questioning and spiritual searching in which there is particular emphasis

upon... making connection with ultimate life purpose" (Dalton, 2001, p. 17). The process of

searching "frequently coincides] in people's lives with pursuit of advanced formal education"









(Strange, 2001, p. 59). In fact, "the graduate school experience is essentially an act of dreaming

about one's purpose in life-in the most spiritual sense, one's calling or vocation" (Strange,

2001, p. 63). As such, the sense of meaning and purpose in life for young adults proves

"especially important in helping them to identify and commit to future goals and career choices"

(Dalton, 2001, p. 18).

Statement of the Research Problem

Colleges and universities can affect virtually all aspects of young adult life and should,

therefore, take a holistic approach to addressing needs of students (Higher Education Research

Institute (HERI): The Spiritual Life, 2005). In higher education, however, attempts to assist

students in developing social support are often inadequate (Christie, Munro, & Fisher, 2004;

Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004;

Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Williams, 2000; Williams, 2002); and the need to assist students in

discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life is often ignored (Dalton, 2001; Higher

Education Research Institute (HERI): Summary, 2004; HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005;

Laurence, 2005; Love, 2001; Love & Talbot, 1999).

Many graduate programs attempt to provide students with a supportive environment in

which to learn and to grow. Research has shown, however, that gender and racial differences

can influence whether or not students reap the benefits intended by the social support services

provided (Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Williams, 2000; Williams,

2002). As a result, the support that graduate programs believe they provide may not be

experienced by the entire student body.

The belief that higher education has "come to neglect the student's inner development-

the sphere of values and beliefs, emotional maturity, spirituality, and self-understanding" (HERI:

The Spiritual Life, 2005, The Project, 2) prompted the Higher Education Research Institute at









the University of California, Los Angeles to conduct research to better understand the spiritual

development of college students. According to the HERI study, though "three-fourths of the

students say that they are 'searching for meaning and purpose in life"' (HERI: The Spiritual Life,

2005, p. 4), "more than half say that their professors never provide opportunities to discuss the

meaning and purpose of life" (HERI: Summary, 2004, p. 6). As a result, students' self-reported

levels of spirituality declined during their undergraduate education (HERI: Summary, 2004).

Previous research supports these findings by confirming that many young adults never develop a

sense of meaning and purpose in life during their time in college (Frankl, 1967 as cited in

Coffield, 1981; Naylor & Naylor, 1995 as cited in Hindman, 2002).

Several theorists indicate, however, that developing a social support network and

discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life represent necessary steps in the process of

positive human development (i.e., Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs), particularly for young adults

(i.e., Chickering's Seven Vectors of Development, Parks' Faith Development Theory). To

achieve a sense of meaning and purpose in life, theorists posit that people must develop

interpersonal relationships which enhance a social support network (Chickering & Reisser, 1993;

Frager & Fadiman, 2005; Maslow, 1987; Parks, 2000). The association between presence of

social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life has not been empirically verified. As a

result, potential health benefits that may result, as well as potential interactions between social

support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, remain unknown.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to (1) describe the association between social support and life

purpose among graduate students; (2) explain how the main effects, as well as the interaction

effect, of social support and life purpose influence stress levels of graduate students; and (3)









determine if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by

demographic characteristics.

Significance of the Study

If higher education institutions do not facilitate a social support network and discovery of a

sense of meaning and purpose for their students, these young adults may not acquire the related

health benefits. For example, stress poses a major health concern for young adults in higher

education (Abouserie, 1994; Deckro, Ballinger, Hoyt, & Wilcher, 2002; Geraghty, 1997;

Goldman & Wong, 1997; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Ross, Niebling, & Heckert, 1999;

Sciacca & Melby, 1992). Social support (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997;

Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992) and a sense of meaning and purpose in

life (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995) can provide a buffer against stress.

In addition to contributing numerous health problems (Deckro, Ballinger, Hoyt, &

Wilcher, 2002; Dixon & Reid, 2000; Duenwald, 2002; Frazier & Schauben, 1994; Geraghty,

1997; Goldman & Wong, 1997; Hudd, Dumlao, Erdmann-Sager, Murray, Phan, Soukas, et al,

2000; Park & Levenson, 2002; Sciacca & Melby, 1992), stress causes burnout (Schaufeli,

Maslach, & Marek, 1993 as cited by Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Schaufeli & Buunk, 1996 as cited

by Peiro, Gonzalez-Roma, Tordera & Manas, 2001; Cooper, Dewe, & O'Driscoll, 2001; Hobfoll

& Shirom, 2000; and Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998 as cited by Pines & Keinan, 2005; Maslach,

Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001). Burnout can lead people to "question their vocational choice"

(Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982, p. 96) and to consider leaving their line of work (Golde, 1998; Pines

& Keinan, 2005; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982). Many graduate students view their educational

pursuits as a full-time job, one that will prepare them to fulfill their life purpose through their

careers. As such, stress that leads to burnout may increase attrition rates among graduate

students.









Considerable research has been conducted to explore the health benefits of social support

and a sense of meaning and purpose in life independently. Yet no investigations published to

date have explored the association or the interaction between presence of social support and a

sense of meaning and purpose in life, despite a theoretical association between the two. Potential

health benefits that may result from understanding the association as well as the interaction

between social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, particularly those associated

to stress buffering, remain unknown. This study explored the association and interaction

between social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, as well as their impact on

stress levels, and contributes to the professional literature by providing valuable information for

university-based health promotion/disease prevention initiatives.

Research Questions

1. What is the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students?

2. Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students vary
when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f) credit
hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus?

3. Which of the following variables are associated with stress level among graduate students:
(a) social support, (b) life purpose, (c) sex, (d) age, (e) race, (f) field of study, (g) type of
degree, (h) credit hours, (i) time in program, (j) program focus?

4. Does the interaction between social support and life purpose influence the stress levels of
graduate students?

5. Is there variation in how the interaction between social support and life purpose influences
the stress levels of graduate students when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field
of study, (e) type of degree, (f) credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus?

Research Questions 1, 3, and 4 are considered primary because answering them will

provide meaningful overall information. Research Questions 2 and 5 are considered secondary

not only because they require adequate demographic data, but also because their analysis is

contingent upon the results of the primary research questions. Specifically, answering Research









Question 2 is relevant only if the answer to Research Question 1 revealed a correlation and

Research Question 5 is relevant only if the answer to Research Question 4 revealed an

interaction effect.

Delimitations

* Participants will include a sample of graduate students enrolled at the University of
Florida.

* Data will be collected during Spring semester 2007.

* The Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) was used to determine participants'
"perceived availability of potential social resources" (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamark, &
Hoberman, 1985, p. 75).

* The Personal Meaning Index (PMI) was used to determine participants' "existential beliefs
that life is meaningful" (Reker, 2005, p. 72).

* The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) was used to determine "the degree to which situations in
one's life are appraised as stressful" (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983, p. 387).

* Data will be collected using a web-based survey.


Limitations

* Students who participate in the study may not represent all graduate students enrolled at
the University of Florida.

* Data collected during Spring semester 2007 may differ from data collected during other
time periods.

* The Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) may not measure all participant
perceptions regarding potential social resources.

* The Personal Meaning Index (PMI) may not measure all participant beliefs about the
meaning of life.

* The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) may not measure all participant perceptions concerning
stressful life situations.

* Data collected using a web-based survey may differ from data collected using other survey
formats.









Assumptions


* The students who participate will be considered adequately representative of graduate
students at the University of Florida.

* Data collected during the Spring semester 2007 were considered adequate for the purpose
of this study.

* The Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) was considered adequate to address
participants' "perceived availability of potential social resources" (Cohen, Mermelstein,
Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985, p. 75).

* The Personal Meaning Index (PMI) was considered adequate to address participants'
"existential beliefs that life is meaningful" (Reker, 2005, p. 72).

* The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) was considered adequate to address "the degree to which
situations in one's life are appraised as stressful" (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983, p.
387).

* Collecting data using a web-based survey was considered adequate for the purpose of the
study.

Definition of Terms

* CALLING. Vocational pursuits that allow people to live out their passions in ways that are
meaningful and make a difference in the world beyond themselves (Chickering & Reisser,
1993; Hindman, 2002; Parker, 2000).

* FAITH DEVELOPMENT. The process people undergo as they attempt to make sense of their
lives by looking for the meaning in their past, present, and future, which can be informed
by secular or religious perspectives depending on their personal beliefs (Parks, 2000).

* MEANING AND PURPOSE IN LIFE. "Having a sense of direction from past, present, and
future, and...a logically integrated and consistent understanding of self, others, and life in
general" (Reker, 1992, p. 20).

* SOCIAL SUPPORT. The presence of people who can offer a listening ear, companionship that
leads to a sense of belonging, or material aid such as goods and services (Cohen,
Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985).

* STRESS. The physiological and psychological responses a person's body experiences when
resources needed to cope with the demands of a particular situation are lacking (Lazarus &
Folkman, 1984 as cited by Jenkins & Elliot, 2004).

* VECTORS OF DEVELOPMENT. Guidelines that describe the current position of students as
well as their progress on the journey toward intrapersonal and interpersonal development
(Chickering & Reisser, 1993).









CHAPTER 2
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

The purpose of this study is to (1) describe the association between social support and life

purpose among graduate students; (2) explain how the main effects, as well as the interaction

effect, of social support and life purpose influence stress levels of graduate students; and (3)

determine if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by

demographic characteristics.

The purpose of Chapter 2 is to present an overview of the research relevant to this study.

A summary of the following topics will be presented: (a) personal development, (b) health-

related benefits, (c) academic-related benefits, and (d) higher education issues. Chapter 2 will

conclude with a discussion of the theoretical association between social support and life purpose.

Personal Development

The process of personal development among graduate students can be best understood by

taking into account Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (Frager & Fadiman, 2005; Maslow, 1987),

Parks' Faith Development Theory (Parks, 2000), and the revised version of Chickering's Seven

Vectors of Development (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). These theories postulate that developing

a social support network and discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life are necessary

steps in the process of personal development. In addition, these theories imply that developing a

social support network must occur before people have the capacity to discover a sense of

meaning and purpose in their lives.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs espouses that all human beings have the following needs:

physiological needs, safety and security, love and belongingness, self-esteem, and self-

actualization. He posits that individuals must fulfill lower-order needs before they can attempt to









achieve higher-order needs (Frager & Fadiman, 2005; Maslow, 1987). Thus, the lower-order

need of love and belongingness (i.e., the development of social relationships and the receipt of

the support they can provide) must be fulfilled prior to achieving self-actualization, which

"occurs as individuals achieve their full potential as human beings as manifested through...a

sense of fulfillment and purpose in life" (Hawks, 1994, Spiritual Health as an Integral Part of

Holistic Health, T 6; Hodges, 2002). Discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life takes

place "within the context of social relationships and then serves as the path to... self-

actualization" (Hawks, 1994, Conclusion, T 1).

Parks' Faith Development Theory

According to Parks, there are "four eras in the developmental spectrum spanning

adolescence to mature adult faith: adolescence or conventional, young adult, tested adult, and

mature adult" (Parks, 2000, p. 70). Parks' Faith Development Theory focuses specifically on the

development of young adults, "people typically between seventeen and thirty-the 'twenty-

somethings'" (Parks, 2000, p. 3). Prior to the development of this theory, young adulthood was

generally considered a time of transition between adolescence and adulthood, and, as such, was

not regarded as a viable stage in the process of faith development. Parks (2000) however,

believed that "embedded in the place called transition [there is] a distinct form of composing

meaning, a recognizable stage [that focused on] the formation of identity and the searching for a

fitting role in society" (p. 62). According to Parks (2000) "this newfound freedom to struggle for

an identity and to take responsibility for it are signals that an adolescent has crossed the threshold

into young adulthood" (p. 63). Thus, "one becomes a young adult in faith (at whatever age)

when one begins to take self-conscious responsibility for one's own knowing, becoming, and

moral action, even at the level of ultimate meaning-making" (Parks, 2000, p. 64). During this

stage a young adult will experience what Parks terms probing commitment, in which he/she









"explores many possible forms of truth-as well as work roles, relationships, and lifestyles-and

their fittingness to one's own experience of self and world" (Parks, 2000, p. 66-67). As a person

progresses from the young adult to the tested adult stage of faith development, their probing

commitment becomes tested commitment, which "begins to take form when... one's form of

knowing and being takes on... a recognition that one is willing...to affirm one's place in the

scheme of things" (Parks, 2000, p. 69).

The process of moving from young adulthood to tested adulthood, from probing to tested

commitment, is better understood in terms of the way in which faith is defined. According to

Parks' Faith Development Theory, "faith is...the activity of seeking and discovering meaning"

(2000, p. 7). The process of faith development can be explained by the following theoretical

components: Forms of Knowing, Forms of Dependence, and Forms of Community (Parks,

2000). The latter two components focus on social interaction and interpersonal relationships as a

means by which young adults develop their faith and discover a sense of meaning and purpose in

life (Parks, 2000). More specifically, Forms of Dependence focusese] on the relationships

through which we discover and change our views of knowledge and faith" while Forms of

Community focuses on "the influence of the interpersonal, social, and cultural context on one's

development" (Love, 2001, p. 9; Parks 2000). Love (2001) asserted that Parks' Faith

Development Theory suggests that "the movement toward a mature adult faith is one of

connection to, interaction with, and belonging to the broader world. [This process takes place as

individuals begin to recognize] one's interdependence and interconnectedness with communities

and individuals" (p. 14).

Chickering's Seven Vectors of Development (Revised)

Chickering's Revised Seven Vectors of Development provides information specific to the

development of college students, "which today includes persons of virtually all ages"









(Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 34). Based on Chickering's theory, "the seven

vectors... help... determine where students are and which way they are heading" (Chickering &

Reisser, 1993, p. 34) and "describe.. .journeying toward individuation-... one's unique way of

being-and also toward communion with other individuals and groups, including the larger

national and global society" (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 35).

Vectors four and six respectively correspond to the development of social support and the

discovery of a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Vector Four, Developing Mature

Interpersonal Relationships, serves to "recognize the importance of students' experiences with

relationships in the formation of their core sense of self' (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 39).

Some of the characteristics of mature interpersonal relationships are intimacy, interdependence,

tolerance, and commitment. Vector Six, Developing Purpose, serves to help people identify their

vocational goals as well as to be intentional about making plans to accomplish their goals by

prioritizing their responsibilities. These have helped people figure out who they are. But it is the

vector, developing purpose, that will help people figure out what they are being called to do in

the future (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). Based on the progression of vectors, it appears as if

most students will develop social support prior to discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in

life.

Health-Related Benefits

Developing a social support network and discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in

life contribute to the process of personal development and also provide health-related benefits.

Theoretical Explanation of Health Benefits of Social Support

Two theories have been postulated to explain how social support influences health (Bolt,

2004; Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong,

1992).









Direct/main effects theory

The direct/main effects theory states that "social support is beneficial to well-being,

regardless of the level of stressors to which individuals are exposed" (Jenkins & Elliot, 2004, p.

623; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992). According to this theory, social support can benefit health

by encouraging people to participate in health promoting behaviors (i.e., nutritious diets, physical

activity) and refraining from participation in health-related risk behaviors (i.e., smoking,

drinking) (Bolt, 2004).

Stress-buffering theory

The stress-buffering theory states that "social support is related to well-being only for

persons who experience stress" (Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992, p. 717; Jenkins & Elliot, 2004).

Specifically, the theory states that "support, either perceived availability or amount actually

received, is more beneficial for individuals with higher rather than lower levels of stress" (Jung,

1997, p. 79; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989). The way in which social support serves as a buffer

against stress is by acting "as a coping resource that lessens...the potentially [harmful] impact of

stressors" (Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992, p. 717; Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003;

Hodges, 2002; Thoits, 1995) by helpingn] us to evaluate and overcome the stressful event"

(Bolt, 2004, p. 182; Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003).

Health Benefits of Social Support

Researchers have found that social support plays an important role in enhancing both

physical (Bolt, 2004; Thoits, 1995) and psychological health (Bolt, 2004; Clara, Cox, Enns,

Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hodges, 2002; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Lawson &

Fuehrer, 1989; Thoits, 1995).









Physical health benefits

The physical health-related benefits that occur as a result of social support can be

explained by both theories. According to the direct/main effects theory, higher levels of social

support lead people to take fewer health-related risks, which in turn increase the likelihood that

people will participate in health promoting behaviors (i.e., proper nutrition, adequate physical

activity). According to the stress-buffering theory, higher levels of social support help people

cope with adverse life events, thereby decreasing their stress levels. Health promoting behaviors

and decreased stress levels that occur as a result of social support enhance immune functioning,

lessen chances of becoming sick and promote rapid recovery if illness occurs (Bolt, 2004). As a

result of improved physical health status, social support decreases the likelihood that people will

meet an untimely death from illness (Bolt, 2004; Thoits, 1995).

Psychological health benefits

The presence of psychological health-related benefits that occur as a result of social

support can be explained by the stress-buffering theory. For example, higher levels of social

support help people cope with adverse life events (Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003;

Hodges, 2002; Thoits, 1995; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002), thereby decreasing their stress

levels. This decrease then may lead to benefits associated with the presence of social support,

such as increased life satisfaction (Bolt, 2004), self-esteem, and a sense of personal identity

(Thoits, 1995) as well as decreased occurrence and severity of anxiety (Kanters, Bristol, &

Attarian, 2002; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989) and depression (Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, &

Torgrudc, 2003; Hodges, 2002; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002).

Health Benefits of Life Purpose

Meaning and purpose in life has been studied to determine its associated health-related

benefits. According to Victor Frankl (1959), "striving to find meaning in one's life is the









primary motivation force in man" (p. 23). Upon discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in

life, people are afforded benefits such as improved physical and psychological health (Tanyi,

2002), which may result from decreased stress levels (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Yiu-kee &

Tang, 1995) that likely occur because of an increased ability to cope with and adapt to adverse

life events (Hodges, 2002; Tanyi, 2002). These factors occur because of having a sense of

meaning and purpose in life. Additional benefits include enhanced feelings of hope (Hodges,

2002; Tanyi, 2002) and personal fulfillment (Hawks, 1994; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994),

which may result from individuals having a sense of meaning and purpose in life and knowing

what direction to take in life (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994).

Academic-Related Benefits

Developing a social support network and discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in

life contribute to personal development by providing academic-related benefits.

Reducing Burnout and Attrition

Burnout

Several research studies have looked at burnout among professionals (Pines & Keinan,

2005) particularly those working in helping professions (Bruce, Conaglen, & Conaglen, 2005;

Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Peiro, Gonzalez-Roma, Tordera, & Manas, 2001; Spicuzza & De Voe,

1982; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). Researchers have looked at burnout among professionals in an

effort to understand the potential for burnout during graduate school. Many full-time students

consider graduate school to be their careers, while many part-time students consider graduate

school to be a part-time career. Thus, part-time students' responsibilities must be balanced with

non-academic responsibilities that are associated with careers and/or families.

Researchers disagree about the causes and/or correlates of burnout. Some researchers

believe that burnout occurs from chronic occupational stress (Bruce, Conaglen, & Conaglen,









2005; Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001; Peiro, Gonzalez-Roma,

Tordera & Manas, 2001). Others believe that burnout is correlated with feelings of

insignificance (Pines & Keinan, 2005; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995).

Burnout due to stress. According to the findings that associate burnout with occupational

stress, "work and organizational demands are related to burnout experiences, especially when

they are chronic and hard to control" (Peiro, Gonzalez-Roma, Tordera, & Manas, 2001, p. 511).

Although acute stress can be a motivator, students often have little control over graduate school

experiences (i.e., deadlines, comprehensive examinations, thesis or dissertation proposals and

defenses). These demands are chronic because graduate school is typically a lengthy

commitment of several years. As previous research has shown, stress can be reduced and

burnout can be eliminated if students develop a social support network (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins &

Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992) and discover a

sense of meaning and purpose in life (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995).

Burnout due to existential issues. Findings that associate burnout with existential issues

often occur around situations in which people feel as if their work lacks significance (Pines &

Keinan, 2005; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). Pines and Keinan (2005) state that "the root cause of

burnout lies in people's need to believe that their lives are meaningful, that the things they do are

useful and important" (p. 626; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). People often enter graduate school

because they want to make a difference. Also they believe that acquiring the knowledge and

experience necessary to enter certain professions will allow them to do so. However, some

students become discouraged because they lose sight of how the work they are doing now will

allow them to make a difference (Pines & Keinan, 2005; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982). Without a

sense that their work is significant and will make a difference in the world, graduate students are









likely to experience burnout (Pines & Keinan, 2005). As research has shown, discovering a

sense of meaning and purpose in life can help people determine what direction to take in life

(Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994), which can lead to feelings of hope (Hodges, 2002; Tanyi,

2002), personal fulfillment (Hawks, 1994; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994), and reduce the

likelihood that burnout will occur.

Attrition

Several researchers have studied burnout in depth by focusing on attrition among graduate

students (Christie, Munro, & Fisher, 2004; Golde, 1998; Herzig, 2004; Reed & Giacobbi, 2004)

and professionals (Pines & Keinan, 2005; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982). According to research on

professionals, burnout can lead people to "question their [current or future] vocational choice"

(Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982, p. 96; Pines & Keinan, 2005). Should burnout persist, graduate

students may actually leave their programs (Golde, 1998; Reed & Giacobbi, 2004). Thus, it is

important to incorporate social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in the lives of

graduate students to decrease feelings of burnout, so that the possibility of attrition is lessened.

Encouraging Vocational Pursuits

The role of life purpose

Young adults must discover a sense of meaning and purpose in life before deciding upon

vocations. Young adults "have an inner sense that they are meant to do something special with

their lives" (Dalton, 2001, p. 20). This inner sense is "a sense of vocation-[an] awareness of

living one's life aligned with a larger frame of purpose and significance" (Parks, 2000, p. 26).

Pursuing a graduate degree is one way in which young adults "dream...about [their] purpose in

life-in the most spiritual sense, one's calling or vocation" (Strange, 2001, p. 63). Young adults'

sense of meaning and purpose in life appears to be "especially important in helping them to

identify and commit to future goals and career choices" (Dalton, 2001, p. 18). Thus, as young









adults discover their sense of meaning and purpose in life they "integrate their beliefs into career

choices and lifestyle patterns [which lead them] to be active participants in social and civic

communities" (Dalton, 2001, p. 24).

The role of social support

Social support from a variety of different sources (i.e., faculty, staff, peers, family, friends)

can encourage young adults to seek, discover, and/or motivate them to pursue their purpose.

Encouragement to seek purpose. The environments in which young adults live and

interact with others have the capacity to influence the development of life purpose (Love &

Talbot, 1999). For young adults to experience this development, they must feel secure enough to

discover the meaning and purpose that has been there all along (Hindman, 2002). One way to

help young adults feel secure in seeking their purpose in life is through the establishment of a

sense of belonging (Strange, 2001). According to Parks (2000) a network of belonging allows

people to "feel recognized as who they really are, and as who they are becoming. It offers both

challenge and support and thus offers good company for both the emerging strength and the

distinctive vulnerability of the young adult" (p. 95). Communities in which this network of

belonging develops can "recognize, support, challenge, and inspire those within them... Such an

environment can indeed nurture the spiritual questions in students' lives" as they seek to discover

their purpose in life (Strange, 2001, p. 60). Once students feel a sense of belonging, although

they are ready to seek purpose, they may be unsure of their ability. Therefore, they will need

people to stand beside them and encourage them to figure out who they are and what their

purpose in life is. This type of encouragement comes from relationships in which people not

only provide a caring (Hindman, 2002) and supportive (Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-

Hillix, & Davidson, 1986) presence, but also ensures young adults that they can be trusted to

remain committed to them for as long as it takes to find their life purpose (Hindman, 2002).









Guidance in discovering purpose. When young adults decide to embark on the journey

of discovering their life purposes, they need people with enough life experience who can offer

guidance along the way (Hindman, 2002). One way that more experienced people can guide

young adults is to lead by example. Also, more experienced people can pose questions that

encourage students to "reflect upon the greater purpose of their lives" (Dalton, 2001, p. 23).

These questions allows students to search within themselves to find answers based on "worthy

commitment [and] moral responsibility" (Dalton, 2001, p. 23) that will hopefully lead them

closer to discovering their own unique purpose in life (Strange, 2001). When posing questions,

more experienced people must allow young adults to express their answers and provide

occasions to discuss their responses (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Dalton, 2001; Hindman, 2002;

Strange, 2001). Sharing one's self with others and listening to the stories of those who have

already discovered as well as those who are still searching for their life purpose can lead young

adults even closer to figuring out what it is they are being called to do with their lives (Strange,

2001). Providing young adults time for reflection and introspection allows them to determine

how they are going to incorporate new understandings of their sense of purpose into their lives

(Hindman, 2002; Strange, 2001).

Motivation to pursue purpose. In order to pursue their calling, young adults need

opportunities to live so that their actions are congruent with their values and sense of purpose

(Hindman, 2002). Unless students live out their calling, they may become discouraged and find

it difficult to maintain a sense of meaning and purpose in life.

Higher Education Issues

Institutions of higher education are influential in shaping society (HERI: The Spiritual

Life, 2005) because they can help to promote the development of young adults (Chickering &

Reisser, 1993; Parks, 2000). However, to aid young adults in their overall development, colleges









and universities must take a more holistic approach (Love & Talbot, 1999) and "recommit to the

mission of nurturing mind, body, heart, and spirit" (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 41). This

nurturing process should include efforts to aid young adults in developing social support

networks and discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Both components are

necessary for the development of young adults, according to Maslow (Frager & Fadiman, 2005;

Maslow, 1987), Parks (2000), and Chickering (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). Developing these

components allows for the realization of the health- and academic-related benefits associated

with social support and life purpose. However, "at the graduate level the authentic, holistic,

educational experience may be most in jeopardy" (Strange, 2001, p. 60).

Inadequate Social Support

Many graduate programs have attempted to provide students with supportive environments

by establishing mentor/advisor relationships with faculty members and encouraging their

involvement in the social and academic aspects of their graduate program departments (Ellis,

2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992). However, the social interactions that occur

as a result are not always adequate in providing young adults with the support they need.

Research has shown that gender and/or racial differences mediate whether or not students will

reap the benefits intended by the social support initiatives offered (Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004;

Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Williams, 2000; Williams, 2002).

Faculty-student interaction

Despite being assigned a faculty mentor/advisor, students perceived a lack in the level of

support that they expected (Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Ellis,

2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992). The reasons included "personality

incongruity, lack of common research interests, lack of cultural commonalities resulting in poor

communications, as well as... having racist, sexist, or unsupportive advisers who simply made









degree progress very difficult" (Ellis, 2001, p. 36). Research shows that insufficient support is

perceived by students of all races and both genders (Ellis, 2001). However, women (Cronan-

Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004) and racial

minorities (Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004) seem to be at a disadvantage when it comes to finding

compatible mentors and advisors.

According to Herzig (2004), the "forms of discrimination that women faced in finding

mentors rang[ed] from professors who would not take on women students to mentors who did

not seem to tap into their professional networks as vigorously for their female students as they

did for their male students" (p. 192). Herzig (2004) also reported that there is a "tendency for

faculty to mentor same-sex students [which poses a disadvantage for female students due to] the

small numbers of women faculty" (p. 193). Furthermore, because there are few women faculty,

"there is a frequent lack of female role models within academia" (Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer,

Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986, p. 126; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992). The same holds true

for minority students (Herzig, 2004).

Department involvement

Many students, particularly women and minorities, find it difficult to become involved in

their graduate program departments (Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004) because the departmental culture

seems impersonal (Herzig, 2004) and lacks a sense of community (Ellis, 2001). This perception

leads students to feel as if they do not belong (Christie, Munro, & Fisher, 2004). One reason that

women and racial minorities may feel alienated from their departments is because, "if... students

have] commitments to an ethnic, cultural, or family community, it may be difficult for [them] to

participate in the activities of the academic community. Competing communities of practice can

isolate students from the communities of their departments and programs. [Another reason for

such feelings of alienation to occur is that] students] who [are] not accepted by the other









community members or who [are] perceived to have a particular set of skills, abilities, and

dispositions...will have fewer opportunities to develop effective relationships with mentors and

others" (Herzig, 2004, p. 202).

Disregard for Meaning and Purpose in Life

Helping students discover a sense of meaning and purpose in life, by guiding them toward

an understanding of who they are and what they are meant to do with their lives based on their

unique personal characteristics and abilities, is one aspect of young adult development that is

often ignored in academia (Dalton, 2001; HERI: Summary, 2004; HERI: The Spiritual Life,

2005; Laurence, 2005; Love, 2001; Love & Talbot, 1999). This is a significant oversight,

considering that young adults view spirituality to be an important aspect in their lives, one they

believe institutions of higher education should aid them in developing (HERI: The Spiritual Life,

2005). To gain a better understanding of the spiritual development of college students, and the

role of colleges and universities in that development, the Higher Education Research Institute at

the University of California, Los Angeles conducted a study, the results of which revealed that,

even though "three-fourths of the students say that they are 'searching for meaning and purpose

in life'" (HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005, p. 4), "more than half say that their professors never

provide opportunities to discuss the meaning and purpose of life" (HERI: Summary, 2004, p. 6).

The separation of the spiritual life from the academic life causes fragmentation (Parks,

2000). The danger of such fragmentation is that students, who "find themselves at a crucial point

in life, having to make major decisions about life choice and direction" (Dalton, 2001, p. 23),

may be unable to comprehend how the academic goals they have been working to accomplish

coincide with their sense of meaning and purpose in life. Without a sense that the time and effort

they are putting towards their academic pursuits is meaningful, young adults may lose sight of

their goals and the ultimate purpose in their lives. Additional HERI survey results revealed that









the self-reported levels of spirituality of students declined during their undergraduate education,

from 47% during their freshman year to 39% during their junior year (HERI: Summary, 2004),

indicating that the spiritual lives of young adults may be at risk.

Theoretical Association between Social Support and Life Purpose

The discussion of personal development theories indicates that developing a social support

network and discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life must occur before human beings

can complete the developmental process. These theories and the academic-related benefits of

encouraging vocational pursuits illustrate the idea that developing a social support network

generally needs to occur before people can discover a sense of meaning and purpose in their

lives. Specifically, social support can encourage people to discover their meaning and purpose in

life, which in turn can help people identify a vocation to which they can dedicate their lives.

Research has yet to be conducted to understand the nature of the relationship between social

support and life purpose to test these theoretical implications. The purpose of this study is to

determine if there is a relationship and in what direction that relationship presents itself.

Since social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life play a significant role in

the process of human development, it seems likely that the effects of an interaction between

these two variables would contribute substantially to an understanding of well-being and

development. Thus, research that is designed to explore the nature of the association and

interaction between social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life is likely to

contribute to the field of health education research and provide valuable information that can be

used in university health promotion/disease prevention initiatives.









CHAPTER 3
METHODS

This study (1) described the association between social support and life purpose among

graduate students; (2) explained how the main effects, as well as the interaction effect, of social

support and life purpose influence stress levels of graduate students; and (3) determined if the

association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics.

Specifically, the research questions addressed in this study were 1. What is the association

between social support and life purpose in graduate students? 2. Does the association between

social support and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c)

race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f) credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program

focus? 3. Which of the following variables are associated with stress level among graduate

students: (a) social support, (b) life purpose, (c) sex, (d) age, (e) race, (f) field of study, (g) type

of degree, (h) credit hours, (i) time in program, (j) program focus? 4. Does the interaction

between social support and life purpose influence the stress levels of graduate students? 5. Is

there variation in how the interaction between social support and life purpose influences the

stress levels of graduate students when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study,

(e) type of degree, (f) credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus?

Research hypotheses related to Research Question 4 were as follows. Hypothesis 1 stated

that graduate students with high social support and high life purpose will have low stress levels

(i.e., A graduate student senses that his purpose in life is to become a doctor and his family and

friends are supportive of this vocational choice). Hypothesis 2 stated that graduate students with

low social support and low life purpose will have high stress levels (i.e., A graduate student's

family and friends do not provide support for him as he struggles to discover his purpose in life).

Hypothesis 3 stated that graduate students with high social support and low life purpose or low









social support and high life purpose will have moderate stress levels (A graduate student's family

and friends provide support for him as he struggles to discover his purpose in life OR A graduate

student senses that his purpose in life is to become a writer, but his family and friends do not

provide support for this vocational choice because they want him to become a doctor).

The purpose of Chapter 3 is to describe the methods that were used to conduct this study.

A description of the following topics is presented: (a) research design, (b) research variables, (c)

study population, (d) instrumentation, (e) data collection, and (f) data analysis.

This study was approved by the University of Florida Institutional Review Board in

November 2006 (Appendices A, B, C, and D: original application and subsequent revisions).

Research Design

Cross-Sectional, Web-Based, Survey Research

This study utilized a cross-sectional, web-based, survey research design. Survey research

is conducted by gathering information from a small sample of people in order to make inferences

about trends within the larger population (Creswell, 2005; Dillman, 2000). To ensure that such

inferences are as accurate as possible, it is important to reduce both coverage and sampling error

(Creswell, 2005) as well as enhance response rates (Creswell, 2005; Dillman, 2000). This study

addressed these considerations by selecting large samples from a target population that were

representative of the larger population (Creswell, 2005) as well as by making follow-up contacts

with non-respondents (Creswell, 2005; Dillman, 2000).

The cross-sectional nature of the research design indicated that survey data was collected

on a single occasion (Creswell, 2005). One advantage associated with cross-sectional research

designs is efficiency, which allows researchers to reach more people in less time for less money,

thereby increasing the likelihood that the sample is representative of the population of interest.









Another advantage associated with cross-sectional research designs is that such designs are not

impacted by effects associated with testing or history (Portney & Watkins, 2000).

Surveys were distributed by, completed on, and returned via the Internet in accordance

with processes recommended by Creswell (2005) and Dillman (2000). The advantages of

conducting research via web-based surveys are efficiency (Creswell, 2005; Dillman, 2000) and

economy (Daley, McDermott, McCormack, & Kittleson, 2003; Dillman, 2000). In addition,

benefits specifically related to the population of interest are that graduate students are likely to

have access to and be knowledgeable about both computer use and the Internet (Daley,

McDermott, McCormack, & Kittleson, 2003). Pealer and colleagues (2001) found no significant

differences when comparing the response rates of university students who completed web-based

surveys (58.3%) versus those who completed mail surveys (62%).

Potential procedural problems exist with web-based surveys. The entire sample may not

receive the e-mail message containing a link to the web-based survey if delivered into the "junk-

mail" folder of intended recipients instead of their "in" boxes, depending on how e-mail accounts

sort items from unknown senders. The intended recipients also may use e-mail accounts in

addition to their university sponsored address. Some recipients who receive an e-mail message

containing a link to the web-based survey may not be able to access the link due to the way in

which their internet accounts are configured. Recipients also may forward a study e-mail request

to people they think might be interested in participating, thereby affecting with the randomness

of a sample.

The web-based survey process was facilitated by SurveyMonkey, a service that provides a

password-protected account from which surveys can be created and disseminated as well as from

which survey responses can be collected and data compiled. Password protection ensures that









only the principal investigator has access to the names, e-mail addresses, and survey responses of

the participants, enabling that information to be preserved in a confidential manner. Moreover,

because participant directories are kept separate from survey responses, the names of participants

and their e-mail addresses are not connected to their survey responses, further ensuring

confidentiality. (SurveyMonkey, 2006).

Pilot Studies

Phase one

The first phase assessed whether the design and layout of the survey were easily

understood (Daley, McDermott, McCormack, & Kittleson, 2003). Twelve questions to solicit the

reactions of respondents to the survey were positioned at various locations: two after the

welcome screen; four after the compilation of 70 questions representing social support, life

purpose, and stress; four after the eight demographic questions; and two at the end of the survey

(Appendix E). These questions elicited assessments on the successful incorporation of several

principles Dillman (2000) identifies as necessary for constructing web surveys: 1) "Introduce the

Web questionnaire with a welcome screen that is motivational, emphasizes the ease of

responding, and instructs respondents about how to proceed to the next page" (p. 377); 2)

"Present each question in a conventional format similar to that normally used on paper self-

administered questionnaires" (p. 379); 3) "Restrain the use of color so that figure/ground

consistency and readability are maintained, navigational flow is unimpeded, and measurement

properties of questions are maintained" (p. 382); and 4) "Provide specific instructions on how to

take each necessary computer action for responding to the questionnaire, and give other

necessary instructions at the point where they are needed" (p. 389).

The convenience sample for Phase One of the pilot study consisted often graduate

students enrolled at the same university that would serve for the main study. Cover letter e-mails









with a link to the survey were sent on November 30, 2006 to explain the purpose of the pilot

study and invite them to participate (Appendix F). One week later, e-mails were sent to the

Phase One sample, reminding non-respondents to complete the survey (Appendix G) and

thanking respondents for doing so (Appendix H). Completion of the 90 question survey, which

took approximately 25 minutes, served as implied consent, in accordance with the IRB-approved

protocol. Data collection for Phase One of the pilot study ended two weeks after the cover letters

were sent.

Nine of the 10 students in the sample responded, yielding a 90% response rate. Although a

majority of respondents provided positive feedback with regard to the survey, they did make

some suggestions. As a result, several editorial changes were made. For example, the cover letter

e-mail and welcome screen were reworded to make them more concise and the welcome screen

was spaced differently to make a more pronounced distinction between the message and the

instructions for how to proceed with the survey. The colors of the survey and section titles were

changed to the university's colors. No changes were made to the social support, life purpose,

stress, or demographics sections.

Phase two

The second phase assessed the reliability of the 78-item web-based survey (Portney &

Watkins, 2000). Internal consistency was determined by calculating Cronbach's alpha for the

ISEL, PMI, and PSS. Since the web-based survey was a compilation of three different

instruments, each of which measures a different variable, the internal consistency of each

individual instrument was determined separately (Portney & Watkins, 2000).

Simple random sampling was employed for Phase Two, using a list of all graduate students

enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester obtained from the Office of

Institutional Planning and Research. The names of the students who participated in Phase One









were removed from the sampling frame prior to selecting the Phase Two sample. A SAS

program was used to generate a list of random numbers and 400 students were selected for the

Phase Two sample for this pilot study (Dillman, 2000).

Cover letter e-mails with a link to the survey were sent on January 26, 2007 to explain the

purpose of the pilot study and invite them to participate (Appendix I). Completion of the survey,

which took approximately 15 minutes, served as implied consent, in accordance with the IRB-

approved protocol. One week later, another e-mail was sent to those who had not yet

participated asking them to do so. Four days later a final follow-up e-mail was sent to non-

respondents (Appendix J). Data collection for this phase ended two weeks after the cover letters

were sent. After data collection ended, another e-mail was sent to members of the main study

sample who responded to the survey, thanking them for doing so (Appendix K).

Of the 400 e-mails sent to the sample, one was undeliverable due to a "fatal error"

associated with the e-mail account. Thus, a total of 399 graduate students comprised the Phase

Two sample. Of these, 112 (n = 399, 28.08%) answered at least half of the questions from each

section of the survey, 99 of whom (n = 399, 24.82%) responded to all items.

The ISEL had a Cronbach's a = .950 (n = 109), which was slightly better than but still

comparable to the Cronbach's a's calculated for this instrument when it was used in previous

studies (a = .88 to a = .90) (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985). The PMI had a

Cronbach's a = .945 (n = 113), which was slightly better than but still comparable to the

Cronbach's a's calculated for this instrument when it was used in previous studies (a = .88 to a =

.91) (Reker, 1992). The PSS had a Cronbach's a = .902 (n = 110), which was slightly better than

but still comparable to the Cronbach's a's calculated for this instrument when it was used in

previous studies (a = .84 to a = .86) (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983). Thus all three









instruments used in Phase Two of the pilot study yielded high internal consistency (Portney and

Watkins, 2000).

Research Variables and Instrumentation

The variables social support, life purpose, and stress were measured utilizing instruments

with demonstrated psychometric adequacy. The psychometrics of the scales are illustrated by

internal reliability, convergent validity, and discriminant validity (Portney & Watkins, 2000).

Social Support and Life Purpose

Social support was measured using a composite score of the items within the Interpersonal

Support Evaluation List (ISEL), a 40-item scale that requires participants to provide Likert-type

responses ranging from 0 (definitely false) to 3 (definitely true) and that focuses on "the

perceived availability of potential social resources" (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, &

Hoberman, 1985, p. 75). Alpha coefficients for the ISEL range from .88 to .90, thus

demonstrating that the internal consistency estimates are high. The ISEL moderately correlates

with other measures of social support (i.e., .30 with the Moos Family Environment Scale, when

used with an undergraduate student population; .31 with the Partner Adjustment Scale, when

used with a community population) (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985).

Information on obtaining a copy of this instrument can be found at

http://www.psy.cmu.edu/-scohen/scales.html.

Life purpose was measured by the Personal Meaning Index (PMI), a composite score of

the Purpose and Coherence subscales of the Life Attitude Profile-Revised (LAP-R). The PMI is

a 16-item scale that requires participants to provide Likert-type responses ranging from 0

(strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree) that focuses on "the existential beliefs that life is

meaningful" (Reker, 2005, p. 72). Alpha coefficients for the PMI range from .89 to .91, thus

demonstrating that internal consistency estimates are high (Reker, 1992). The PMI correlates









with other measures of meaning and purpose in life (i.e., .82 with the Purpose in Life Test; .81

with the Life Regard Index-Framework) (Reker, 1992). Information on obtaining a copy of this

instrument can be found by contacting Gary T. Reker, Ph.D. in the Department of Psychology at

Trent University, located in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

For the first and second research questions, Social Support and Life Purpose were

considered dependent variables. For the third, fourth, and fifth research questions, Social

Support and Life Purpose were considered independent variables. In addition to determining the

composite scores for both variables, the fourth and fifth research questions called for a range of

high, moderate, and low values of Social Support and Life Purpose to be identified. This was

accomplished by determining the highest and lowest possible scores and labeling the top third of

the scores as high, the middle third of the scores as moderate, and the bottom third of the scores

as low.

Stress

Stress was measured using a composite score of the items within the Perceived Stress

Scale (PSS), a 14-item scale that requires participants to provide Likert-type responses ranging

from 0 (never) to 4 (very often) that focuses on "the degree to which situations in one's life are

appraised as stressful" (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983, p. 387). Alpha coefficients for the

PSS range from .84 to .86, thus demonstrating that internal consistency estimates are high. The

PSS moderately correlates with other measures of stress (i.e., life-event scales). In fact, "the PSS

is more closely related to a life-event impact score, which is to some degree based on the

respondent's appraisal of the event, than to the more objective measures of the number of events

occurring within a particular timespan" (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983, p. 392). Another

indication of its validity is that "the PSS, although highly correlated with depressive

symptomatology, was found to measure a different and independently predictive construct"









(Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983, p. 392-393). Information on obtaining a copy of this

instrument can be found at http://www.psy.cmu.edu/-scohen/scales.html.

For the third, fourth, and fifth research questions Stress was considered a dependent

variable. In addition to determining composite scores for both variables, the fourth and fifth

research questions called for a range of high, moderate, and low values of Stress to be identified.

This was accomplished by determining the highest and lowest possible scores and labeling the

top third of the scores as high, the middle third of the scores as moderate, and the bottom third of

the scores as low.

Demographics

Data for three demographic variables (i.e., age, credit hours, time in program) required

respondents to specify exact numbers. Age was measured by asking participants to indicate their

age at the time of survey completion. Credit hours asked respondents to indicate the number of

credit hours in which they were enrolled in the current semester. Time in Program was defined

as the total number of semesters (i.e., Fall, Spring, Summer) in which respondents had been

enrolled in their current graduate program, including the current semester (Appendix L).

Sex, race, field of study, type of degree, and program focus were obtained through

multiple-choice items. Participants reported their sex as male or female. Race was measured by

asking participants to select from the list of categories used by the United States Bureau of the

Census (2000): White; Black, African American, Negro; American Indian or Alaska Native;

Asian (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Other Asian); Pacific

Islander (Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, Other Pacific Islander); Spanish,

Hispanic, Latino (Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano; Puerto Rican; Cuban; Other Spanish,

Hispanic, Latino); Other. Field of Study was defined as the college in which the graduate

program departments of the participants were housed. Type of Degree was defined as the









specific degree toward which the participants were working, indicated as the masters or doctoral

level. Program Focus was defined as the activity toward which the participants were focusing a

majority of their time during the current semester: coursework, comprehensive/qualifying exams,

or thesis/dissertation research (Appendix L).

Study Population

The most current enrollment data available from the University of Florida was for the Fall

2006 semester, during which there were 10,828 enrolled at the graduate level (University of

Florida Office of Institutional Planning and Research, Table I, 2006; University of Florida Office

of Institutional Planning and Research, Table 1-3, 2006; University of Florida Office of

Institutional Planning and Research, Table 1-5, 2006). A majority of these graduate students

were white (59.3%, n = 6422) and male (52.4%, n = 5673). In terms of field of study, several

colleges were represented by more than 10% of the graduate student population: Engineering

(20.7%, n =2236), Liberal Arts & Sciences (19.3%, n = 2095), a combination of the health-

related colleges (Dentistry, Health and Human Performance, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and

Public Health and Health Professions) (15.4%, n = 1684), and Business Administration (12.2%,

n = 1325). The age range for these graduate students was 19 to 65 + years and, with an average

age of approximately 29.2, most of the participants were between the ages of 21 and 30 (69.5%,

n = 7530). A more detailed description of the categorical demographic characteristics can be

found in Table 3-1.

Graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester

comprised the population for the main study. The sample for the main study was selected by

means of simple random sampling. The same list of graduate students that served as the

sampling frame for Phase Two was used, this time with the names of the students who

participated in both phases of the pilot study removed prior to selecting the main study sample.









A SAS program was used to generate a list of random numbers, which selected the 2000 students

who were included in the main study sample for this survey (Dillman, 2000).

The minimum acceptable sample size for this study was determined based on target

accuracy, as more relevant than target power, because its purpose was to accurately estimate the

strength of the relationship between the variables. In addition, sample sizes required to achieve

target accuracy are larger than sample sizes required to achieve target power. Therefore, sample

size based on target accuracy included more than enough people to achieve target power. For

research questions one and two, the minimum sample size necessary to accurately estimate the

strength of the relationship between the variables when conducting bivariate correlations is 297

(Algina, Degrees, 2005). For research questions three, four, and five, the minimum sample size

necessary to accurately estimate the strength of the relationship between the variables when

conducting multiple linear regression analyses is 231 (Algina, Sample, 2005). Thus, a sample

size of approximately 300 would be acceptable to conduct all of the necessary data analyses in an

effort to achieve target accuracy of p2+ .10 where p = .35. In order to increase the likelihood of

achieving an acceptable sample size, keeping in mind the response rate of approximately 25%

achieved for Phase Two of the pilot study, over-sampling indicated a sample size of

approximately 2000.

Data Collection

A pre-notification letter was sent via e-mail on February 16, 2007 to the main study sample

informing them that they would receive another e-mail within a couple of days requesting their

participation in a web-based survey (Appendix M). Two days later, a cover letter was sent via e-

mail to the main study sample explaining the purpose of the study, inviting them to participate,

and directing those who choose to participate to a link to the web-based survey (Appendix N).

One week later, another e-mail was sent to members of the main study sample who had yet to









participate in survey reminding them to do so. One week after that, another e-mail was sent to

members of the main study sample who had yet to participate in the survey reminding them to do

so (Appendix O) (Dillman, 2000). A final e-mail was sent to non-respondents a week later

requesting that, if they chose not to complete the entire survey, they complete only the

demographic questions (Appendix P). Doing so was supposed to allow for a comparison

between the respondents and the non-respondents based on demographic characteristics, but the

number of non-respondents who provided demographic information (n = 17) was too small to

make comparisons. Completion of the 78-item survey, which took approximately 15 minutes,

served as implied consent. Data collection for the main study ended four weeks after the pre-

notification e-mails are sent. After data collection ended, another e-mail was sent to members of

the main study sample who responded to the survey, thanking them for doing so (Appendix Q).

Data Analysis

SPSS, version 13.0, and SAS, version 8.2, were used to analyze the data by generating

both descriptive and inferential statistics. Descriptive statistics served to summarize the

sample's demographic characteristics. Inferential statistics were used to answer the five research

questions. Research questions 1 and 2 were answered using bivariate correlations, which identify

the relationship between two variables by determining to what extent one variables is associated

with another (Portney & Watkins, 2000). The analysis for research question 2 compared

correlations to determine if there was a difference in the association between social support and

life purpose for each category within the demographic variables (Marascuilo, 1966). Research

questions 3 and 4 were answered using multiple linear regression analysis. For research question

3, multiple linear regression analysis was used to determine the presence of significant main

effects for social support on stress and for life purpose on stress. For research question 4,

multiple linear regression analysis was conducted to determine the presence of a significant










effect for the interaction between social support and life purpose on stress (Portney & Watkins,

2000). No data analysis was conducted to address research question 5 since it was deemed

irrelevant based on findings from research question 4.

Table 3-1. Demographic characteristics of the study population

Demographic Variables N %


Sex

Male 5673 52.40
Female 5153 47.60

Race

White 6422 59.30
Black 405 3.70
American Indian 32 0.30
Asian 410 3.80
Hispanic 657 6.10

Field of Study

Agricultural & Life Sciences 1012 9.30
Business Administration 1325 12.20
Design, Construction & Planning 269 2.50
Dentistry 35 0.32
Education 1067 9.85
Engineering 2236 20.70
Fine Arts 240 2.20
Health & Human Performance 247 2.30
Journalism & Communications 231 2.10
Law 116 1.10
Liberal Arts & Sciences 2095 19.30
Medicine 307 2.80
Nursing 285 2.60
Pharmacy 231 2.10
Public Health & Health Professions 579 5.30
Veterinary Medicine 19 0.18









CHAPTER 4
RESULTS

The purpose of this study was to (1) describe the association between social support and

life purpose among graduate students; (2) explain how the main effects, as well as the interaction

effect, of social support and life purpose influence stress levels of graduate students; and (3)

determine if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by

demographic characteristics.

The purpose of Chapter 4 is to discuss the results of this study. A discussion of the results

for the main study is presented. All significance tests were conducted at the .01 alpha level.

Sampling Frame

Graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester

comprised the population for the main study. The sampling frame provided by the Office of

Institutional Planning and Research contained the names of 6,962 graduate students. The names

of students who participated in phases one and two of the pilot study as well as the names of

students with no corresponding e-mail addresses were removed from the list, resulting in a

sampling frame total of 6545 graduate students.

Response Rates

A random sample of 2000 graduate students was selected to participate in the main study.

Twenty-one of the 2000 e-mails sent to the sample were undeliverable for the following reasons:

"over quota error," "user unknown error," "blocked by spam firewall," "fatal error," "no longer

valid address," "message too old-delivery expired," "message too old-delivery expired-

spam blocked," and "unknown address error." As a result, a total of 1979 graduate students

received a cover letter e-mail with survey link inviting them to participate in the study. Of the

1979 graduate students in the sample, 33% (n=654) answered at least half of the questions from









each section of the survey. A total of 572 completed all of the survey items, yielding a 29%

response rate.

Demographic Characteristics

A majority of the main study participants were white (70.2%, n = 475), female (56.3%, n =

383), pursuing a master's degree (56.3%, n = 382), and focusing a significant portion of their

time and energy on coursework (64.9%, n = 440). In terms of field of study, several colleges

were represented by more than 10% of the study participants: Liberal Arts and Sciences (22.1%,

n = 150), a combination of the health-related colleges (Dentistry, Health and Human

Performance, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health and Health Professions) (15.68%,

n = 112), Business Administration (14.7%, n = 100), Education (13.7%, n = 93), Agricultural &

Life Sciences (13.2%, n = 90), and Engineering (12.1%, n = 82). The participant age ranged

from 20 to 63 years and, with an average age of 28.6 (SD = 6.6), most of the participants were

between the ages of 21 and 30 (72.8%, n = 490). The number of credit hours in which the

participants were currently enrolled ranged from 2 tol8, and with 9.7 credit hours being the

average (SD = 2.6), most of the participants were enrolled as full-time students (71.6%, n = 481).

The number of semesters in which the participants had been enrolled in their current graduate

program ranged from 1 to 30, with 5.2 semesters being the average (SD = 3.8). A more detailed

description of the categorical demographic characteristics can be found in Table 4-1.

A comparison of the demographic characteristics of study participants and the study

population revealed that a majority of both groups were white (study participants: 70.2%, n =475

and study population: 59.3%, n = 6422) and between the ages of 21 and 30 (study participants:

72.8%, n = 490 and study population: 69.5%, n = 7530), with an average age of approximately

29 (study participants: 28.6 and study population: 29.2). In addition, the following colleges were

represented by more than 10% of the students in both groups: Engineering (study participants:









12.1%, n = 82 and study population: 20.7%, n =2236), Liberal Arts & Sciences (study

participants: 22.1%, n = 150 and study population: 19.3%, n = 2095), a combination of the

health-related colleges (Dentistry, Health and Human Performance, Medicine, Nursing,

Pharmacy, and Public Health and Health Professions) (study participants: 15.68%, n = 112 and

study population: 15.4%, n = 1684), and Business Administration (study participants: 14.7%, n =

100 and study population: 12.2%, n = 1325). In spite of these similarities, however, certain

difference must be noted. The difference in the percentage of Whites within the group of study

participants and the study population was large enough to indicate that Whites were over-

represented among study participants. In addition, study participants and members of the study

population differed in terms of sex: the majority of the study participants were female (56.3%, n

= 383) while the majority of the study population was male (52.4%, n = 5673). Thus, although

similar in a number of ways, the study participants were not representative of the study

population of graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Fall 2006

semester.

Internal Consistency

The Cronbach's alpha statistics calculated for the ISEL, PMI, and PSS indicated that all

three instruments used in the main study had high internal consistency (Portney and Watkins,

2000). The ISEL had a Cronbach's a = .947 (n = 635), which was slightly better than but still

comparable to the Cronbach's a's calculated for this instrument when it was used in previous

studies (a = .88 to a = .90) (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985). The PMI had a

Cronbach's a = .942 (n = 644), which was slightly better than but still comparable to the

Cronbach's a's calculated for this instrument when it was used in previous studies (a = .88 to a =

.91) (Reker, 1992). The PSS had a Cronbach's a = .862 (n = 654), which was slightly better than

but still comparable to the Cronbach's a's calculated for this instrument when it was used in









previous studies (a = .84 to a = .86) (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983). Thus, the items

comprising each of these instruments reliably measure social support (ISEL), meaning and

purpose (PMI), and stress (PSS).

Levels of Social Support, Life Purpose, and Stress

The ISEL has possible scores that range from 40 to 160. Participants in this study had

social support scores ranging from a low of 58 to a high of 160, with a mean of 130.6 (SD =

17.3) that fell within the upper third of possible scores. The PMI has possible scores that range

from 16 to 112. The participants in this study had life purpose scores ranging from a low of 25

to a high of 112, with a mean score of 81.4 (SD = 17.4) that fell within the upper third of

possible scores. The PSS has possible scores that range from 14 to 70. Participants in this study

had stress scores ranging from a low of 17 to a high of 67, with a mean score of 39.3 (SD = 7.8)

that fell within the middle third of possible scores.

Research Question #1

What is the association between social support and life purpose in graduate

students?: A bivariate correlation was calculated to determine if there was an association

between social support and life purpose in graduate students. The bivariate correlation results of

r (588) = .500, p = .000 indicate that, among graduate students, social support and life purpose

are significantly correlated in a positive direction.

Research Question #2

Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

vary when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f)

credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus?: Bivariate correlations were calculated

to determine whether an association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

was influenced by various demographic variables. In order to achieve target power when









conducting bivariate correlations for a two-tailed test, n must be at least 61. Therefore, only

categories in which the n used to calculate the correlation was greater than or equal to 61 were

included in the following analyses.

2a. Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

vary when compared by sex?: Two bivariate correlations were calculated to assess research

question 2a, one based on data collected from male participants and another based on data

collected from female participants (Table 4-2). These correlations were then compared to

determine whether the difference between them was significant. The bivariate correlation results

indicate that there is a significant (p = .000), positive association between social support and life

purpose for both male and female graduate students. A comparison of these correlations

revealed that, while the correlation associated with males is slightly smaller than the correlation

associated with females, the difference between the correlations is not significant (p = 0.61, a =

.05).

2b. Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

vary when compared by age?: Four bivariate correlations were calculated to assess research

question 2b, one based on data collected from participants between the ages of 21 and 25, one

based on data collected from participants between the ages of 26 and 30, one based on data

collected from participants between the ages of 31 and 35, and one based on data collected from

participants over the age of 35 (Table 4-2). The data from the age ranges of 36-40, 41-45, 46-

50, 51-55, 56-60, Over 60 were combined to form the category "Over 35" due to the fact that

each of the age ranges over the age of 35 consisted of data from relatively few participants (n <

61). These correlations were then compared to determine whether the differences among them

were significant. The bivariate correlation results indicate that there is a significant (p = .000),









positive association between social support and life purpose for each age range category. A

comparison of these correlations revealed that, while the correlations, from largest to smallest,

were associated with participants between the ages of 21 and 25, 31 and 35, 26, and 30, and over

35, the differences among the correlations was not significant (p = 0.98, a = .05).

2c. Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

vary when compared by race?: Two bivariate correlations were calculated to assess research

question 2c, one based on data collected from the White participants and another based on data

collected from the Non-White participants (Table 4-2). Information from the racial categories

other than White were combined to form the category of Non-White because less than 25% of

the main study participants were represented by each of these races (i.e., Black, African

American, Negro; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Pacific Islander; Spanish, Hispanic,

Latino; Other). These correlations were then compared to determine whether the difference

between them was significant. The bivariate correlation results indicate that there is a significant

(p = .000), positive association between social support and life purpose for both White and Non-

White graduate students. A comparison of these correlations revealed that, while the correlation

associated with Whites is slightly larger than the correlation associated with Non-Whites, the

difference between the correlations is not significant (p = 0.94, a = .05).

2d. Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

vary when compared by field of study?: Six bivariate correlations were calculated to assess

research question 2d, one based on data collected from the participants in the College of

Agricultural and Life Sciences, one based on data collected from the participants in the College

of Business Administration, one based on data collected from the participants in the College of

Education, one based on data collected from the participants in the College of Engineering, one









based on data collected from the participants in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and

one based on data collected from the participants in the Health-Related Colleges (Table 4-2).

Bivariate correlations could not be calculated for the participants in the Colleges of Design,

Construction and Planning, Dentistry, Fine Arts, Health and Human Performance, Journalism

and Communications, Law, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Health Professions,

and Veterinary Medicine because the number of respondents within each of these categories

were insufficient for analysis (i.e., < 61). However, the data from the colleges of Dentistry,

Health and Human Performance, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health and Health

Professions were combined to form the category Health-Related Colleges because this study

addressed spiritual and social health topics found within these disciplines. These correlations

were then compared to determine whether the differences among them were significant. The

bivariate correlation results indicate that there is a significant (p = .000), positive association

between social support and life purpose for each college. A comparison of these correlations

revealed that, while the correlation associated with the Health-Related Colleges was larger than

the correlations associated with the other colleges, the difference among the correlations was not

significant (p = 0.22, a = .05).

2e. Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

vary when compared by type of degree?: Two bivariate correlations were calculated to assess

research question 2e, one based on data collected from participants working toward a masters

degree and another based on data collected from participants working toward a doctoral degree

(Table 4-2). These correlations were then compared to determine whether the difference

between them was significant. The bivariate correlation results indicate that there is a significant

(p = .000), positive association between social support and life purpose for graduate students









working toward a masters degree as well as for graduate students working toward a doctoral

degree. A comparison of these correlations revealed that, while the correlation associated with

graduate students working toward a masters degree is slightly larger than the correlation

associated with graduate students working toward a doctoral degree, the difference between the

correlations is not significant (p = 0.67, a = .05).

2f. Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

vary when compared by credit hours?: Three bivariate correlations were calculated to assess

research question 2f, one based on data collected from part-time students, one based on data

collected from full-time students, and one based on data collected from over-time students (Table

4-2). Participants enrolled in 8 or fewer credit hours were considered part-time, those enrolled in

9-12 credit hours were considered full-time, and those enrolled in 13 or more credit hours were

considered over-time (University of Florida Graduate School, 2006). These correlations were

then compared to determine whether the differences among them were significant. The bivariate

correlation results indicate that there is a significant (p = .000), positive association between

social support and life purpose for part-time, full-time, and over-time graduate students. A

comparison of these correlations revealed that, while there were only slight differences between

the correlations with the correlation associated with over-time graduate students being the

highest and the correlation associated with full-time students being the lowest, the difference

between the correlations was not significant (p = 0.27, a = .05).

2g. Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

vary when compared by time in program?: Four bivariate correlations were calculated to

assess research question 2g, one based on data collected from students enrolled in their first or

second semester, one based on data collected from students enrolled in their third or fourth









semester, one based on data collected from students enrolled in their fifth or sixth semester, and

one based on data collected from students enrolled for more than six semesters (Table 4-2).

These correlations were then compared to determine whether the differences among them were

significant. The bivariate correlation results indicate that there is a significant (p = .000),

positive association between social support and life purpose for each semester category. A

comparison of these correlations revealed that, while there were only slight differences between

the correlations, the difference between the correlations was not significant (p = 0.51, a = .05).

2h. Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

vary when compared by program focus?: Two bivariate correlations were calculated to assess

research question 2h, one based on data collected from participants focusing a majority of their

time and energy on coursework and another based on data collected from participants focusing a

majority of their time and energy on thesis or dissertation research (Table 4-2). These

correlations were then compared to determine whether the difference between them was

significant. No bivariate correlation was calculated for the participants focusing a majority of

their time and energy on comprehensive or qualifying examinations due to respondents

numbering less than 61. The bivariate correlation results indicate that there is a significant (p =

.000), positive association between social support and life purpose for graduate students focusing

a majority of their time and energy on coursework as well as for graduate students focusing a

majority of their time and energy on thesis or dissertation research. A comparison of these

correlations revealed that, while the correlation associated with graduate students focusing a

majority of their time and energy on coursework is slightly larger than the correlation associated

with graduate students focusing a majority of their time and energy on thesis or dissertation

research, the difference between the correlations is not significant (p = 0.69, a = .05).









Research Question #3

Which of the following variables are associated with stress level among graduate

students: (a) social support, (b) life purpose, (c) sex, (d) age, (e) race, (f) field of study, (g)

type of degree, (h) credit hours, (i) time in program, (j) program focus?: Correlations

between stress and all of the quantitative independent variables are presented in Table 4-3. The

two quantitative independent variables found to significantly correlate with stress were social

support (r = -.393, p = .000) and life purpose (r = -.470, p = .000). Means and standard

deviations for stress as a function of the categorical independent variables are presented in Table

4-4. The means ranged from 37.8 to 40.4, falling within the middle third of possible scores on

the PSS.

A multiple linear regression analysis was conducted to determine the strength of

association between the dependent variable of stress and the independent variables of social

support, life purpose, sex, age, race, field of study, type of degree, credit hours, time in program

and program focus (Table 4-5). A residual analysis was conducted and the residual plots

revealed that the assumptions of regression analysis were met. Results revealed a significant

adjusted R2 of .272, F (10, 540) = 21.51, p = .000, which indicated that 27.2% of the total

variance in the stress score was explained by the predictor set, which was comprised of measures

assessing (a) social support, (b) life purpose, (c) sex, (d) age, (e) race, (f) field of study, (g) type

of degree, (h) credit hours, (i) time in program and (j) program focus.

Of these independent variables, however, only social support, life purpose, and sex

significantly contributed to the total variance in the stress score, thereby exhibiting main effects.

Specifically, an analysis of the unstandardized regression coefficients of these variables revealed

the following: For each unit increase in stress score the level of social support of the participants

decreased by .101 units (b = -.101, t (540) = -5.349, p = .000) and their sense of purpose in life









decreased by .153 units (b = -.153, t (540) = -8.448, p = .000). In addition, being male was

associated with lower stress scores (b = -3.136, t (540) = -5.588, p = .000).

An analysis of the R2 increase for social support and life purpose allowed for a

determination of "how much the added predictors improve the overall fit of the regression line"

(Dooley, 2001, p. 336). The increase in R2 that occurred when social support was added to the

regression equation (A R2 = .038), revealed that, of the 27.2% of total variance in stress score

that was explained by the predictor set, 3.8% was uniquely associated with social support. The

increase in R2 that occurred when life purpose was added to the regression equation (A R2

.095), revealed that, of the 27.2% of total variance in stress score that was explained by the

predictor set, 9.5% was uniquely associated with life purpose. These findings indicate that, of

these two variables, life purpose is better than social support at predicting stress levels.

Research Question #4

Does the interaction between social support and life purpose influence the stress

levels of graduate students?: A multiple linear regression analysis was conducted to determine

whether or not the interaction between social support and life purpose influences the stress levels

of graduate students (Table 4-6). Results revealed a significant adjusted R2 of .295, F (4, 566) =

60.752, p = .000, which indicated that 29.5% of the total variance in the stress score was

explained by the predictor set, which was comprised of measures assessing (a) sex, (b) social

support, (c) life purpose, and (d) the interaction of these two variables (social support X life

purpose). Sex was included in this multiple linear regression analysis based on the results found

for research question 3, which showed that it was one of the variables that significantly

contributed to the total variance in the stress score. The results revealed that the interaction term

was not statistically significant (p = .812). However, additional results from this multiple linear

regression analysis did confirm the results found for research question 3, revealing the presence









of significant main effects for social support (p = .000), life purpose (p = .000), and sex (p =

.000).

Research Question #5

Is there variation in how the interaction between social support and life purpose

influences the stress levels of graduate students when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race,

(d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f) credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program

focus?: Due to the fact that no significant interaction effect was found between social support

and life purpose in terms of its influence on the stress levels of graduate students there was no

reason to explore whether interaction effects differed when compared by the various

demographic variables. As such, the fifth research question was deemed irrelevant and no

analyses were conducted.

Limitations

When interpreting results from this study, some limitations should be noted. The study

sample was not representative of the study population, thus restricting generalizabiltiy of

findings. The study sample included graduate students at one large southeastern university, thus

also restricting generalizability of findings. The correlational nature of the cross-sectional study

design allowed for determination of associations between and among variables, but precluded

inferences regarding cause and effect. Social support and life purpose were measured as broad

variables, not as subscales, which may have yielded more detailed information. Likewise, stress

was the one dependent variable considered in the study, thus potentially limiting the

understanding of main and interaction effects for social support and life purpose.










Table 4-1. Categorical demographic characteristics of the main study participants

Demographic Variables N %


Sex

Male 297 43.70
Female 383 56.30

Race

White 475 70.20
Black, African American, Negro 35 5.20
American Indian or Alaskan Native 1 0.10
Asian 85 12.60
Pacific Islander 1 0.10
Spanish, Hispanic, Latino 56 8.30
Other 24 3.50

Field of Study

Agricultural & Life Sciences 90 13.20
Business Administration 100 14.70
Design, Construction & Planning 21 3.10
Dentistry 1 0.10
Education 93 13.70
Engineering 82 12.10
Fine Arts 8 1.20
Health & Human Performance 22 3.20
Journalism & Communications 12 1.80
Law 9 1.30
Liberal Arts & Sciences 150 22.10
Medicine 21 3.10
Nursing 17 2.50
Pharmacy 5 0.70
Public Health & Health Professions 46 6.80
Veterinary Medicine 3 0.40

Type of Degree

Masters 382 56.30
Doctoral 297 43.70

Program Focus

Coursework 440 64.90
Comprehensive or Qualifying Exams 42 6.20
Thesis or Dissertation Research 196 28.90











Table 4-2. Bivariate correlation coefficients between social support & life purpose as compared by
demographic variables


Demographic Variables


Pearson Correlation


Male
Female


21-25
26-30
31-35
Over 35


Sig. (2-tailed)


.483
.515


.521
.495
.501
.489


Race


White
Non-White


.508
.503


Field of Study

Agricultural & Life Sciences
Business Administration
Education
Engineering
Liberal Arts & Sciences
Health-Related Colleges

Type of Degree

Masters
Doctoral

Credit Hours

Part Time (8 or Fewer Credits)
Full Time (9-12 Credits)
Over Time (13 or More Credits)

Time in Program (# of Semesters)

1-2
3-4
5-6
7 or More

Program Focus

Coursework
Thesis or Dissertation Research


.369
.520
.570
.556
.439
.632


.550
.475
.613


.528
.481
.412
.543


.502
.474











Table 4-3. Bivariate correlation coefficients between stress & the quantitative independent variables


Stress


Social Support



Life Purpose


Credit Hours


Time in Program


Pearson Correlation
Sig. (2-tailed)
N
Pearson Correlation
Sig. (2-tailed)
N
Pearson Correlation
Sig. (2-tailed)
N
Pearson Correlation
Sig. (2-tailed)
N
Pearson Correlation
Sig. (2-tailed)
N
Pearson Correlation
Sig. (2-tailed)


Stress Social Support
1 -.393
.000
654 593
-.393 1


.000
593
-.470
.000
624
-.001
.972
648
.039
.322
645
.008
.842
650


635
.500
.000
588
-.045
.266
605
.015
.714
602
-.059
.147
606


Life
Purpose
-.470
.000
624
.500
.000
588
1

644
.011
.773
635
.064
.106
633
-.033
.400
637


Age
-.001
.972
648
-.045
.266
605
.011
.773
635
1

673
-.243
.000
664
.147
.000
669


Credit Hours
.039
.322
645
.015
.714
602
.064
.106
633
-.243
.000
664
1

671
-.211
.000
667


Table 4-4. Levels of stress as a function of the categorical independent variables

Study Variables M


Sex


Male
Female

Race

White
Non-White

Field of Study

Health-Related
Non-Health-Related

Type of Degree

Masters
Doctoral

Program Focus

Coursework
Non-Coursework


37.8
40.4


39.1
39.9


39.6
39.2


39.4
39.2


39.1
39.6


Time in
Program
.008
.842
650
-.059
.147
606
-.033
.400
637
.147
.000
669
-.211
.000
667
1











Table 4-5. Main study multiple linear regression unstandardized regression coefficients,
standardized regression coefficients, t-test statistics, & R squared increase for study &
demographic variables
Variables b Std Error 8 t p A R2


Intercept
Social Support
Life Purpose
Sex
Age
Race
Field of Study
Type of Degree
Credit Hours
Time in Program
Program Focus


64.492
-.101
-.153
-3.136
-.004
.152
.206
.018
.166
.032
-.219


3.041


-.230
-.358
-.208
-.003
.009
.010
.001
.058
.016
-.014


21.208
-5.349
-8.448
-5.588
-.081
.248
.262
.028
1.493
.330
-.301


Table 4-6. Multiple linear regression unstandardized regression coefficients, standardized
regression coefficients & t-test statistics


b Std Error


Variables


Intercept
Sex
Social Support
Life Purpose
Social Support X Life Purpose


40.696
-3.499
-.110
-.154
.000


-.227
-.245
-.353
.009


105.687
-6.387
-5.936
-8.555
.238









CHAPTER 5
SUMMARY, CONCULSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Previous research indicates that both social support and life purpose prove independently

beneficial in the lives of young adults because these factors provide a buffer against stress (Bolt,

2004; Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hodges, 2002; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian,

2002; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Tanyi, 2002; Thoits, 1995;

Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995), and promote physical and psychological health (Bolt, 2004; Cox, Enns,

Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hawks, 1994; Hodges, 2002; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002;

Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Tanyi, 2002; Thoits, 1995). The stress

buffering effect associated with social support and life purpose, independently, also benefits

young adults academically by decreasing the likelihood of burnout (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins & Elliot,

2004; Jung, 1997; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt &

Leong, 1992; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995) and attrition (Golde, 1998; Pines & Keinan, 2005; Reed &

Giacobbi, 2004; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982).

Theorists posit that developing a social support network and discovering a sense of

meaning and purpose in life represent necessary steps in the process of human development

(Frager & Fadiman, 2005; Maslow, 1987) and young adult development in particular

(Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Parks, 2000). However, no research to date has explored the

association and interaction between the presence of social support and a sense of meaning and

purpose in life, or the association of these factors with health benefits.

Summary

This study (1) described the association between social support and life purpose among

graduate students; (2) explained how the main effects, as well as the interaction effect, of social









support and life purpose influence stress levels of graduate students; and (3) determined if the

association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics.

The study included a two-phase pilot study and a main study. Phase One of the pilot study

assessed whether the design and layout of the web-based survey were easily understood. Phase

Two of the pilot study assessed the reliability of conducting a web-based survey with instruments

developed and used to measure levels of social support, life purpose, and stress among young

adults. The main study included a random sample of graduate students enrolled at the University

of Florida during Spring semester 2007. Data were analyzed using inferential statistics, bivariate

correlations, and multiple linear regression analyses.

Research Question #1

What is the association between social support and life purpose in graduate

students?: Up to this point, the presence of a relationship between social support and life

purpose has been theoretical in nature, commonly posited within personal development theories

such as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Chickering's Seven Vectors of Development Revised,

and Parks' Faith Development Theory (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Frager & Fadiman, 2005;

Maslow, 1987; Parks, 2000). This study, however, was able to provide empirical support for a

relationship between social support and life purpose by revealing that, among graduate students,

social support and life purpose are significantly correlated in a positive direction (r (588) = .500,

p = .000). This finding suggests that levels of social support and life purpose vary in the same

direction. Additional implications based on this finding are addressed in the discussion of the

relationship between social support and life purpose with regard to demographic variables.

Research Question #2

Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students

vary when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f)









credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus?: The second research question

examined associations between social support and life purpose when compared by Sex (male,

female); Age (21 to 25, 26 to 30, 31 to 35, and over 35); Race (White, non-White); Field of

Study (College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, College of Business Administration, College

of Education, College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Health-Related

Colleges); Type of Degree (masters, doctoral); Credit Hours (part-time, full-time, over-time);

Time in Program (first or second semester, third or fourth semester, fifth or sixth semester, more

than six semesters); and Program Focus courseworkk, thesis or dissertation research). For all of

the preceding demographic variables, social support and life purpose were significantly and

positively correlated. Moreover, none of the correlations for the categories within a

demographic variable differed significantly from one another, suggesting universities may plan

comprehensive health promotion programs for students without necessarily targeting specific

groups.

Research Question #3

Which of the following variables are associated with stress level among graduate

students: (a) social support, (b) life purpose, (c) sex, (d) age, (e) race, (f) field of study, (g)

type of degree, (h) credit hours, (i) time in program, (j) program focus?: Multiple regression

analysis revealed strength of association between stress and social support, life purpose, sex, age,

race, field of study, type of degree, credit hours, time in program and program focus. Social

support, life purpose, and sex were the only variables that contributed significantly to total

variance in the stress score, thereby documenting the main effects of these variables on stress.

Each variable has a unique, independent relationship with stress. As social support increased,

stress decreased. As life purpose increased, stress decreased. Stress levels were lower among

male graduate students than among female graduate students. An analysis of the R2 increase for









both social support and life purpose revealed that, of these two variables, life purpose is better

than social support at predicting stress levels.

Research Question #4

Does the interaction between social support and life purpose influence the stress

levels of graduate students?: Absence of a significant interaction effect between social support

and life purpose indicated no differential effects for social support across life purpose with

regard to stress. Thus, contrary to expectations, findings did not support the study hypotheses: 1)

Graduate students with high social support and high life purpose will have low stress levels; 2)

Graduate students with low social support and low life purpose will have high stress levels; 3)

Graduate students with high social support and low life purpose or low social support and high

life purpose will have moderate stress levels.

Up to this point, previous research studies have explored the associations between social

support and stress and between life purpose and stress, but have not considered how the

interaction between social support and life purpose may influence stress levels. The fact that this

study examined the effect of the interaction between social support and life purpose on stress is

an important contribution to the profession because it increases our understanding of the

relationship between social support and life purpose and how this relationship impacts stress

levels.

Research Question #5

Is there variation in how the interaction between social support and life purpose

influences the stress levels of graduate students when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race,

(d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f) credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program

focus?: No data analysis was conducted to address this question due to the absence of an

interaction effect for Research Question 4.









Conclusions

A majority of the main study participants were white, female, pursuing a master's degree,

and focusing a significant portion of their time and energy on coursework. In terms of field of

study, several colleges were represented by more than 10% of the study participants: Liberal Arts

and Sciences, a combination of the health-related colleges (Dentistry, Health and Human

Performance, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health and Health Professions),

Business Administration, Education, Agricultural & Life Sciences, and Engineering. The

average age of participants was 28.6 (SD = 6.6). The average number of credit hours in which

participants were currently enrolled was 9.7 (SD = 2.6). The average number of semesters in

which the participants had been enrolled in their current graduate program was 5.2 (SD = 3.8).

These findings showed the study participants to be similar to, but not representative of, the study

population of graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Fall semester

2006 semester.

Mean scores for social support (M = 130.6, SD = 17.3) and life purpose (M = 81.4, SD =

17.4) respectively fell in the upper third of possible scores for the ISEL and PMI, suggesting that

subjects experienced relatively high levels of both social support and life purpose. Mean scores

for stress (M = 39.3, SD = 7.8) fell in the middle third of possible scores for the PSS, suggesting

that subjects experienced relatively moderate levels of stress. These findings differ from

previous studies which suggested graduate students of all races and both genders perceive the

support they receive inadequate (Ellis, 2001). Research documented that women (Cronan-Hillix,

Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004) and racial minorities

(Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004) were most likely to view social support as lacking. This difference

may be due to the fact that previous research specifically explored social support available

through institutions of higher education (i.e., faculty, advisors, peers), while this study asked









participants to consider social support available in all realms of their lives (i.e., faculty, advisors,

peers and family, friends, co-workers).

Subjects in this study reported high levels of life purpose, again differing from previous

research. For example, the HERI study (2004) found that, as students accumulated more years of

higher education, their levels of life purpose declined. These findings held true even when

students viewed spirituality as an important aspect in their lives, one they believed institutions of

higher education should help them develop (HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005). However,

previous studies explored levels of life purpose among undergraduate students while this study

focused on graduate students. Meaning and purpose in life guide young adults in selecting a

vocation (Dalton, 2001), so undergraduate students may feel their lives lack purpose because

they have not yet selected a vocation. As young adults develop a sense of meaning and purpose

in life, allowing their calling to guide their career path, they may ensure that their actions and

beliefs match (Dalton, 2001). Thus, pursuing a graduate degree represents one way young adults

aspire to fulfill an identified purpose (Strange, 2001). So, graduate students would be more

likely to report purpose in their lives.

The fact that subjects experienced moderate levels of stress also differed from previous

studies which concluded that stress constitutes a major health concern for young adults in higher

education (Abouserie, 1994; Deckro, Ballinger, Hoyt, & Wilcher, 2002; Geraghty, 1997;

Goldman & Wong, 1997; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Ross, Niebling, & Heckert, 1999;

Sciacca & Melby, 1992). However, high levels of social support and life purpose, as reported by

the subjects in this study, can provide a buffer against stress (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins & Elliot, 2004;

Jung, 1997; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong,

1992; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). Thus, stress levels among subjects in this study would be









predictably lower than for individuals whose levels of social support and life purpose were

lower.

Recommendations

Recommendations for Professional Practice

The findings from this study can be used to inform professional practice by suggesting

several recommendations. Higher education institutions often do not provide social support that

adequately meets the needs of students (Christie, Munro, & Fisher, 2004; Cronan-Hillix,

Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt &

Leong, 1992; Williams, 2000; Williams, 2002). Many universities also do not recognize the

need for initiatives that focus on students' sense of purpose in life (Dalton, 2001; HERI:

Summary, 2004; HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005.; Laurence, 2005; Love, 2001; Love & Talbot,

1999). Based on the positive association found between life purpose and social support among

graduate students, regardless of most demographic characteristics, one such recommendation

would be for university health care centers and student affairs organizations to offer

comprehensive programs to promote social support and life purpose, without necessarily offering

programs for particular demographic groups.

The fact that stress constitutes a major health concern for young adults in higher education

increases the likelihood that university health care centers and student affairs organizations will

dedicate a considerable amount of time and resources toward implementing health promotion

initiatives designed reduce stress. A major component of such programs is determining the

baseline stress levels of students in an effort to identify those students who are most in need of

stress reduction as well as to evaluate how successful the program was at reducing stress among

these students. Based on the main effects found between social support and stress and between

life purpose and stress, which revealed that students with higher levels of stress tend to have









lower levels of social support and life purpose, an additional advantage of determining baseline

stress levels is that, by knowing which students have high stress levels, health care center and

student affairs staff can identify students who are likely to have low levels of social support and

life purpose.

Thus, another recommendation would be for university health care centers and student

affairs organizations to utilize the information obtained through stress reduction programs to

identify the need for programs designed to enhance social support and life purpose. By revealing

this need, such information may encourage institutions of higher education to be more intentional

about making programs designed to enhance social support and life purpose available to

students. Recognizing which students have low levels of social support and life purpose can

assist university health care center and student affairs staff in directing programs designed to

enhance social support and life purpose toward the students most in need. Doing so can

conserve scarce time and resources by limiting the scope of such programs to those in greatest

need, instead of attempting to reach the entire student body, many of whom may not need the

services offered by such programs. Female graduate students, for example, were found to

experience higher stress levels than male graduate students; and with higher stress levels comes

the tendency to experience lower levels of social support and life purpose. Therefore, initiatives

aimed at promoting social support and life purpose may produce a greater positive impact if

targeted toward female graduate students. In addition, knowing which students are most in need

of enhanced social support and life purpose enables university health care center and student

affairs staff to encourage specific students to participate in such health promotion initiatives,

thereby increasing the likelihood that those most in need will take advantage of and benefit from

programs designed to enhance social support and life purpose.









As higher education institutions come to recognize the importance of programs designed to

enhance social support and life purpose in the lives of graduate students university health care

centers and student affairs organization may be more inclined to implement such programs on a

more regular basis. A major component of such programs should be determining the baseline

social support and life purpose levels of students in an effort to identify those students who are

most in need of social support and life purpose as well as to evaluate how successful the program

was at promoting social support and life purpose among these students. Based on the main

effects found between social support and stress and between life purpose and stress, which

revealed that students with lower levels of social support and students with lower levels of life

purpose tend to have higher levels of stress, an additional advantage of determining baseline

social support and life purpose levels is that, by knowing which students have low social support

and low life purpose health care center and student affairs staff can identify students who are

likely to have high stress levels.

Thus, another recommendation would be for university health care centers and student

affairs organizations to utilize the information obtained through programs designed to enhance

social support and life purpose to identify the need for programs designed to reduce stress. By

recognizing which students have high stress levels, university health care center and student

affairs staff can direct programs designed to reduce stress toward the students most in need.

Doing so can conserve scarce time and resources by limiting the scope of such programs to those

in greatest need, instead of attempting to reach the entire student body, many of whom may not

need the services offered by such programs. This is especially important considering the fact

that stress constitutes a major health concern for young adults in higher education, which may

lead university health care centers and students affairs organizations to aspire to aid all students









in reducing stress, when in reality they may not have adequate time and resources to achieve this

goal. In addition, knowing which students are most in need of stress reduction enables university

health care center and student affairs staff to encourage specific students to participate in such

health promotion initiatives, thereby increasing the likelihood that those most in need will take

advantage of and benefit from programs designed to reduce stress.

Social support and life purpose have been identified as buffers against stress (Bolt, 2004,

Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989;

Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). Such findings may prompt university

health care centers and student affairs organizations to implement health promotion initiatives

designed to enhance social support and life purpose in an effort to reduce stress. Findings from

the current study, however, revealed the absence of an interaction effect for social support and

life purpose on stress among graduate students, suggesting that such health promotion initiatives

need not include both social support and life purpose in a single initiative, but would do better to

focus on one of these issues at a time. Doing so would allow university health care centers and

student affairs organizations to focus their resources on health promotion initiatives that address

a single factor, which would likely enhance positive outcomes.

Recommendations for Future Research

This study should be extended using a broader sample that includes undergraduate

students, undergraduate and graduate students from different types of institutions (i.e., small,

medium, large, public, private, religiously affiliated, located in different geographic regions),

young adults who recently graduated from college and began their careers, and young adults who

did not attend college. In addition, future studies could consider how relationships among social

support, life purpose, and stress differ when looking at these diverse samples. When considering

such relationships in the lives of graduate students in particular, comparisons between males and









females as well as students in professional and non-professional programs might also be of

interest.

Experimental studies to determine causal relationships could be designed to explore the

theoretical notion that social support precedes and is necessary for the procurement of life

purpose in the process of positive human development (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs,

Chickering's Seven Vectors of Development, Parks' Faith Development Theory). Such studies

could also determine if social support causes a decrease in stress levels or whether decreased

stress levels allow for increased social support, as well as whether a sense of purpose in life can

cause a decrease in stress level or if decreased stress levels allow for discovery of a sense of

purpose in life.

To gather more detailed data, future studies should use instruments that allow for the

consideration of social support in terms of type of support (i.e., emotional, informational,

instrumental) as well as source of support (i.e., friends, family, significant others). Instruments

that address identity development variables also would allow for a more in-depth look at how

students derive their sense of purpose in life (i.e., self, others, or no sense of purpose).

Finally, to gain a better understanding about the influence of social support and life

purpose on overall well-being, future studies should consider the impact of social support, life

purpose, and their interaction in terms of dependent variables such as depression, life

satisfaction, and personal identity. To decrease error variance, and to understand more clearly

what variables contribute to total variance in stress levels, study designs should include

additional variables in the regression analysis, perhaps by including survey questions on a

broader range of demographic variables (i.e., marital status, religious affiliation, number of









children, local versus long-distance support networks, type of employment (graduate

assistantship, part-time job, full-time job).









APPENDIX A
ORIGINAL INSTITITUIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPLICATION

1. Title of Project:

The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student Well-being

2. Principal Investigator:

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education & Behavior
FLG-5 PO Box 118210
Phone: (352) 392-0583 ext 1254
Fax: (352) 392-1909
bajohnso@ufl.edu

3. Supervisor:

Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD
Department of Health Education & Behavior
FLG-5 PO Box 118210
Phone: (352) 392-0583 ext 1289
Fax: (352) 392-1909
brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu

4. Dates of Proposed Research: January 1, 2007-December 30, 2008

5. Source of Funding for the Protocol: None

6. Scientific Purpose of the Investigation:

Developing a social support network and discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life are
necessary steps in the process of positive human development in general (i.e., Maslow's
Hierarchy of Needs) and of positive young adult development in particular (i.e., Chickering's
Seven Vectors of Development, Parks' Faith Development Theory). Research documents the
existence of health benefits associated with both social support (Bolt, 2004; Clara, Cox, Enns,
Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Thoits, 1995; Hodges, 2002; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002;
Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Thoits, 1995; Vaux & Wood, 1987) and
a sense of meaning and purpose in life (Hodges, 2002; Kass, Friedman, Leserman, Zuttermeister,
& Benson, 1991; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Laurence, 2005; Love & Talbot, 1999;
Mahoney & Graci, 1999; Strange, 2001; Tanyi, 2002; Young, Cashwell, & Woolington, 1998).

Within higher education, attempts to aid students in the development of social support are often
inadequate (Christie, Munro, & Fisher, 2004; Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, &
Davidson, 1986; Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Williams, 2000;
Williams, 2002) and the need to aid students in the discovery of a sense of meaning and purpose









in life is often ignored (Dalton, 2001; HERI: Summary, 2004; HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005.;
Laurence, 2005; Love, 2001; Love & Talbot, 1999). This neglect may result in young adults not
acquiring myriad health benefits. For example, stress is a major health concern among young
adults in the pursuit of higher education (Abouserie, 1994; Deckro, Ballinger, Hoyt, & Wilcher,
2002; Geraghty, 1997; Goldman & Wong, 1997; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Ross,
Niebling, & Heckert, 1999; Sciacca & Melby, 1992). Social support (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins &
Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992) and a sense of
meaning and purpose in life (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995) can provide
a buffer against stress. Stress contributes to myriad health problems (Deckro, Ballinger, Hoyt, &
Wilcher, 2002; Dixon & Reid, 2000; Duenwald, 2002; Frazier & Schauben, 1994; Geraghty,
1997; Goldman & Wong, 1997; Hudd, Dumlao, Erdmann-Sager, Murray, Phan, Soukas, et al,
2000; Park & Levenson, 2002; Sciacca & Melby, 1992). It also causes burnout (Schaufeli,
Maslach, & Marek, 1993 as cited by Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Schaufeli & Buunk, 1996 as cited
by Peiro, Gonzalez-Roma, Tordera & Manas, 2001; Cooper, Dewe, & O'Driscoll, 2001; Hobfoll
& Shirom, 2000; and Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998 as cited by Pines & Keinan, 2005; Maslach,
Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001), which can lead people to "question their vocational choice"
(Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982, p. 96) and to consider leaving their line of work (Golde, 1998; Pines
& Keinan, 2005; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982). For graduate students, working on their degree is
typically equivalent to a full-time job, one that is preparing them to fulfill their life purpose
through their careers. As such, stress that leads to burnout may cause an increase in attrition
rates among graduate students.

No investigations published to date have explored the association between social support and
purpose in life. As a result, potential health benefits that may result from an interaction between
social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, particularly those associated with
stress buffering, remain unknown. Thus, research designed to explore the nature of the
association and interaction between social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life
would contribute to the field of health education research by providing valuable information for
university-based health promotion/disease prevention initiatives. The purpose of this study will
be to (1) determine if there is an association between social support and life purpose in graduate
students; (2) explore how the interaction between various levels of social support and life
purpose influences graduate students' stress levels; and (3) establish whether this association
and/or the influence of this interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics.

7. Describe the Research Methodology:

Data will be collected on the variables of social support, life purpose, and stress using existing
instruments that have demonstrated psychometric adequacy. Social support will be measured by
the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman,
1985) (Appendix D). Meaning and purpose in life will be measured by the Personal Meaning
Index (PMI), a composite score of the Purpose and Coherence subscales of the Life Attitude
Profile-Revised (LAP-R) (Reker, 2005) (Appendix E). Stress will be measured by the Perceived
Stress Scale (PSS) (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983) (Appendix F). Data will also be
collected on the following demographic variables (Appendix G): sex, age, race, field of study
(i.e., the college in which participants' graduate program departments are housed), type of degree
(i.e., the specific degree toward which the participants are working masters or doctoral), credit









hours (i.e., the number of credit hours in which participants are enrolled for the current
semester), time in program (i.e., the number of years in which participants have been enrolled in
their current graduate program), and program focus (i.e., the activity toward which participants
are focusing a majority of their time and energy during the current semester coursework,
comprehensive/qualifying exams, or thesis/dissertation research). The questions from each of
the afore-mentioned instruments along with the demographic questions will be uploaded onto the
SurveyMonkey web-based survey service so that participants can complete the entire 78-
question survey on-line. The SurveyMonkey web-based survey service utilizes password-
protected access to participant directories and survey responses ensuring that only the principal
investigator has access to participants' names, e-mail addresses, and survey responses, thereby
keeping that information confidential (SurveyMonkey, 2006).

A pilot test to determine whether the web-based format of the instruments is user-friendly
(Daley, McDermott, McCormack, & Kittleson, 2003) will be conducted due to the fact that the
instruments were originally designed in paper format and will be converted to web-based format
for purposes of this study. A convenience sample often graduate students will be selected to
participate in the pilot test. Cover letter e-mails will be sent to the pilot test sample explaining
the purpose of the pilot test and inviting them to participate (Appendix A). These e-mails will
also include a link to the web-based survey. Questions included in the pilot test are based on
several of the principles Dillman (2000) identifies as necessary for constructing web surveys and
are designed to assess whether the design and layout of the web-based survey is easy to
understand (Appendix B). One week later, another e-mail will be sent to the pilot test sample,
thanking respondents for completing the survey and reminding nonrespondents to do so. After
completing the web-based survey, responses to the pilot test questions will be reviewed and used
to determine if any changes need to be made to improve the survey prior to disseminating it to
the study sample (Creswell, 2005).

The study sample will be selected by means of simple random sampling. A list of all graduate
students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester will be obtained
from the Office of the University Registrar and will serve as the sampling frame for this study.
The names of the students who participated in the pilot test will be removed from the sampling
frame prior to selecting the sample. A SAS program will generate a list of random numbers to
determine which students from the sampling frame will be included in the sample (Dillman,
2000). A proposed sample of 1,000 participants will be necessary in order to allow for a
sufficient response rate of 50%.

A prenotification letter will be sent via e-mail to the study sample informing them that they will
receive another e-mail within a couple of days requesting their participation in a study by
completing a web-based survey. Two days later, a cover letter will be sent via e-mail to the
study sample explaining the purpose of the study, inviting them to participate, and directing
those who choose to participate to a link to the web-based survey (Appendix C). One week later,
another e-mail will be sent to the study sample, thanking respondents for completing the survey
and reminding nonrespondents to do so. Two weeks later, nonrespondents will receive another
e-mail requesting that they respond and providing them with a copy of the link that will direct
them to the web-based survey. Another two weeks later, a final e-mail will be sent to
nonrespondents asking them to complete the survey (Dillman, 2000). This e-mail will also









request that, if they choose not to complete the entire survey, they complete only the
demographic questions. Doing so will allow for a comparison between respondents and
nonrespondents based on demographic characteristics.

Completion of the 78-question survey will require approximately 15 minutes and will serve as
implied consent. All participants who complete the entire survey by responding to all of the
questions will receive a $5 Barnes & Noble online gift certificate via e-mail. The
SurveyMonkey web-based survey service will keep track of who has and has not responded to
the survey by indicating their response status next to their e-mail addresses, which are listed in a
study sample directory. The SurveyMonkey web-based survey service utilizes password-
protected access to participant directories and survey responses ensuring that only the principal
investigator has access to both pilot test and main study participants' names, e-mail addresses,
and survey responses, thereby keeping that information confidential (SurveyMonkey, 2006). In
addition, because participant directories are kept separate from survey responses, participants'
names and e-mail addresses will not be connected to their survey responses, thereby ensuring
confidentiality.

SPSS, version 13.0, and SAS, version 8, will be used to analyze the data by generating both
descriptive and inferential statistics. Descriptive statistics will serve to summarize the sample's
demographic characteristics (i.e., sex, age, race, field of study, type of degree, credit hours, time
in program, and program focus). Inferential statistics will be used to answer the four research
questions. Bivariate correlations will be calculated using SPSS to determine if there is an
association between social support and life purpose in graduate students. Bivariate correlations
will also be calculated using SPSS to determine whether such an association is influenced by the
afore-mentioned demographic variables. These correlations can then be compared using SAS to
determine if there is a difference in the association (Marascuilo, 1966) between social support
and life purpose for each demographic variable. Multiple regression analysis will be calculated
using SPSS to determine how the interaction between various levels of social support and life
purpose influence graduate students' stress levels. Multiple regression analyses will also be
calculated using SPSS to determine how the interaction between various levels of social support
and life purpose influence graduate students' stress levels when compared by the afore-
mentioned demographic variables.

8. Potential Benefits and Anticipated Risks:

Participants may benefit by having a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of
human health. Participants' names, e-mail addresses, and survey results will be maintained in a
password-protected SurveyMonkey account (SurveyMonkey, 2006). Neither the participants'
names nor e-mail addresses will be connected with their survey results. Therefore, participation
in this study poses no more than minimal risk.

9. Describe How Participants will be Recruited, the Number and Age of Participants, and
Proposed Compensation:

Graduate students will be the population for this study. The target population will be graduate
students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester. The pilot test









sample will be selected by means of convenience sampling. The study sample will be selected
by means of simple random sampling. A list of all graduate students enrolled at the University
of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester will be obtained from the Office of the University
Registrar and will serve as the sampling frame for this study. The names of the students who
participated in the pilot test will be removed from the sampling frame prior to selecting the
sample. A SAS program will generate a list of random numbers to determine which students
from the sampling frame will be included in the sample (Dillman, 2000). A proposed sample of
1,000 participants, ages 18 and older, will be necessary in order to allow for a sufficient response
rate of 50%. All participants who complete the entire survey, by responding to all 78 questions,
will receive a $5 Barnes & Noble online gift certificate via e-mail.

10. Describe the Informed Consent Process:

A cover letter will be sent via e-mail to the sample participants explaining the purpose of the
study, inviting them to participate, and directing those who choose to participate to a link to the
web-based survey (Appendix C). Completion of the 78-question survey will require
approximately 15 minutes and will serve as implied consent. Thus, students will voluntarily
consent to participate in this study by completing the web-based survey.

11. Signatures: The original signatures) of the Principal Investigator(s) and faculty
supervisor (where applicable) of the research are required at the bottom of the UFIRB
protocol. If the protocol is submitted electronically, a cover letter bearing these signatures
is required.



Principal Investigator's Signature Date
Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES


I approve this protocol for submission to the UFIRB.



Faculty Supervisor's Signature Date
Barbara Rienzo, PhD


I approve this protocol for submission to the UFIRB.



Dept. Chair/Center Director Signature Date
Robert Weiler, PhD









Original IRB Appendix A: Pilot Study Informed Consent


Project Title: The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student
Well-being

Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu) is a doctoral candidate in the
department of Health Education and Behavior. This study proposes to assess graduate students'
experience related to social support, life purpose, and stress.

What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below
and participate in an online survey. In addition, you are being asked to complete feedback
questions, which will be located after each section within the online survey. The feedback
questions are designed to elicit information on the design and layout of the online survey in an
effort to determine if any changes need to be made.

Time required: The online survey will take approximately 25 minutes to complete.

Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither
your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of
participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health.

Compensation: You will not be compensated for participating in this study.

Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your e-
mail address will be used to follow-up on your participation in the pilot study. Your name and e-
mail address, which will be listed in a pilot participant directory, will not be connected to your
survey responses. The pilot participant directory and survey responses will be maintained in a
password-protected web-based survey service account ensuring that only the principal
investigator has access to this information. No names will be used in any report.

Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no
penalty for not participating.

Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime
without consequence.

Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at
bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu, Department of Health
Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583.

Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office,
Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433.

Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below and completing the online survey you are
indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily
participate in this study.










<<<<< Link to Online Survey >>>>>


Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be
extremely beneficial in determining the most effective design and layout for the online survey.
Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated.









Original IRB Appendix B: Pilot Study Questions

* These questions will be included at the end of each section of the survey as indicated below *

Welcome Screen Section

* Did the message on the welcome screen serve to motivate you to participate in the survey?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Did the instructions on the welcome screen adequately inform you how to proceed to the next
page so that you could begin the survey?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

Social Support Section

* Did the instructions adequately inform you how to respond to the questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Did the layout of the questions and responses make it easy to understand how to respond to the
questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Was the number of questions per page adequate?

Yes [ ] No Too few questions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next
page so that you could continue the survey?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...









Purpose Section

* Did the instructions adequately inform you how to respond to the questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Did the layout of the questions and responses make it easy to understand how to respond to the
questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Was the number of questions per page adequate?

Yes [ ] No Too few questions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next
page so that you could continue the survey?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

Stress Section

* Did the instructions adequately inform you how to respond to the questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Did the layout of the questions and responses make it easy to understand how to respond to the
questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...









* Was the number of questions per page adequate?

Yes [ ] No Too few questions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next
page so that you could continue the survey?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

Demographics Section

* Did the instructions adequately inform you how to respond to the questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Did the layout of the questions and responses make it easy to understand how to respond to the
questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Was the number of questions per page adequate?

Yes [ ] No Too few questions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ]

- If"No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next
page so that you could continue the survey?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If "No", please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

Other

* How well did the colors used in the survey design enable you to read the items?

Very Well [ ] Adequate Could be Improved [ ] Difficult to Read [ ]










- If it needs improvement, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below...

* In the space below, please provide any additional feedback you think would be helpful in
making this survey as user-friendly as possible...









Original IRB Appendix C: Dissertation Study Informed Consent


Project Title: The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student
Well-being

Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu) is a doctoral candidate in the
department of Health Education and Behavior. This study proposes to assess graduate students'
experience related to social support, life purpose, and stress.

What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below
and participate in an online survey.

Time required: The online survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither
your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of
participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health.

Compensation: You will receive a $5 Barnes & Noble online gift certificate via e-mail for
completing the entire survey by responding to all of the questions.

Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your e-
mail address will be used to follow-up on your participation in the study as well as to send you
an incentive upon completion of the survey. Your name and e-mail address, which will be listed
in a participant directory, will not be connected to your survey responses. The participant
directory and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey
service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No
names will be used in any report.

Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no
penalty for not participating.

Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime
without consequence.

Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at
bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu, Department of Health
Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583.

Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office,
Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433.

Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below and completing the online survey you are
indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily
participate in this study.









<<<<< Link to Online Survey >>>>>


Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be
extremely beneficial in enhancing an understanding of the graduate student experience. Your
help in this matter is greatly appreciated.









Original IRB Appendix D: Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL)

Information on obtaining a copy of this instrument can be found at

http://www.psy.cmu.edu/-scohen/scales.html









Original IRB Appendix E: Personal Meaning Index (PMI)

Information on obtaining a copy of this instrument can be found by contacting Gary T.

Reker, Ph.D. in the Department of Psychology at Trent University, located in Peterborough,

Ontario, Canada.









Original IRB Appendix F: Perceived Stress Scale (PSS)

Information on obtaining a copy of this instrument can be found at

http://www.psy.cmu.edu/-scohen/scales.html









Original IRB Appendix G: Demographic Information


Directions: For each of the following questions check the answer that best represents you.

1. What is your sex?

Male
Female

2. In which of the following categories does your age fall?

Under 20 years
20 24
25 29
30 34
35 -39
40 44
45 49
50 54
55 -59
60 64
65 or older

3. What is your race? Please mark one of the following race categories (as used by the U.S.
Census Bureau) to indicate what you consider yourself to be.

White
Black, African American, Negro
American Indian or Alaska Native
Asian (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Other Asian)
Pacific Islander (Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, Other Pacific
Islander)
Spanish, Hispanic, Latino (Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano; Puerto Rican;
Cuban; Other Spanish, Hispanic, Latino)
Other:

4. In which of the following colleges is your graduate program department housed?

Agricultural and Life Sciences
Business Administration, Design, Construction, and Planning
Dentistry
Education
Engineering
Fine Arts
Health and Human Performance
Journalism and Communications









Law
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Medicine
Nursing
Pharmacy
Public Health and Health Professions
Veterinary Medicine

5. What type of degree are you working towards?

Masters
Doctoral

6. How many credit hours are you currently enrolled in for this semester?


11
12
More than 12

7. How many academic years, including this year, have you been enrolled in your graduate
program?

1
2
3
4
5 or More

8. On which of the following activities do you focus a majority of your time and energy with
regard to your academics?


Coursework
Comprehensive or Qualifying Exams
Thesis or Dissertation Research










APPENDIX B
INSTITUTIONAL REIVEW BOARD REVISION FORM 1


Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies
Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research)


Protocol Number: 2006-U-1056
Protocol Title: The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student Well-being

Investigator's Name: Beth Johnson


Email Address: bajohnso@ufl.edu Phone: 352-392-0583 ext 1254


Revision / Amendment to Protocol
State the revision(s) you are making to the study:

Dates of Proposed Research: December 1, 2006 December 30, 2008

Protocol Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence on Graduate Student Well-
being

Pilot Study: A second phase will be added to the pilot study. 100 graduate students will be randomly selected from a list of all
graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester. The names of the students who
participated in phase one of the pilot study (the originally proposed pilot study) will be removed from the list prior to selecting
the sample for phase two of the pilot study. Cover letter e-mails will be sent to the phase two pilot study sample explaining the
purpose of the pilot test and inviting them to participate. These e-mails will also include a link to the web-based survey. One
week later, another e-mail will be sent to the phase two pilot study sample, thanking respondents for completing the survey and
reminding non-respondents to do so. A brand new informed consent has been created specifically for phase two of the pilot
study.

Dissertation Study: Prior to selecting the sample for the dissertation study, the names of the students who participated in either
phase of the pilot study will be removed from the list of all graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the
Spring 2007 semester. The proposed sample will consist of 600 graduate students.

Demographic Questions: Response options for questions 2, 6, and 7 were changed from multiple choice category options to fill
in the blank options.












Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies
Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research)


Justification for Revision
Provide a reason /justification for this change:

Dates of Proposed Research: To begin data collection for phase one of the pilot study as soon as possible.

Protocol Title: A more in-depth description of what the study intends to look into.

Pilot Study: To determine the reliability of the web-based format of the survey with a graduate student population.

Dissertation Study: In order to achieve target accuracy necessary to estimate the strength of the relationship between the
variables in the study, the minimum N should equal 297 participants, which was rounded up to 300. Over-sampling by 50%
indicates that an N of 600 will be sufficient.

Demographic Questions: To gather more detailed data.

Does this change affect the following documents? Please attach Revised Copy.


Informed Consent Yes Questionnaire Yes Flyer No

(Principal Investigator Signature) (Date)


Supervisor's Signature (If PI is student) (Date)


This section is for IRB02 use only
Comments:


Signature of Chair / Vice-Chair:


Approval Date:









IRB Revision 1 Appendix A: Revised Dissertation Study Informed Consent

Project Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence
on Graduate Student Well-being

Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu) is a doctoral candidate in the
department of Health Education and Behavior. She is interested in learning about the graduate
student experience as it relates to the various dimensions of health. The purpose of her
dissertation is to examine the relationship between social support and life purpose on graduate
student well-being.

What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below
and participate in an online survey.

Time required: The online survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither
your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of
participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health.

Compensation: You will receive a $5 Barnes & Noble online gift certificate via e-mail for
completing the entire survey by responding to all of the questions.

Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your e-
mail address will be used to follow-up on your participation in the study as well as to send you
an incentive upon completion of the survey. Your name and e-mail address, which will be listed
in a participant directory, will not be connected to your survey responses. The participant
directory and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey
service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No
names will be used in any report.

Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no
penalty for not participating.

Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime
without consequence.

Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at
bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu, Department of Health
Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583.

Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office,
Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433.









Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below and completing the online survey you are
indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily
participate in this study.

<<<<< Link to Online Survey >>>>>

Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be
extremely beneficial in enhancing an understanding of the graduate student experience. Your
help in this matter is greatly appreciated.









IRB Revision 1 Appendix B: Pilot Study Phase 2 Informed Consent


Project Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence
on Graduate Student Well-being

Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu) is a doctoral candidate in the
department of Health Education and Behavior. She is interested in learning about the graduate
student experience as it relates to the various dimensions of health. The purpose of her
dissertation is to examine the relationship between social support and life purpose on graduate
student well-being.

What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below
and participate in an online survey.

Time required: The online survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither
your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of
participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health.

Compensation: You will not be compensated for participating in this study.

Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your e-
mail address will be used to follow-up on your participation in the study as well as to send you
an incentive upon completion of the survey. Your name and e-mail address, which will be listed
in a participant directory, will not be connected to your survey responses. The participant
directory and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey
service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No
names will be used in any report.

Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no
penalty for not participating.

Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime
without consequence.

Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at
bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu, Department of Health
Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583.

Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office,
Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433.

Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below and completing the online survey you are
indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily
participate in this study.










<<<<< Link to Online Survey >>>>>


Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be
extremely beneficial in enhancing an understanding of the graduate student experience. Your
help in this matter is greatly appreciated.









IRB Revision 1 Appendix C: Revised Demographic Information


Directions: For each of the following questions check the answer that best represents you.

1. What is your sex?

Male
Female

2. How old are you?

3. What is your race? Please mark one of the following race categories (as used by the U.S.
Census Bureau) to indicate what you consider yourself to be.

White
Black, African American, Negro
American Indian or Alaska Native
Asian (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Other Asian)
Pacific Islander (Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, Other Pacific
Islander)
Spanish, Hispanic, Latino (Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano; Puerto Rican;
Cuban; Other Spanish, Hispanic, Latino)
Other:

4. In which of the following colleges is your graduate program department housed?

Agricultural and Life Sciences
Business Administration, Design, Construction, and Planning
Dentistry
Education
Engineering
Fine Arts
Health and Human Performance
Journalism and Communications
Law
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Medicine
Nursing
Pharmacy
Public Health and Health Professions
Veterinary Medicine

5. What type of degree are you working towards?

Masters
Doctoral









6. How many credit hours are you currently enrolled in for this semester?


7. How many semesters, including this semester, have you been enrolled in your graduate
program? When considering the number of semesters please include Fall, Spring, and Summer.


8. On which of the following activities do you focus a majority of your time and energy with
regard to your academics?

Coursework
Comprehensive or Qualifying Exams
Thesis or Dissertation Research










APPENDIX C
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD REVISION FORM 2


Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies
Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research)


Protocol Number: 2006-U-1056


Protocol Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence on Graduate
Student Well-being
Investigator's Name: Beth Johnson


Email Address: bajohnso@ufl.edu Phone: 352-392-0583 ext 1254


Revision / Amendment to Protocol
State the revision(s) you are making to the study:

Pilot Study Phase 2:

300 graduate students will be randomly selected from a list of all graduate students enrolled at the University of
Florida during the Spring 2007 semester. The names of the students who participated in phase one of the pilot
study, who were selected to participate in and received surveys for the initial phase two of the pilot study, and who
have been selected to participate in the dissertation study will be removed from the list prior to selecting the
additional sample for phase two of the pilot study.

No changes will be made to the contact and follow-up procedures for this additional sample for phase two of the
pilot study. Contact and follow-up procedures for this additional sample for phase two of the pilot study will be
identical to the procedures followed for the initial sample for phase two of the pilot study.

Demographic information will be obtained from the University Registrar's Office for all graduate students
enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007. The demographic information will include sex, age,
race, field of study (the college in which the graduate program department they are enrolled in is housed), type of
degree (the specific degree toward which the participants are working masters or doctoral level), credit hours
(the number of credit hours in which participants are enrolled for the current semester), and time in program (the
number of semesters, including this semester, that participants have been enrolled in their current graduate
program).











Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies
Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research)


Justification for Revision
Provide a reason /justification for this change:

Pilot Study Phase 2:

To ensure that enough data is collected so that statistical analyses can be conducted to determine the reliability of
the web-based format of the survey with a graduate student population.

To allow for a comparison of demographic information between members of the sample who participated in the
study and the population in question (i.e., all graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the
Spring 2007 semester). This comparison will provide information regarding whether the study participants are
representative the population in question.


Does this change affect the following documents? Please attach Revised Copy.

Informed Consent No Questionnaire No Flyer No

(Principal Investigator Signature) (Date)


Supervisor's Signature (If PI is student) (Date)


This section is for irb02 use only
Comments:


Signature of Chair / Vice-Chair:


Approval Date:










APPENDIX D
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD REVISION FORM 3


Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies
Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research)


Protocol Number: 2006-U-1056


Protocol Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence on Graduate
Student Well-being
Investigator's Name: Beth Johnson


Email Address: bajohnso@ufl.edu Phone: 352-392-0583 ext 1254


Revision / Amendment to Protocol
State the revision(s) you are making to the study:

Dissertation Study Sample Size:

An additional 1400 graduate students will be randomly selected from a list of all graduate students enrolled at the
University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester. The names of the students who participated in phases one
and two of the pilot study will be removed from the list prior to selecting the dissertation study sample. Doing so
will result in a total sample size of 2000 (600 graduate students as originally proposed + 1400 additional graduate
students). No changes will be made to the contact and follow-up procedures for the dissertation study.

Dissertation Study Incentive:

No incentive will be offered to participants for completing the survey.


Justification for Revision
Provide a reason /justification for this change:

Dissertation Study Sample Size:

Increasing the sample size for the dissertation study will ensure that enough data is collected so that statistical
analyses can be conducted to answer the research questions posed.

Dissertation Study Incentive:

Eliminating the incentive from the dissertation study has become necessary due to monetary constraints. In
addition, knowing that incentives will not be distributed allows for an increase in sample size (see proposed
change to dissertation study sample size).












Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies
Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research)


Does this change affect the following documents? Please attach Revised Copy.


Informed Consent Yes Questionnaire No Flyer No

(Principal Investigator Signature) (Date)


Supervisor's Signature (If PI is student) (Date)



This section is for irb02 use only
Comments:


Signature of Chair / Vice-Chair:


Approval Date:









IRB Revision 3 Appendix A: Revised Dissertation Study Informed Consent

Project Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence
on Graduate Student Well-being

Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu) is a doctoral candidate in the
department of Health Education and Behavior. She is interested in learning about the graduate
student experience as it relates to the various dimensions of health. The purpose of her
dissertation is to examine the relationship between social support and life purpose on graduate
student well-being.

What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below
and participate in an online survey.

Time required: The online survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither
your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of
participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health.

Compensation: You will not be compensated for participating in this study.

Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your e-
mail address will be used to follow-up on your participation in the study as well as to send you
an incentive upon completion of the survey. Your name and e-mail address, which will be listed
in a participant directory, will not be connected to your survey responses. The participant
directory and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey
service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No
names will be used in any report.

Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no
penalty for not participating.

Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime
without consequence.

Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at
bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu, Department of Health
Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583.

Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office,
Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433.

Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below and completing the online survey you are
indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily
participate in this study.










<<<<< Link to Online Survey >>>>>


Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be
extremely beneficial in enhancing an understanding of the graduate student experience. Your
help in this matter is greatly appreciated.









APPENDIX E
PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: FEEDBACK QUESTIONS

* These questions will be included at the end of each section of the survey as indicated below *

Welcome Screen Section

* Did the welcome screen motivate you to participate in this survey?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If you checked "No", please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space
below...

* Did the instructions on the welcome screen adequately inform you how to proceed to the next
page so that you could begin the survey?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If you checked "No", please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space
below...

Social Support, Life Purpose, & Stress Section

* Did the instructions adequately inform you how to respond to the questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If you checked "No", please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space
below...

* Did the layout of the questions and response options make it easy to understand how to
respond to the questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If you checked "No", please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space
below...

* Was the number of questions per page adequate?

Yes [ ] No Too few questions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ]

- If you checked one of the "No" options, please provide comments and suggestions for revision
in the space below...









* Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next
page so that you could continue the survey?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If you checked "No", please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space
below...

Demographics Section

* Did the instructions adequately inform you how to respond to the questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If you checked "No", please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space
below...

* Did the layout of the questions and response options make it easy to understand how to
respond to the questions?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If you checked "No", please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space
below...

* Was the number of questions per page adequate?

Yes [ ] No Too few questions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ]

- If you checked one of the "No" options, please provide comments and suggestions for revision
in the space below...

* Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next
page so that you could continue the survey?

Yes [ ] No [ ]

- If you checked "No", please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space
below...

End of Survey

* Did the colors used in the survey design make the screen difficult to read?

Yes [ ] No [ ]









- If you checked "Yes", please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space
below...

* In the space below, please provide any additional feedback you think would be helpful in
making this survey as user-friendly as possible...









APPENDIX F
PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: COVER LETTER E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

Thank you for agreeing to participate in the pilot study for my dissertation research. Please read
the following information carefully as it gives you a description of my dissertation research as
well as what you are being asked to do as a participant. After reading this information please
click on the link below to access the survey.

Project Title: The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student
Well-being

Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu) is a doctoral candidate in the
department of Health Education and Behavior. This study proposes to assess graduate students'
experience related to social support, life purpose, and stress.

What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below
and participate in an online survey. In addition, you are being asked to complete feedback
questions, which will be located after each section within the online survey. The feedback
questions are designed to elicit information on the design and layout of the online survey in an
effort to determine if any changes need to be made.

Time required: The online survey will take approximately 25 minutes to complete.

Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither
your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of
participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health.

Compensation: You will not be compensated for participating in this study.

Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your e-
mail address will be used to follow-up on your participation in the pilot study. Your name and e-
mail address, which will be listed in a pilot participant directory, will not be connected to your
survey responses. The pilot participant directory and survey responses will be maintained in a
password-protected web-based survey service account ensuring that only the principal
investigator has access to this information. No names will be used in any report.

Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no
penalty for not participating.

Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime
without consequence.

Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at
bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu, Department of Health
Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583.









Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office,
Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433.

Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below and completing the online survey you are
indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily
participate in this study.

Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be
extremely beneficial in determining the most effective design and layout for the online survey.
Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated.

Here is a link to the survey:
[SurveyLink]

(IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056)

Thanks again,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further
emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my
mailing list.
[RemoveLink]









APPENDIX G
PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: NON-RESPONDENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

Thank you again for agreeing to participate in the pilot study for my dissertation research.

If you have not yet had time to complete the online survey, please do so as soon as possible.
Data collection will end at 5pm on Thursday December 14th

Please review the information below as it gives you a description of my dissertation research as
well as what you are being asked to do as a participant. After reviewing this information please
click on this link to access the survey.

Here is a link to the survey:
[SurveyLink]

(IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056)

Project Title: The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student
Well-being

Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu) is a doctoral candidate in the
department of Health Education and Behavior. This study proposes to assess graduate students'
experience related to social support, life purpose, and stress.

What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below
and participate in an online survey. In addition, you are being asked to complete feedback
questions, which will be located after each section within the online survey. The feedback
questions are designed to elicit information on the design and layout of the online survey in an
effort to determine if any changes need to be made.

Time required: The online survey will take approximately 25 minutes to complete.

Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither
your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of
participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health.

Compensation: You will not be compensated for participating in this study.

Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your e-
mail address will be used to follow-up on your participation in the pilot study. Your name and e-
mail address, which will be listed in a pilot participant directory, will not be connected to your
survey responses. The pilot participant directory and survey responses will be maintained in a
password-protected web-based survey service account ensuring that only the principal
investigator has access to this information. No names will be used in any report.









Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no
penalty for not participating.

Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime
without consequence.

Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at
bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu, Department of Health
Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583.

Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office,
Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433.

Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below and completing the online survey you are
indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily
participate in this study.

Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be
extremely beneficial in determining the most effective design and layout for the online survey.
Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated.

Thanks again,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further
emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my
mailing list.
[RemoveLink]









APPENDIX H
PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: RESPONDENT THANK YOU E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

Thank you for your prompt participation in the pilot study for my dissertation research.

The information you provided will be extremely helpful in informing the changes I make to
enhance the effectiveness of the design and layout of the online survey.

Your time and effort are greatly appreciated.

Thanks again,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

Please note: If you do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below,
and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list.
[RemoveLink]









APPENDIX I
PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: COVER LETTER E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

You were selected at random to participate in an online survey about your graduate student
experience.

This survey is being conducted as part of my dissertation research on the relationships among
graduate students' social support, life purpose, and general well-being. Completing this survey
should take no more than 15 minutes of your time.

By clicking on the web-link below and completing the survey you are indicating that you consent
to voluntarily participate in this study.

If you have any questions about this study I can be contacted at bajohnso@ufl.edu.

Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

To participate in this survey simply click on the web-link below.

[SurveyLink]

If the web-link does not work you can copy and paste the link directly onto your web browser to
access the survey.

(IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056)

Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further
emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my
mailing list.

[RemoveLink]









APPENDIX J
PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: NON-RESPONDENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

A week ago you received an e-mail inviting you to participate in an online survey about your
graduate student experience.

If you have not yet had time to complete the online survey, please do so as soon as possible.
Data collection will end at 5pm on Tuesday February 13th

This survey is being conducted as part of my dissertation research on the relationships among
graduate students' social support, life purpose, and general well-being. Completing this survey
should take no more than 15 minutes of your time.

By clicking on the web-link below and completing the survey you are indicating that you consent
to voluntarily participate in this study.

If you have any questions about this study I can be contacted at bajohnso@ufl.edu.

Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

To participate in this survey simply click on the web-link below.

[SurveyLink]

(IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056)

Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further
emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my
mailing list.

[RemoveLink]









APPENDIX K
PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: RESPONDENT THANK YOU E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

Thank you for completing the survey about your graduate student experience.

The information you provided has enhanced our understanding of social support, life purpose,
and stress.

Your time and effort are greatly appreciated.

Thanks again,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

Please note: If you do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below,
and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list.

[RemoveLink]









APPENDIX L
DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS

Directions: For each of the following questions check the answer that best represents you.

1. What is your sex?

Male
Female

2. How old are you?

3. What is your race? Please mark one of the following race categories (as used by the U.S.
Census Bureau) to indicate what you consider yourself to be.

White
Black, African American, Negro
American Indian or Alaska Native
Asian (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Other Asian)
Pacific Islander (Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, Other Pacific
Islander)
Spanish, Hispanic, Latino (Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano; Puerto Rican;
Cuban; Other Spanish, Hispanic, Latino)
Other:

4. In which of the following colleges is your graduate program department housed?

Agricultural and Life Sciences
Business Administration
Design, Construction, and Planning
Dentistry
Education
Engineering
Fine Arts
Health and Human Performance
Journalism and Communications
Law
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Medicine
Nursing
Pharmacy
Public Health and Health Professions
Veterinary Medicine









5. What type of degree are you working towards?


Masters
Doctoral

6. How many credit hours are you currently enrolled in for this semester?

7. How many semesters, including this semester, have you been enrolled in your graduate
program? When considering the number of semesters please include Fall, Spring, and Summer.


8. On which of the following activities do you focus a majority of your time and energy with
regard to your academics?

Coursework
Comprehensive or Qualifying Exams
Thesis or Dissertation Research









APPENDIX M
MAIN STUDY: PRE-NOTIFICATION E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

I am a fellow graduate student interested in the connections among personal well-being, sense of
purpose, and social support.

Two days from now will receive an e-mail requesting your participation in an online survey
about your graduate student experience, conducted as part of my dissertation research.

Thank you in advance. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further
emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my
mailing list.

[RemoveLink]









APPENDIX N
MAIN STUDY: COVER LETTER E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

You were selected at random to participate in an online survey about your graduate student
experience.

This survey is being conducted as part of my dissertation research on the relationships among
graduate students' social support, life purpose, and general well-being. Completing this survey
should take no more than 15 minutes of your time.

By clicking on the web-link below and completing the survey you are indicating that you consent
to voluntarily participate in this study.

If you have any questions about this study I can be contacted at bajohnso@ufl.edu.

Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

To participate in this survey simply click on the web-link below.

[SurveyLink]

If the web-link does not work you can copy and paste the link directly onto your web browser to
access the survey.

(IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056)

Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further
emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my
mailing list.

[RemoveLink]

For those of you who already asked to be removed from the mailing list I apologize for this
inconvenience. There was a technical error with the first e-mail in that people were accidentally
removed from the mailing list. I am sending the survey to the entire mailing list to make sure
everyone who wants to participate has an opportunity to do so. If you ask to be removed from
the mailing list again I will make sure this happens.









APPENDIX O
MAIN STUDY: NON-RESPONDENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

A week ago you received an e-mail inviting you to participate in an online survey about your
graduate student experience.

If you have not yet had time to complete the online survey, please do so as soon as possible.
Data collection will end at 5pm on Sunday March 18th

This survey is being conducted as part of my dissertation research on the relationships among
graduate students' social support, life purpose, and general well-being. Completing this survey
should take no more than 15 minutes of your time.

By clicking on the web-link below and completing the survey you are indicating that you consent
to voluntarily participate in this study.

If you have any questions about this study I can be contacted at bajohnso@ufl.edu.

Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

To participate in this survey simply click on the web-link below.

[SurveyLink]

(IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056)

Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further
emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my
mailing list.

[RemoveLink]









APPENDIX P
MAIN STUDY: NON-RESPONDENT DEMOGRAPHIC REQUEST E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

I wanted to contact you one last time regarding your participation in an online survey about your
graduate student experience.

I would greatly appreciate it if you would complete the entire survey. However, if you do not
feel you have the time to do so I ask that you would take afew minutes to complete just the
eight demographic questions at the end of the survey (#s 71-78). Doing so will allow for a
comparison between respondents and non-respondents based on demographic characteristics.

By clicking on the web-link below and completing the survey you are indicating that you consent
to voluntarily participate in this study.

If you have any questions about this study I can be contacted at bajohnso@ufl.edu.

Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

To participate in this survey simply click on the web-link below.

[SurveyLink]

If the web-link does not work you can copy and paste the link directly onto your web browser to
access the survey.

(IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056)

Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further
emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my
mailing list.









APPENDIX Q
MAIN STUDY: RESPONDENT THANK YOU E-MAIL

Hi [FirstName],

Thank you for completing the survey about your graduate student experience.

The information you provided has enhanced our understanding of social support, life purpose,
and stress.

Your time and effort are greatly appreciated.

Thanks again,

Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Health Education and Behavior
College of Health and Human Performance
University of Florida

Please note: If you do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below,
and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list.

[RemoveLink]









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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Beth Ann Johnson grew up in Chesapeake, Virginia, where she graduated from Western

Branch High School in 1998. In 2002, she graduated summa cum laude from Longwood College

in Farmville, Virginia, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in exercise science

and a minor in health education. In 2004, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at

Greensboro, receiving a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in community

health education. During her time at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Beth also

became a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). In 2007, Beth graduated from the

University of Florida with a doctorate in health education and behavior. Upon admittance to the

University of Florida, she was awarded the Alumni Graduate Fellowship, the highest award

offered by the university to incoming graduate students. During her time at the University of

Florida, Beth was committed to teaching undergraduate students, participating in research

projects that lead to published manuscripts and presentations at national conventions, and

maintaining active membership in several professional organizations. In the fall of 2007, Beth

joined the faculty of the Department of Health Promotion in the School of Health Sciences and

Human Performance at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia.





PAGE 1

1 RELATIONSHIPS AMONG SOCIAL SUPPORT, LIFE PURPOSE, AND STRESS IN THE LIVES OF GRADUATE STUDENTS By BETH ANN JOHNSON A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

PAGE 2

2 2007 Beth Ann Johnson

PAGE 3

3 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to extend a sincer e thank you to all of the peopl e in my life whose support and encouragement have helped me reach this point in my academic career. First, I would like to thank Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo for serving as my academic advisor and dissertation committee chair. In fulfilling these roles, Dr. Rienzo pa tiently offered her guidance as I made my way through the doctoral experience. Ou r shared interest in exploring aspects of spiritu al health and the enthusiasm she demonstrated with regard to my research inspired me to continue pursuing a career that will allow me to imp act the spiritual health of young adults. I would also like to thank Dr. R. Morgan Pigg, Jr.; Dr. Katherin e Gratto; Dr. James Algina; and Dr. Michael Murphy, for serving on my dissertation committ ee. Their guidance and expertise were invaluable as I made my way th rough the dissertation process. Sp ecifically, I am grateful to Dr. Pigg and Dr. Murphy, for their encouragement; to Dr Gratto, for her faith; and to Dr. Algina, for his statistical expertise. I must also thank Dr. Dennis Thombs, for the additional statistical expertise he provided. I would also like acknowledge my family and friends, for their love and support. My parents, Bob and Gail Johnson, instilled within me the belief that I could accomplish anything because no dream was out of reach. They provi ded numerous opportunities for me to experience all that life had to offer so that I could decide for myself what dreams I wanted to pursue. Through their selfless love and supp ort, my parents made it possible for me to become the person I am today. In addition to my parents, th e people whose supportiv e presence helped me persevere even when feeling overwhelmed incl ude my sister, Terry; and my friends, Kasey, Brooke, Randi Marie, Lindsay, Tami Kristi, and Abbie. I am al so blessed to have additional family and friends who kept me in their t houghts and prayers as I made my way through the doctoral experience. I am truly gr ateful for love and support.

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4 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................3 LIST OF TABLES................................................................................................................. ..........7 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ..............8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION..................................................................................................................10 Statement of the Research Problem........................................................................................11 Purpose of the Study........................................................................................................... ....12 Significance of the Study...................................................................................................... ..13 Research Questions............................................................................................................. ....14 Delimitations.................................................................................................................. .........15 Limitations.................................................................................................................... ..........15 Assumptions.................................................................................................................... .......16 Definition of Terms............................................................................................................ ....16 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE........................................................................................17 Personal Development........................................................................................................... .17 Maslows Hierarchy of Needs.........................................................................................17 Parks Faith Development Theory...................................................................................18 Chickerings Seven Vectors of Development (Revised).................................................19 Health-Related Benefits........................................................................................................ ..20 Theoretical Explanation of Health Benefits of Social Support.......................................20 Direct/main effects theory........................................................................................21 Stress-buffering theory.............................................................................................21 Health Benefits of Social Support...................................................................................21 Physical health benefits............................................................................................22 Psychological health benefits...................................................................................22 Health Benefits of Life Purpose......................................................................................22 Academic-Related Benefits....................................................................................................23 Reducing Burnout and Attrition......................................................................................23 Burnout.....................................................................................................................23 Attrition....................................................................................................................25 Encouraging Vocational Pursuits....................................................................................25 The role of life purpose............................................................................................25 The role of social support.........................................................................................26 Higher Education Issues........................................................................................................ .27 Inadequate Social Support...............................................................................................28 Faculty-student interaction.......................................................................................28 Department involvement..........................................................................................29

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5 Disregard for Meaning and Purpose in Life....................................................................30 Theoretical Association between So cial Support and Life Purpose.......................................31 3 METHODS........................................................................................................................ .....32 Research Design................................................................................................................ .....33 Cross-Sectional, Web-Based, Survey Research..............................................................33 Pilot Studies.................................................................................................................. ...35 Phase one..................................................................................................................35 Phase two..................................................................................................................36 Research Variables and Instrumentation................................................................................38 Social Support and Life Purpose.....................................................................................38 Stress......................................................................................................................... .......39 Demographics..................................................................................................................40 Study Population............................................................................................................... ......41 Data Collection................................................................................................................ .......42 Data Analysis.................................................................................................................. ........43 4 RESULTS........................................................................................................................ .......45 Sampling Frame................................................................................................................. .....45 Response Rates................................................................................................................. ......45 Demographic Characteristics..................................................................................................46 Internal Consistency........................................................................................................... ....47 Levels of Social Support, Life Purpose, and Stress................................................................48 Research Question #1........................................................................................................... ..48 Research Question #2........................................................................................................... ..48 Research Question #3........................................................................................................... ..54 Research Question #4........................................................................................................... ..55 Research Question #5........................................................................................................... ..56 Limitations.................................................................................................................... ..........56 5 SUMMARY, CONCULSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS.........................................61 Summary........................................................................................................................ .........61 Research Question #1........................................................................................................... ..62 Research Question #2........................................................................................................... ..62 Research Question #3........................................................................................................... ..63 Research Question #4........................................................................................................... ..64 Research Question #5........................................................................................................... ..64 Conclusions.................................................................................................................... .........65 Recommendations................................................................................................................ ...67 Recommendations for Professional Practice...................................................................67 Recommendations for Future Research...........................................................................70 APPENDIX A ORIGINAL INSTITITUIONAL RE VIEW BOARD APPLICATION.................................73

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6 B INSTITUTIONAL REIVEW BOARD REVISION FORM 1...............................................91 C INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD REVISION FORM 2...............................................99 D INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD REVISION FORM 3.............................................101 E PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: FEEDBACK QUESTIONS......................................................105 F PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: COVER LETTER E-MAIL.....................................................108 G PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: NON-RESPONDENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL.......................110 H PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: RESPO NDENT THANK YOU E-MAIL................................112 I PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: COVER LETTER E-MAIL.....................................................113 J PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: NON-RESPONDENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL.......................114 K PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: RESPO NDENT THANK YOU E-MAIL................................115 L DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS..........................................................................................116 M MAIN STUDY: PRE-NOTIFICATION E-MAIL...............................................................118 N MAIN STUDY: CO VER LETTER E-MAIL.......................................................................119 O MAIN STUDY: NON-RESPOND ENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL........................................120 P MAIN STUDY: NON-RESPONDENT DEMOGRAPHIC REQUEST E-MAIL...............121 Q MAIN STUDY: RESPONDE NT THANK YOU E-MAIL..................................................122 LIST OF REFERENCES.............................................................................................................123 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................129

PAGE 7

7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 3-1 Demographic characteris tics of the study population........................................................44 4-1 Categorical demographic characteri stics of the main study participants...........................57 4-2 Bivariate correlation coefficients between social support & life purpose as compared by demographic variables..................................................................................................58 4-3 Bivariate correlation coefficients betw een stress & the quantitative independent variables...................................................................................................................... .......59 4-4 Levels of stress as a function of the categorical independent variables............................59 4-5 Main study multiple linear regression unstandardized regression coefficients, standardized regression coefficients..................................................................................60 4-6 Multiple linear regression unstandardized regression coefficients, standardized regression coefficients & t-test statistics............................................................................60

PAGE 8

8 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy RELATIONSHIPS AMONG SOCIAL SUPPORT, LIFE PURPOSE, AND STRESS IN THE LIVES OF GRADUATE STUDENTS By Beth Ann Johnson August 2007 Chair: Barbara A. Rienzo Major: Health and Human Performance Although universities can positively influence all aspects of young adult health, attempts to assist students in developing social support are ofte n inadequate and the need to assist students in discovering life purpose is often ignored. Several personal deve lopment theorists posit that developing social support and discovering lif e purpose are necessary for positive human development. However, the association between social support and life purpose has not been empirically verified. The purposes of this study were to describe the association between social support and life purpose among gradua te students; explain how main and interaction effects of social support and life purpose influence graduate student stress levels; and determine if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics. Phase One of the pilot study revealed that the de sign and layout of the web-based survey were easily understood. Phase Two of the pilot study revealed the reliability of conducting a webbased survey with instruments designed to measur e levels of social support, life purpose, and stress among young adults. The main study included a random sample of 1979 graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during spring 2007. Bivariate correlation analyses provided empiri cal support for a relationship between social support and life purpose, revealing that these vari ables are significantly correlated in a positive

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9 direction among graduate students, regardless of most demographic characteristics. A multiple linear regression analysis revealed that social support, life purpose, and sex significantly contributed to the total variance in stress score. These main effects indicate that as social support and life purpose increase, stress decreases as well as that males have lower stress scores than females. A comparison of the change in R2 revealed that life purpos e was better than social support at predicting stress levels. Another multi ple linear regression an alysis revealed the absence of a significant interaction effect between social support and life purpose with regard to stress. The findings from this study can be us ed to inform the health education profession by helping determine the need for initiatives designe d to reduce stress as well as enhance social support and life purpose among graduate students.

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10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Social health and spiritual hea lth represent two vital dimensi ons of health. One component of social healthsocia l supportpromotes both physical health (Bolt, 2004; Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Thoits, 1995) and ps ychological health (Bolt, 2004; Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hodges, 2002; Ka nters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Thoits, 1995; Vaux & Wood, 1987). Two theories explain how social support influences health: th e direct or main effects theory (Bolt, 2004; Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1 992), and the stress-buffering theory (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; La wson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992). Meaning and purpose in life, a component of spiritual health, also promotes health (Hodges, 2002; Kass, Friedman, Leserma n, Zuttermeister, & Benson, 1991; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Laurence, 2005; Love & Talbot, 1999; Mahoney & Graci, 1999; Strange, 2001; Tanyi, 2002; Young, Cashwell, & Wooli ngton, 1998). As people understand their meaning and purpose in life, several health bene fits accrue, including a heightened sense of physical and emotional well-being (Tanyi, 2002, p. 506), due in part to a stress-buffering effect (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994, p. 357; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). A sense of meaning and purpose in life buffers against stress because it provides direction and fulfillment in life (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994, p. 357). These particular benefits may become most evident during young adulthood, which involves a time of questioning a nd spiritual searching in which there is particular emphasis uponmaking connection with ultimate life pur pose (Dalton, 2001, p. 17). The process of searching frequently coincide[s] in peoples lives with pursuit of advanced formal education

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11 (Strange, 2001, p. 59). In fact, t he graduate school experience is essentially an act of dreaming about ones purpose in lifein th e most spiritual sense, ones calling or vocation (Strange, 2001, p. 63). As such, the sense of meaning and purpose in life for young adults proves especially important in helping them to identify and commit to future goals and career choices (Dalton, 2001, p. 18). Statement of the Research Problem Colleges and universities can a ffect virtually all aspects of young adult life and should, therefore, take a holistic appro ach to addressing needs of studen ts (Higher Education Research Institute (HERI): The Spiritual Life, 2005). In higher education, however, attempts to assist students in developing social support are often inadequate (C hristie, Munro, & Fisher, 2004; Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cr onan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; El lis, 2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Williams, 2000; Williams, 2002); and the need to assist students in discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life is often ignored (Dalton, 2001; Higher Education Research Institute (HERI): Summ ary, 2004; HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005; Laurence, 2005; Love, 2001; Love & Talbot, 1999). Many graduate programs attempt to provide students with a suppor tive environment in which to learn and to grow. Research has show n, however, that gender and racial differences can influence whether or not students reap the be nefits intended by the social support services provided (Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Williams, 2000; Williams, 2002). As a result, the support that graduate programs believe they provide may not be experienced by the entire student body. The belief that higher education has come to neglect the students inner development the sphere of values and beliefs, emotional matu rity, spirituality, and self -understanding (HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005, The Project, 2) prompted the Higher Education Research Institute at

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12 the University of California, Los Angeles to con duct research to better understand the spiritual development of college students. According to the HERI study, though three-fourths of the students say that they are searching for meaning and purpose in life (HER I: The Spiritual Life, 2005, p. 4), more than half say that their profes sors never provide opport unities to discuss the meaning and purpose of life (HERI: Summary, 2004, p. 6). As a result, students self-reported levels of spirituality declined during their undergraduate education (HERI: Summary, 2004). Previous research supports these findings by co nfirming that many young adults never develop a sense of meaning and purpose in life during th eir time in college (Frankl, 1967 as cited in Coffield, 1981; Naylor & Naylor, 1995 as cited in Hindman, 2002). Several theorists indicate, however, that developing a social support network and discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in lif e represent necessary steps in the process of positive human development (i.e., Maslows Hierar chy of Needs), particularly for young adults (i.e., Chickerings Seven Vectors of Developmen t, Parks Faith Development Theory). To achieve a sense of meaning and purpose in li fe, theorists posit that people must develop interpersonal relationships which enhance a soci al support network (Chick ering & Reisser, 1993; Frager & Fadiman, 2005; Maslow, 1987; Parks, 2000). The association between presence of social support and a sense of mean ing and purpose in life has not b een empirically verified. As a result, potential health benefits that may result, as well as potential interactions between social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, remain unknown. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study is to (1) describe the association between social support and life purpose among graduate students; (2 ) explain how the main effects, as well as the interaction effect, of social support and life purpose influence stress levels of graduate students; and (3)

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13 determine if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics. Significance of the Study If higher education institutions do not facilitate a social sup port network and discovery of a sense of meaning and purpose for their students, these young adults may not acquire the related health benefits. For example, stress poses a major health co ncern for young adults in higher education (Abouserie, 1994; Deckro, Ballinge r, Hoyt, & Wilcher, 2002; Geraghty, 1997; Goldman & Wong, 1997; Kanters, Bristol, & A ttarian, 2002; Ross, Niebling, & Heckert, 1999; Sciacca & Melby, 1992). Social support (Bol t, 2004, Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinck rodt & Leong, 1992) and a sense of meaning and purpose in life (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Yiu-kee & Ta ng, 1995) can provide a buffer against stress. In addition to contributing numerous heal th problems (Deckro, Ballinger, Hoyt, & Wilcher, 2002; Dixon & Reid, 2000; Duenwal d, 2002; Frazier & Schauben, 1994; Geraghty, 1997; Goldman & Wong, 1997; Hudd, Dumlao, Erdmann-Sager, Murray, Phan, Soukas, et al, 2000; Park & Levenson, 2002; Sciacca & Melby, 1992), stress causes burnout (Schaufeli, Maslach, & Marek, 1993 as cited by Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Schaufeli & Buunk, 1996 as cited by Peiro, Gonzalez-Roma, Torder a & Manas, 2001; Cooper, Dewe & ODriscoll, 2001; Hobfoll & Shirom, 2000; and Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998 as cited by Pines & Keinan, 2005; Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001). Burnout can lead people to question their vocational choice (Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982, p. 96) and to consider l eaving their line of work (Golde, 1998; Pines & Keinan, 2005; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982). Many gradua te students view their educational pursuits as a full-time job, one that will prepare them to fulfill their lif e purpose through their careers. As such, stress that leads to burnout may increase attrition rates among graduate students.

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14 Considerable research has been conducted to explore the health bene fits of social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life indepe ndently. Yet no investigations published to date have explored the associa tion or the interaction between pr esence of social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, despite a th eoretical association between the two. Potential health benefits that may result from understand ing the association as well as the interaction between social support and a sens e of meaning and purpose in life, particularly those associated to stress buffering, remain unknown. This study explored the association and interaction between social support and a sens e of meaning and purpose in life, as well as their impact on stress levels, and contributes to the professional lite rature by providing valuable information for university-based health promotion/disease prevention initiatives. Research Questions 1. What is the association between social s upport and life purpose in graduate students? 2. Does the association between social suppor t and life purpose in gr aduate students vary when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f) credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus? 3. Which of the following variables are associat ed with stress level among graduate students: (a) social support, (b) life purpose, (c) sex, (d) age, (e) race, (f) fiel d of study, (g) type of degree, (h) credit hours, (i) time in program, (j) program focus? 4. Does the interaction between social support and life purpose influence the stress levels of graduate students? 5. Is there variation in how the interaction between social suppo rt and life purpose influences the stress levels of graduate students when co mpared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f ) credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus? Research Questions 1, 3, and 4 are considered primary because answering them will provide meaningful overall information. Research Questions 2 and 5 are considered secondary not only because they require adequate demogra phic data, but also because their analysis is contingent upon the results of the primary resear ch questions. Specifically, answering Research

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15 Question 2 is relevant only if the answer to Research Question 1 revealed a correlation and Research Question 5 is relevant only if the an swer to Research Question 4 revealed an interaction effect. Delimitations Participants will include a sample of graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida. Data will be collected during Spring semester 2007. The Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (I SEL) was used to determine participants perceived availability of potential social resources (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamark, & Hoberman, 1985, p. 75). The Personal Meaning Index (PMI) was used to determine participants existential beliefs that life is meaningful (Reker, 2005, p. 72). The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) was used to de termine the degree to which situations in ones life are appraised as stressful (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983, p. 387). Data will be collected using a web-based survey. Limitations Students who participate in the study may not represent all graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida. Data collected during Spring semester 2007 ma y differ from data collected during other time periods. The Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) may not measure all participant perceptions regarding pote ntial social resources. The Personal Meaning Index (P MI) may not measure all par ticipant beliefs about the meaning of life. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) may not meas ure all participant pe rceptions concerning stressful life situations. Data collected using a web-based survey may di ffer from data collected using other survey formats.

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16 Assumptions The students who participate will be considered adequately representative of graduate students at the University of Florida. Data collected during the Spring semester 2007 were considered adequate for the purpose of this study. The Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (I SEL) was considered adequate to address participants perceived availa bility of potential social re sources (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985, p. 75). The Personal Meaning Index (PMI) was consid ered adequate to address participants existential beliefs that life is meaningful (Reker, 2005, p. 72). The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) was considered adequate to address t he degree to which situations in ones life ar e appraised as stressful (C ohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983, p. 387). Collecting data using a web-based survey was considered adequate for the purpose of the study. Definition of Terms CALLING. Vocational pursuits that allow people to live out their passions in ways that are meaningful and make a difference in the wo rld beyond themselves (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Hindman, 2002; Parker, 2000). FAITH DEVELOPMENT. The process people undergo as they attempt to make sense of their lives by looking for the meaning in their past, present, and future, which can be informed by secular or religious perspectives dependi ng on their personal beliefs (Parks, 2000). MEANING AND PURPOSE IN LIFE. Having a sense of directio n from past, present, and future, anda logically integrated and consiste nt understanding of self, others, and life in general (Reker, 1992, p. 20). SOCIAL SUPPORT. The presence of people who can offe r a listening ear, companionship that leads to a sense of belonging, or material aid such as goods and services (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985). STRESS. The physiological and psychological re sponses a persons body experiences when resources needed to cope with the demands of a particular situation are lacking (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984 as cited by Jenkins & Elliot, 2004). VECTORS OF DEVELOPMENT. Guidelines that describe the current position of students as well as their progress on the journey toward intrapersonal and interpersonal development (Chickering & Reisser, 1993).

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17 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE The purpose of this study is to (1) describe the association between social support and life purpose among graduate students; (2 ) explain how the main effects, as well as the interaction effect, of social support and life purpose influence stress levels of graduate students; and (3) determine if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics. The purpose of Chapter 2 is to present an overv iew of the research re levant to this study. A summary of the following topics will be presented: (a) personal development, (b) healthrelated benefits, (c) academic-rela ted benefits, and (d) higher education issues. Chapter 2 will conclude with a discussion of the theoretical a ssociation between social support and life purpose. Personal Development The process of personal development among gr aduate students can be best understood by taking into account Maslows Hierarchy of Needs (Frager & Fadiman, 2005; Maslow, 1987), Parks Faith Development Theory (Parks, 2000), and the revised ve rsion of Chickerings Seven Vectors of Development (Chicker ing & Reisser, 1993). These theo ries postulate that developing a social support network and disc overing a sense of meaning and purpose in life are necessary steps in the process of personal development. In addition, these theories imply that developing a social support network must occur before peopl e have the capacity to discover a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. Maslows Hierarchy of Needs Maslows Hierarchy of Needs espouses that al l human beings have the following needs: physiological needs, safety and security, l ove and belongingness, self-esteem, and selfactualization. He posits that individuals must fulfill lower-order needs before they can attempt to

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18 achieve higher-order needs (Frager & Fadima n, 2005; Maslow, 1987). Thus, the lower-order need of love and belongingness (i.e., the developmen t of social relationshi ps and the receipt of the support they can provide) must be fulfille d prior to achieving se lf-actualization, which occurs as individuals achieve their full potenti al as human beings as manifested througha sense of fulfillment and purpose in life (Hawks, 1994, Spiritual Heal th as an Integral Part of Holistic Health, 6; Hodges, 2002). Discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life takes place within the context of so cial relationships and then serves as the path toselfactualization (Hawks, 1994, Conclusion, 1). Parks Faith Development Theory According to Parks, there are four eras in the developmental spectrum spanning adolescence to mature adult faith: adolescence or conventional, young adult, tested adult, and mature adult (Parks, 2000, p. 70). Parks Faith Development Theory focuses specifically on the development of young adults, people typically between seventeen and thirtythe twentysomethings (Parks, 2000, p. 3). Prior to th e development of this theory, young adulthood was generally considered a time of transition between adolescence a nd adulthood, and, as such, was not regarded as a viable stage in the proce ss of faith development. Parks (2000) however, believed that embedded in the place called transiti on [there is] a distinct form of composing meaning, a recognizable stage [that focused on] th e formation of identity and the searching for a fitting role in society (p. 62). According to Parks (2000) this newfound freedom to struggle for an identity and to take responsib ility for it are signals that an a dolescent has crossed the threshold into young adulthood (p. 63). Thus, one beco mes a young adult in faith (at whatever age) when one begins to take self-conscious res ponsibility for ones own knowing, becoming, and moral action, even at the leve l of ultimate meaning-making (Parks, 2000, p. 64). During this stage a young adult will experien ce what Parks terms probing commitment, in which he/she

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19 explores many possible forms of truthas well as work roles, relationships, and lifestylesand their fittingness to one s own experience of self and worl d (Parks, 2000, p. 66). As a person progresses from the young adult to the tested ad ult stage of faith development, their probing commitment becomes tested commitment, which begins to take form whenones form of knowing and being takes ona recognition that one is willingto affirm ones place in the scheme of things (Parks, 2000, p. 69). The process of moving from young adulthood to tested adulthood, from probing to tested commitment, is better understood in terms of th e way in which faith is defined. According to Parks Faith Development Theor y, faith isthe activity of s eeking and discovering meaning (2000, p. 7). The process of faith development can be explained by the following theoretical components: Forms of Knowing, Forms of De pendence, and Forms of Community (Parks, 2000). The latter two components focus on social in teraction and interpers onal relationships as a means by which young adults develop their faith a nd discover a sense of meaning and purpose in life (Parks, 2000). More specifically, Forms of Dependence focus[es] on the relationships through which we discover and change our vi ews of knowledge and faith while Forms of Community focuses on the influence of the interp ersonal, social, and cu ltural context on ones development (Love, 2001, p. 9; Parks 2000). Love (2001) asserted that Parks Faith Development Theory suggests that the moveme nt toward a mature adult faith is one of connection to, interaction with, and belonging to the broader wo rld. [This process takes place as individuals begin to recognize] ones interdep endence and interconnectedness with communities and individuals (p. 14). Chickerings Seven Vectors of Development (Revised) Chickerings Revised Seven V ectors of Development provides information specific to the development of college students, which t oday includes persons of virtually all ages

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20 (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 34). Ba sed on Chickerings theory, the seven vectorshelpdetermine where students are and which way they are he ading (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 34) and describejourneyi ng toward individuationones unique way of beingand also toward communion with other individuals and groups, including the larger national and global society (Chi ckering & Reisser, 1993, p. 35). Vectors four and six respectiv ely correspond to the developmen t of social support and the discovery of a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Vector F our, Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships, serv es to recognize the importance of students experiences with relationships in the formation of their core se nse of self (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 39). Some of the characteristics of mature interperso nal relationships are intimacy, interdependence, tolerance, and commitment. Vector Six, Developi ng Purpose, serves to help people identify their vocational goals as well as to be intentiona l about making plans to accomplish their goals by prioritizing their responsibilities. These have helped people figure ou t who they are. But it is the vector, developing purpose, that wi ll help people figure out what they are being called to do in the future (Chickering & Reisser, 1993). Based on the progression of vect ors, it appears as if most students will develop social support prior to discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Health-Related Benefits Developing a social support network and disc overing a sense of m eaning and purpose in life contribute to the pr ocess of personal de velopment and also provide health-related benefits. Theoretical Explanation of Heal th Benefits of Social Support Two theories have been postulated to explain how social support infl uences health (Bolt, 2004; Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992).

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21 Direct/main effects theory The direct/main effects theory states that social support is bene ficial to well-being, regardless of the level of stressors to which individuals are exposed (Jenkins & Elliot, 2004, p. 623; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992). According to this theory, social suppor t can benefit health by encouraging people to participate in health pr omoting behaviors (i.e., nut ritious diets, physical activity) and refraining from participation in health-related risk behaviors (i.e., smoking, drinking) (Bolt, 2004). Stress-buffering theory The stress-buffering theory states that soc ial support is related to well-being only for persons who experience stress (Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992, p. 717; Jenkins & Elliot, 2004). Specifically, the theory states that support, e ither perceived availabi lity or amount actually received, is more beneficial for individuals with higher rather th an lower levels of stress (Jung, 1997, p. 79; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989). The way in which social support serves as a buffer against stress is by acting as a coping resource that lessensthe potentially [harmful] impact of stressors (Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992, p. 717; Clara, Cox, E nns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hodges, 2002; Thoits, 1995) by help[ing] us to evaluate and overcome the stressful event (Bolt, 2004, p. 182; Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003). Health Benefits of Social Support Researchers have found that social support pl ays an important role in enhancing both physical (Bolt, 2004; Thoits, 1995) and psycholog ical health (Bolt, 2004; Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hodges, 2002; Kant ers, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Thoits, 1995).

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22 Physical health benefits The physical health-related benefits that o ccur as a result of social support can be explained by both theories. According to the dir ect/main effects theory, higher levels of social support lead people to take fewer health-related risks, which in turn increase th e likelihood that people will participate in hea lth promoting behaviors (i.e., pr oper nutrition, adequate physical activity). According to the st ress-buffering theory, higher levels of social support help people cope with adverse life events, thereby decreasing their stress levels. Health promoting behaviors and decreased stress levels that occur as a resu lt of social support e nhance immune functioning, lessen chances of becoming sick and promote rapid recovery if illness occurs (Bolt, 2004). As a result of improved physical health status, social support decreases the lik elihood that people will meet an untimely death from illness (Bolt, 2004; Thoits, 1995). Psychological health benefits The presence of psychological health-related be nefits that occur as a result of social support can be explained by the st ress-buffering theory. For example, higher levels of social support help people cope with a dverse life events (Cla ra, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hodges, 2002; Thoits, 1995; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002), thereby decreasing their stress levels. This decrease then may lead to benefits associated with the pres ence of social support, such as increased life satisfaction (Bolt, 2004) self-esteem, and a sense of personal identity (Thoits, 1995) as well as decreased occurrence an d severity of anxiety (Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989) a nd depression (Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hodges, 2002; Kanter s, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002). Health Benefits of Life Purpose Meaning and purpose in life has been studied to determine its associated health-related benefits. According to Victor Frankl (1959), striving to find meaning in ones life is the

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23 primary motivation force in man (p. 23). Upon discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life, people are afforded benefits such as im proved physical and psychol ogical health (Tanyi, 2002), which may result from decreased stress levels (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995) that likely occur because of an increase d ability to cope with and adapt to adverse life events (Hodges, 2002; Tanyi, 2002). These factors occur because of having a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Additional benefits include enhanced feel ings of hope (Hodges, 2002; Tanyi, 2002) and personal fulfillment (Hawks, 1994; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994), which may result from individuals having a sens e of meaning and purpose in life and knowing what direction to take in lif e (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994). Academic-Related Benefits Developing a social support network and disc overing a sense of m eaning and purpose in life contribute to personal developmen t by providing academic-related benefits. Reducing Burnout and Attrition Burnout Several research studies have looked at burnout among professionals (Pines & Keinan, 2005) particularly those working in helping pr ofessions (Bruce, Conaglen, & Conaglen, 2005; Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Peiro, Gonz alez-Roma, Tordera, & Manas, 2001; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). Researchers have l ooked at burnout among professionals in an effort to understand the potential for burnout dur ing graduate school. Many full-time students consider graduate school to be their careers, while many part-time students consider graduate school to be a part-time career. Thus, part-time students responsibilities must be balanced with non-academic responsibilities that are asso ciated with careers and/or families. Researchers disagree about the causes and/ or correlates of burnout. Some researchers believe that burnout occurs from chronic occ upational stress (Bruce, Conaglen, & Conaglen,

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24 2005; Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Maslach, Schaufel i, & Leiter, 2001; Peiro, Gonzalez-Roma, Tordera & Manas, 2001). Others believe that burnout is correlated with feelings of insignificance (Pines & Keinan, 2005; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). Burnout due to stress. According to the findings that associate burnout w ith occupational stress, work and organizational demands are rela ted to burnout experien ces, especially when they are chronic and hard to control (Peiro, Gonzalez-Roma, Tordera, & Manas, 2001, p. 511). Although acute stress can be a motivator, students often have little contro l over graduate school experiences (i.e., deadlines, comp rehensive examinations, thesis or dissertation proposals and defenses). These demands are chronic because graduate school is typically a lengthy commitment of several years. As previous research has shown, stre ss can be reduced and burnout can be eliminated if students develop a social support network (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992) and discover a sense of meaning and purpose in life (Ke nnedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). Burnout due to existential issues. Findings that associate burnout with existential issues often occur around situations in wh ich people feel as if their wo rk lacks significance (Pines & Keinan, 2005; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). Pines and Ke inan (2005) state that the root cause of burnout lies in peoples need to be lieve that their lives are meaningf ul, that the things they do are useful and important (p. 626; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). People often enter graduate school because they want to make a difference. Al so they believe that acquiring the knowledge and experience necessary to enter certain professions will allow them to do so. However, some students become discouraged because they lose sight of how the work they are doing now will allow them to make a difference (Pines & Ke inan, 2005; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982). Without a sense that their work is significant and will make a difference in the world, graduate students are

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25 likely to experience burnout (Pines & Keina n, 2005). As research has shown, discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life can help pe ople determine what direction to take in life (Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994), which can lead to feelings of hope (Hodges, 2002; Tanyi, 2002), personal fulfillment (Hawks, 1994; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994), and reduce the likelihood that burnout will occur. Attrition Several researchers have studi ed burnout in depth by focusing on attrition among graduate students (Christie, Munro, & Fisher, 2004; Gold e, 1998; Herzig, 2004; Reed & Giacobbi, 2004) and professionals (Pines & Kein an, 2005; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982) According to research on professionals, burnout can lead people to questi on their [current or future] vocational choice (Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982, p. 96; Pines & Keina n, 2005). Should burnout persist, graduate students may actually leave their programs (Gol de, 1998; Reed & Giacobbi, 2004). Thus, it is important to incorporate social support and a sense of meani ng and purpose in the lives of graduate students to decrease feelings of burnout, so that the possibility of attrition is lessened. Encouraging Vocational Pursuits The role of life purpose Young adults must discover a sense of mean ing and purpose in life before deciding upon vocations. Young adults have an inner sense that they are meant to do something special with their lives (Dalton, 2001, p. 20). This inner sense is a sense of vocation[an] awareness of living ones life aligned with a larger frame of purpose and significance (Parks, 2000, p. 26). Pursuing a graduate degree is one way in whic h young adults dreamabout [their] purpose in lifein the most spiritual sens e, ones calling or vocation (S trange, 2001, p. 63). Young adults sense of meaning and purpose in life appears to be especially important in helping them to identify and commit to future goals and car eer choices (Dalton, 2001, p. 18). Thus, as young

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26 adults discover their sense of meaning and purpose in life they integrate their beliefs into career choices and lifestyle patterns [which lead them] to be active participants in social and civic communities (Dalton, 2001, p. 24). The role of social support Social support from a variety of different sour ces (i.e., faculty, staff, peers, family, friends) can encourage young adults to seek, discover, an d/or motivate them to pursue their purpose. Encouragement to seek purpose. The environments in which young adults live and interact with others have the capacity to in fluence the development of life purpose (Love & Talbot, 1999). For young adults to experience this deve lopment, they must feel secure enough to discover the meaning and purpose that has been there all along (Hindman, 2002). One way to help young adults feel secure in seeking their pu rpose in life is through the establishment of a sense of belonging (Strange, 2001). According to Parks (2000) a network of belonging allows people to feel recognized as who they really are, and as who they are becoming. It offers both challenge and support and thus offers good comp any for both the emerging strength and the distinctive vulnerability of the young adult (p. 95). Comm unities in which this network of belonging develops can recognize, support, challenge, and inspir e those within themSuch an environment can indeed nurture the spiritual questions in students liv es as they seek to discover their purpose in life (Strange, 2001, p. 60). On ce students feel a sense of belonging, although they are ready to seek purpose, they may be uns ure of their ability. Th erefore, they will need people to stand beside them a nd encourage them to figure out who they are and what their purpose in life is. This type of encouragemen t comes from relationships in which people not only provide a caring (Hindman, 2002) and supp ortive (Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, CronanHillix, & Davidson, 1986) presence, but also ensu res young adults that they can be trusted to remain committed to them for as long as it ta kes to find their life purpose (Hindman, 2002).

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27 Guidance in discovering purpose. When young adults decide to embark on the journey of discovering their life purposes, they need people with eno ugh life experience who can offer guidance along the way (Hindman, 2002). One wa y that more experienced people can guide young adults is to lead by example. Also, mo re experienced people can pose questions that encourage students to reflect upon the greater pur pose of their lives (Dalton, 2001, p. 23). These questions allows students to search with in themselves to find answers based on worthy commitment [and] moral responsibility (Dal ton, 2001, p. 23) that will hopefully lead them closer to discovering their ow n unique purpose in life (Strange, 2001). When posing questions, more experienced people must allow young adul ts to express their answers and provide occasions to discuss their responses (Chicker ing & Reisser, 1993; Dalton, 2001; Hindman, 2002; Strange, 2001). Sharing ones self with others and listening to the stories of those who have already discovered as well as those who are stil l searching for their life purpose can lead young adults even closer to figuring out what it is they ar e being called to do with their lives (Strange, 2001). Providing young adults time for reflection a nd introspection allows them to determine how they are going to incorporate new understandings of their sense of pu rpose into their lives (Hindman, 2002; Strange, 2001). Motivation to pursue purpose. In order to pursue th eir calling, young adults need opportunities to live so that their actions are c ongruent with their valu es and sense of purpose (Hindman, 2002). Unless students live out thei r calling, they may become discouraged and find it difficult to maintain a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Higher Education Issues Institutions of higher educati on are influential in shaping society (HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005) because they can help to promote the development of young adults (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Parks, 2000). However, to aid yo ung adults in their overall development, colleges

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28 and universities must take a more holistic appr oach (Love & Talbot, 1999) and recommit to the mission of nurturing mind, body, heart, and spirit (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 41). This nurturing process should include efforts to aid young adults in developing social support networks and discovering a sense of meani ng and purpose in life. Both components are necessary for the development of young adults, according to Maslow (Frager & Fadiman, 2005; Maslow, 1987), Parks (2000), and Chickering (Chi ckering & Reisser, 1 993). Developing these components allows for the realization of the h ealthand academic-related benefits associated with social support and life purpose. However, at the graduate level the authentic, holistic, educational experience may be most in jeopardy (Strange, 2001, p. 60). Inadequate Social Support Many graduate programs have attempted to pr ovide students with supportive environments by establishing mentor/advisor re lationships with faculty me mbers and encouraging their involvement in the social and academic aspects of their graduate program departments (Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992). Howe ver, the social inte ractions that occur as a result are not always ade quate in providing young adults w ith the support they need. Research has shown that gender and/or racial differences mediate whether or not students will reap the benefits intended by th e social support initiatives offe red (Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Williams, 2000; Williams, 2002). Faculty-student interaction Despite being assigned a faculty mentor/advisor, students perceived a la ck in the level of support that they expected (Cronan-Hillix, Ge nsheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992). The reasons included personality incongruity, lack of common resear ch interests, lack of cultura l commonalities resulting in poor communications, as well ashaving racist, sexist, or unsupportive advisers who simply made

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29 degree progress very difficult (Ellis, 2001, p. 36). Research shows that insufficient support is perceived by students of all races and both ge nders (Ellis, 2001). However, women (CronanHillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004) and racial minorities (Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004) seem to be at a disadvantage when it comes to finding compatible mentors and advisors. According to Herzig (2004), the forms of discrimination that women faced in finding mentors rang[ed] from professors who would not take on women students to mentors who did not seem to tap into their professional networks as vigorously for their female students as they did for their male students (p. 192). Herzig (2004) also reporte d that there is a tendency for faculty to mentor same-sex students [which poses a disadvantage for female students due to] the small numbers of women faculty (p. 193). Furt hermore, because there are few women faculty, there is a frequent lack of female role mode ls within academia (Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986, p. 126; Mallinck rodt & Leong, 1992). The same holds true for minority students (Herzig, 2004). Department involvement Many students, particularly women and minoriti es, find it difficult to become involved in their graduate program departments (Ellis, 2001; He rzig, 2004) because the departmental culture seems impersonal (Herzig, 2004) and lacks a sense of community (Ellis, 2001). This perception leads students to feel as if they do not belong (C hristie, Munro, & Fisher, 2004). One reason that women and racial minorities may fe el alienated from their departments is because, ifstudent[s have] commitments to an ethnic, cultural, or fa mily community, it may be difficult for [them] to participate in the activities of the academic co mmunity. Competing communities of practice can isolate students from the communities of their departments and programs. [Another reason for such feelings of alienation to occur is that] student[s] w ho [are] not accepted by the other

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30 community members or who [are] perceived to ha ve a particular set of skills, abilities, and dispositionswill have fewer opportunities to deve lop effective relationships with mentors and others (Herzig, 2004, p. 202). Disregard for Meaning and Purpose in Life Helping students discover a sense of meani ng and purpose in life, by guiding them toward an understanding of who they are and what they are meant to do with their lives based on their unique personal characteristics and abilities, is one aspect of young adult development that is often ignored in academia (Dalton, 2001; HERI : Summary, 2004; HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005; Laurence, 2005; Love, 2001; Love & Talbot 1999). This is a si gnificant oversight, considering that young adults view sp irituality to be an important aspect in their lives, one they believe institutions of higher education should ai d them in developing (HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005). To gain a better understand ing of the spiritual development of college students, and the role of colleges and universities in that developm ent, the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles conduct ed a study, the results of which revealed that, even though three-fourths of the students say that they are searching for meaning and purpose in life (HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005, p. 4), mor e than half say that their professors never provide opportunities to discu ss the meaning and purpose of lif e (HERI: Summary, 2004, p. 6). The separation of the spiritual life from the academic life causes fragmentation (Parks, 2000). The danger of such fragmentation is that st udents, who find themselves at a crucial point in life, having to make major decisions about life choice and direc tion (Dalton, 2001, p. 23), may be unable to comprehend how the academic goa ls they have been working to accomplish coincide with their sense of meaning and purpose in life. Without a sense that the time and effort they are putting towards their academic pursuits is meaningful, young adults may lose sight of their goals and the ultimat e purpose in their lives. Additional HERI survey results revealed that

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31 the self-reported levels of spir ituality of students declined duri ng their undergraduate education, from 47% during their freshman year to 39% dur ing their junior year (HERI: Summary, 2004), indicating that the spir itual lives of young adults may be at risk. Theoretical Association between Social Support and Life Purpose The discussion of personal development theories indicates that developing a social support network and discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life must occur before human beings can complete the developmental process. Thes e theories and the academ ic-related benefits of encouraging vocational pursuits il lustrate the idea that deve loping a social support network generally needs to occur before people can discover a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives. Specifically, social support can encourag e people to discover their meaning and purpose in life, which in turn can help people identify a vo cation to which they can dedicate their lives. Research has yet to be conducted to understand th e nature of the relationship between social support and life purpose to test th ese theoretical implications. Th e purpose of this study is to determine if there is a relationship and in what direction that relati onship presents itself. Since social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life play a significant role in the process of human development, it seems likel y that the effects of an interaction between these two variables would cont ribute substantially to an understanding of well-being and development. Thus, research th at is designed to explore the nature of the association and interaction between social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life is likely to contribute to the field of health education research and provide va luable information that can be used in university health promoti on/disease prevention initiatives.

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32 CHAPTER 3 METHODS This study (1) described the association betw een social support a nd life purpose among graduate students; (2) explained how the main effect s, as well as the intera ction effect, of social support and life purpose influence stress levels of graduate students; and (3) determined if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics. Specifically, the research questi ons addressed in this study were 1. What is the association between social support and life purpose in gradua te students? 2. Does the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f) credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus? 3. Which of the following variables are associated with stress level among graduate students: (a) social support, (b) life purpose, (c) sex, (d) age, (e) race, (f) field of study, (g) type of degree, (h) credit hours, (i) time in program, (j) program focus? 4. Does the interaction between social support and life purpose influence the stress levels of gra duate students? 5. Is there variation in how the interaction between social support and life pur pose influences the stress levels of graduate students when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c ) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f) credit hours, (g ) time in program, (h) program focus? Research hypotheses related to Research Questi on 4 were as follows. Hypothesis 1 stated that graduate students with high social support and high life purpose will have low stress levels (i.e., A graduate student senses that his purpose in life is to be come a doctor and his family and friends are supportive of this voca tional choice). Hypothesi s 2 stated that graduate students with low social support and low life purpose will have hi gh stress levels (i.e., A graduate students family and friends do not provide support for him as he struggles to discover his purpose in life). Hypothesis 3 stated that gradua te students with high social support and low life purpose or low

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33 social support and high life purpose will have modera te stress levels (A graduate students family and friends provide support for him as he struggles to discover his purpose in life OR A graduate student senses that his purpose in life is to b ecome a writer, but his family and friends do not provide support for this vocational choice beca use they want him to become a doctor). The purpose of Chapter 3 is to describe the me thods that were used to conduct this study. A description of the following topics is presented: (a) research design, (b) research variables, (c) study population, (d) instrumentation, (e) data collection, and (f) data analysis. This study was approved by the University of Florida Institutional Review Board in November 2006 (Appendices A, B, C, and D: orig inal application and su bsequent revisions). Research Design Cross-Sectional, Web-Based, Survey Research This study utilized a cross-sec tional, web-based, survey resear ch design. Survey research is conducted by gathering information from a small sample of people in order to make inferences about trends within the larger population (Creswell, 2005; Dillman, 2000). To ensure that such inferences are as accurate as possible, it is im portant to reduce both coverage and sampling error (Creswell, 2005) as well as enhance response rates (Creswell, 2005; Dillman, 2000). This study addressed these considerations by selecting large samples from a target population that were representative of the larger population (Creswell, 2005) as well as by making follow-up contacts with non-respondents (Creswell, 2005; Dillman, 2000). The cross-sectional nature of the research design indicated th at survey data was collected on a single occasion (Creswell, 2005) One advantage associated w ith cross-sectional research designs is efficiency, which allows researchers to reach more people in less time for less money, thereby increasing the likelihood that the sample is representative of the p opulation of interest.

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34 Another advantage associated with cross-sectional research designs is that such designs are not impacted by effects associated with tes ting or history (Portney & Watkins, 2000). Surveys were distributed by, completed on, and returned via the Internet in accordance with processes recommended by Creswell (2005) and Dillman (2000). The advantages of conducting research via web-based surveys are e fficiency (Creswell, 2005; Dillman, 2000) and economy (Daley, McDermott, McCormack, & Kittleson, 2003; Dillman, 2000). In addition, benefits specifically related to the population of interest are that graduate students are likely to have access to and be knowledgeable about bot h computer use and the Internet (Daley, McDermott, McCormack, & Kittleson, 2003). Peal er and colleagues (2001) found no significant differences when comparing the response rates of university students who completed web-based surveys (58.3%) versus those w ho completed mail surveys (62%). Potential procedural problems exist with webbased surveys. The en tire sample may not receive the e-mail message containing a link to th e web-based survey if delivered into the junkmail folder of intended recipients instead of their in boxes, depending on how e-mail accounts sort items from unknown senders. The intended recipients also may use e-mail accounts in addition to their university sponsored address. Some recipients who receive an e-mail message containing a link to the web-based survey may no t be able to access the link due to the way in which their internet accounts are configured. R ecipients also may forward a study e-mail request to people they think might be in terested in participating, there by affecting with the randomness of a sample. The web-based survey process was facilitated by SurveyMonkey, a service that provides a password-protected account from which surveys can be created and disseminated as well as from which survey responses can be collected and da ta compiled. Password protection ensures that

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35 only the principal investigator ha s access to the names, e-mail addr esses, and survey responses of the participants, enabling that information to be preserved in a confidential manner. Moreover, because participant directories are kept separate from survey responses, the names of participants and their e-mail addresses are not connected to their survey responses, further ensuring confidentiality. (SurveyMonkey, 2006). Pilot Studies Phase one The first phase assessed whether the desi gn and layout of the survey were easily understood (Daley, McDermott, McCormack, & Kittl eson, 2003). Twelve questions to solicit the reactions of respondents to the survey were positioned at va rious locations: two after the welcome screen; four after the compilation of 70 questions representi ng social support, life purpose, and stress; four after the eight demogra phic questions; and two at the end of the survey (Appendix E). These questions el icited assessments on the successf ul incorporation of several principles Dillman (2000) identifies as necessary for constructing web surveys: 1) Introduce the Web questionnaire with a welcome screen that is motivational, emphasizes the ease of responding, and instructs respondents about how to proceed to the next page (p. 377); 2) Present each question in a conventional format similar to that normally used on paper selfadministered questionnaires ( p. 379); 3) Restrain the use of color so that figure/ground consistency and readability are maintained, na vigational flow is unimpeded, and measurement properties of questions are maintained (p. 382); a nd 4) Provide specific instructions on how to take each necessary computer action for re sponding to the questionnaire, and give other necessary instructions at the point where they are needed (p. 389). The convenience sample for Phase One of the pilot study consisted of ten graduate students enrolled at the same university that w ould serve for the main study. Cover letter e-mails

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36 with a link to the survey were sent on Nove mber 30, 2006 to explain the purpose of the pilot study and invite them to participate (Appendix F). One week later, e-mails were sent to the Phase One sample, reminding non-respondents to complete the survey (Appendix G) and thanking respondents for doing so (Appendix H). Completion of the 90 question survey, which took approximately 25 minutes, served as implie d consent, in accordance with the IRB-approved protocol. Data collection for Phase One of the pilot study ended two weeks after the cover letters were sent. Nine of the 10 students in the sample res ponded, yielding a 90% response rate. Although a majority of respondents provided positive feedback with regard to the survey, they did make some suggestions. As a result, several editorial ch anges were made. For example, the cover letter e-mail and welcome screen were reworded to ma ke them more concise and the welcome screen was spaced differently to make a more pronounced distinction between the message and the instructions for how to proceed wi th the survey. The colors of th e survey and section titles were changed to the universitys colors No changes were made to th e social support, life purpose, stress, or demographics sections. Phase two The second phase assessed the reliability of the 78-item we b-based survey (Portney & Watkins, 2000). Internal consistency was dete rmined by calculating Cronbachs alpha for the ISEL, PMI, and PSS. Since the web-based survey was a compilation of three different instruments, each of which measures a different variable, the internal consistency of each individual instrument was determined se parately (Portney & Watkins, 2000). Simple random sampling was employed for Phase Two, using a list of all graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semest er obtained from the Office of Institutional Planning and Resear ch. The names of the students who participated in Phase One

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37 were removed from the sampling frame prior to selecting the Phase Two sample. A SAS program was used to generate a list of rando m numbers and 400 students were selected for the Phase Two sample for this pilot study (Dillman, 2000). Cover letter e-mails with a link to the survey were sent on January 26, 2007 to explain the purpose of the pilot study and invi te them to participate (Appendi x I). Completion of the survey, which took approximately 15 minutes, served as implied consent, in accordance with the IRBapproved protocol. One week later, anothe r e-mail was sent to those who had not yet participated asking them to do so. Four days later a final follow-up e-mail was sent to nonrespondents (Appendix J). Data co llection for this phase ended tw o weeks after th e cover letters were sent. After data collection ended, anothe r e-mail was sent to members of the main study sample who responded to the survey, tha nking them for doing so (Appendix K). Of the 400 e-mails sent to the sample, one was undeliverable due to a fatal error associated with the e-mail account. Thus, a tota l of 399 graduate students comprised the Phase Two sample. Of these, 112 (n = 399, 28.08%) answered at least half of th e questions from each section of the survey, 99 of whom (n = 399, 24.82%) responded to all items. The ISEL had a Cronbachs = .950 (n = 109), which was sli ghtly better than but still comparable to the Cronbachs s calculated for this instrument when it was used in previous studies ( = .88 to = .90) (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarc k, & Hoberman, 1985). The PMI had a Cronbachs = .945 (n = 113), which was slightly bette r than but still co mparable to the Cronbachs s calculated for this instrument when it was used in previous studies ( = .88 to = .91) (Reker, 1992). The PSS had a Cronbachs = .902 (n = 110), which wa s slightly better than but still comparable to the Cronbachs s calculated for this instrument when it was used in previous studies ( = .84 to = .86) (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermel stein, 1983). Thus all three

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38 instruments used in Phase Two of the pilot study yielded high internal consistency (Portney and Watkins, 2000). Research Variables and Instrumentation The variables social support, life purpose, a nd stress were measured utilizing instruments with demonstrated psychometric adequacy. The psychometrics of the scales are illustrated by internal reliability, convergent validity, and discrimina nt validity (Portney & Watkins, 2000). Social Support and Life Purpose Social support was measured using a composite score of the items within the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL), a 40-i tem scale that requires partic ipants to provide Likert-type responses ranging from 0 (definitely false) to 3 (definitely true) and that focuses on the perceived availability of potential soci al resources (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985, p. 75). Alpha coefficients for the ISEL range from .88 to .90, thus demonstrating that the internal consistency es timates are high. The ISEL moderately correlates with other measures of social support (i.e., .30 wi th the Moos Family Environment Scale, when used with an undergraduate stude nt population; .31 with the Pa rtner Adjustment Scale, when used with a community population) (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985). Information on obtaining a copy of this instrument can be found at http://www.psy.cmu.edu/~scohen/scales.html. Life purpose was measured by the Personal M eaning Index (PMI), a composite score of the Purpose and Coherence subscales of the Life Attitude Profile-Revised (LAP-R). The PMI is a 16-item scale that requires participants to provide Likert -type responses ranging from 0 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree) that focuses on the exis tential beliefs that life is meaningful (Reker, 2005, p. 72). Alpha coeffici ents for the PMI range from .89 to .91, thus demonstrating that internal consistency esti mates are high (Reker, 1992). The PMI correlates

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39 with other measures of meaning and purpose in life (i.e., .82 with the Purpose in Life Test; .81 with the Life Regard Index-Framework) (Reker 1992). Information on obtaining a copy of this instrument can be found by contacting Gary T. Re ker, Ph.D. in the Department of Psychology at Trent University, located in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. For the first and second research questions Social Support and Life Purpose were considered dependent variables. For the third, fourth, and fi fth research questions, Social Support and Life Purpose were considered independe nt variables. In addition to determining the composite scores for both variables, the fourth an d fifth research questions called for a range of high, moderate, and low values of Social Support and Life Purpose to be identified. This was accomplished by determining the highest and lowest possible scores and labeling the top third of the scores as high, the middle thir d of the scores as moderate, and the bottom third of the scores as low. Stress Stress was measured using a composite score of the items within the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), a 14-item scale that requires participants to provide Likert-type responses ranging from 0 (never) to 4 (very often) that focuses on the degree to which situations in ones life are appraised as stressful (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermel stein, 1983, p. 387). Alpha coefficients for the PSS range from .84 to .86, thus demonstrating that internal consistency estimates are high. The PSS moderately correlates with other measures of stress (i.e., life-even t scales). In fact, the PSS is more closely related to a life-event impact score, which is to some degree based on the respondents appraisal of the event, than to the more objective measures of the number of events occurring within a particular timespan (Cohen, Kamarck, Me rmelstein, 1983, p. 392). Another indication of its validity is that the PSS, although highly correlated with depressive symptomatology, was found to measure a different and independently predictive construct

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40 (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983, p. 392). Info rmation on obtaining a copy of this instrument can be found at http:// www.psy.cmu.edu/~scohen/scales.html. For the third, fourth, and fifth research questions Stress was considered a dependent variable. In addition to determining composite scores for both variables, the fourth and fifth research questions called for a ra nge of high, moderate, and low values of Stress to be identified. This was accomplished by determining the highest and lowest possible scores and labeling the top third of the scores as high, th e middle third of the scores as moderate, and the bottom third of the scores as low. Demographics Data for three demographic variables (i.e., age, credit hours, time in program) required respondents to specify exact numbers. Age was meas ured by asking participan ts to indicate their age at the time of survey completion. Credit hour s asked respondents to i ndicate the number of credit hours in which they were enrolled in the current semester. Time in Program was defined as the total number of semesters (i.e., Fall, Spring, Summer) in which respondents had been enrolled in their current gra duate program, including the current semester (Appendix L). Sex, race, field of study, type of degree, and program focus were obtained through multiple-choice items. Participants reported thei r sex as male or female. Race was measured by asking participants to select from the list of cate gories used by the United States Bureau of the Census (2000): White; Black, African American, Negro; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japane se, Korean, Vietnamese, Other Asian); Pacific Islander (Native Hawaiian, Guamanian or Chamor ro, Samoan, Other Pacific Islander); Spanish, Hispanic, Latino (Mexican, Mexican American, Ch icano; Puerto Rican; Cuban; Other Spanish, Hispanic, Latino); Other. Field of Study was de fined as the college in which the graduate program departments of the participants were housed. Type of Degree was defined as the

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41 specific degree toward which the participants were working, indicated as the masters or doctoral level. Program Focus was defined as the activity toward which the participants were focusing a majority of their time during the current semest er: coursework, comprehensive/qualifying exams, or thesis/dissertation re search (Appendix L). Study Population The most current enrollment data available from the University of Florida was for the Fall 2006 semester, during which there were 10,828 enroll ed at the graduate level (University of Florida Office of Institutional Planning and Resear ch, Table I, 2006; University of Florida Office of Institutional Planning and Research, Table I-3, 2006; University of Florida Office of Institutional Planning and Resear ch, Table I-5, 2006). A majority of these graduate students were white (59.3%, n = 6422) and ma le (52.4%, n = 5673). In term s of field of study, several colleges were represented by more than 10% of the graduate student pop ulation: Engineering (20.7%, n =2236), Liberal Arts & Sciences (19.3%, n = 2095), a combination of the healthrelated colleges (Dentist ry, Health and Human Performance, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health and Health Professions) (15.4% n = 1684), and Business Administration (12.2%, n = 1325). The age range for these graduate studen ts was 19 to 65 + years and, with an average age of approximately 29.2, most of the participants were between the ages of 21 and 30 (69.5%, n = 7530). A more detailed description of the ca tegorical demographic ch aracteristics can be found in Table 3-1. Graduate students enrolled at the Univers ity of Florida during th e Spring 2007 semester comprised the population for the main study. Th e sample for the main study was selected by means of simple random sampling. The same list of graduate students that served as the sampling frame for Phase Two was used, this time with the names of the students who participated in both phases of the pilot study rem oved prior to selecting the main study sample.

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42 A SAS program was used to generate a list of random numbers, which se lected the 2000 students who were included in the main study sample for this survey (Dillman, 2000). The minimum acceptable sample size for this study was determined based on target accuracy, as more relevant than target power, beca use its purpose was to accurately estimate the strength of the relationship between the variables. In addition, sample sizes required to achieve target accuracy are larger than sample sizes requir ed to achieve target power. Therefore, sample size based on target accuracy included more th an enough people to achieve target power. For research questions one and two, the minimum samp le size necessary to ac curately estimate the strength of the relationship between the variab les when conducting bivariate correlations is 297 (Algina, Degrees, 2005). For research questions three, four, and five, the minimum sample size necessary to accurately estimate the strength of the relationship between the variables when conducting multiple linear regression analyses is 231 (Algina, Sample, 2005). Thus, a sample size of approximately 300 would be acceptable to conduc t all of the necessary data analyses in an effort to achieve target accuracy of 2 .10 where = .35. In order to increase the likelihood of achieving an acceptable sample size, keeping in mind the response rate of approximately 25% achieved for Phase Two of the pilot study, ove r-sampling indicated a sample size of approximately 2000. Data Collection A pre-notification letter was sent via e-mail on February 16, 2007 to the main study sample informing them that they would receive another e-mail within a couple of days requesting their participation in a web-based survey (Appendix M). Two days later, a cove r letter was sent via email to the main study sample explaining the purpos e of the study, inviting them to participate, and directing those who choose to participate to a link to the web-base d survey (Appendix N). One week later, another e-mail was sent to me mbers of the main study sample who had yet to

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43 participate in survey reminding them to do so. One week after that, another e-mail was sent to members of the main study sample who had yet to participate in the survey reminding them to do so (Appendix O) (Dillman, 2000). A final e-mail was sent to non-respondents a week later requesting that, if they chose not to complete the entire survey, they complete only the demographic questions (Appendix P). Doing so was supposed to allow for a comparison between the respondents and the non-respondents based on demographi c characteristics, but the number of non-respondents who provided demogr aphic information (n = 17) was too small to make comparisons. Completion of the 78-item survey, which took a pproximately 15 minutes, served as implied consent. Da ta collection for the main study ended four weeks after the prenotification e-mails are sent. After data collec tion ended, another e-mail was sent to members of the main study sample who responded to the survey, thanking them for doing so (Appendix Q). Data Analysis SPSS, version 13.0, and SAS, version 8.2, were used to analyze the data by generating both descriptive and inferential statistics. Descriptive statistics served to summarize the samples demographic characteristic s. Inferential statistics were used to answer the five research questions. Research questions 1 and 2 were answer ed using bivariate correl ations, which identify the relationship between two variab les by determining to what extent one variables is associated with another (Portney & Watkins, 2000). Th e analysis for research question 2 compared correlations to determine if there was a differenc e in the association between social support and life purpose for each category with in the demographic variables (Marascuilo, 1966). Research questions 3 and 4 were answered using multiple li near regression analysis. For research question 3, multiple linear regression analysis was used to determine the presence of significant main effects for social support on stress and for lif e purpose on stress. Fo r research question 4, multiple linear regression analysis was conducte d to determine the presence of a significant

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44 effect for the interaction between social support and life purpose on stress (Portney & Watkins, 2000). No data analysis was conducted to addr ess research question 5 since it was deemed irrelevant based on findings from research question 4. Table 3-1. Demographic characte ristics of the study population Demographic Variables N % Sex Male 5673 52.40 Female 5153 47.60 Race White 6422 59.30 Black 405 3.70 American Indian 32 0.30 Asian 410 3.80 Hispanic 657 6.10 Field of Study Agricultural & Life Sciences 1012 9.30 Business Administration 1325 12.20 Design, Construction & Planning 269 2.50 Dentistry 35 0.32 Education 1067 9.85 Engineering 2236 20.70 Fine Arts 240 2.20 Health & Human Performance 247 2.30 Journalism & Communications 231 2.10 Law 116 1.10 Liberal Arts & Sciences 2095 19.30 Medicine 307 2.80 Nursing 285 2.60 Pharmacy 231 2.10 Public Health & Health Professions 579 5.30 Veterinary Medicine 19 0.18

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45 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS The purpose of this study was to (1) describe the association between social support and life purpose among graduate students; (2) explain how the main effect s, as well as the interaction effect, of social support and life purpose influence stress levels of graduate students; and (3) determine if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics. The purpose of Chapter 4 is to discuss the result s of this study. A discussion of the results for the main study is presented. All significan ce tests were conducted at the .01 alpha level. Sampling Frame Graduate students enrolled at the Univers ity of Florida during th e Spring 2007 semester comprised the population for the main study. The sampling frame provided by the Office of Institutional Planning and Resear ch contained the names of 6,962 graduate students. The names of students who participated in phases one and two of the pilo t study as well as the names of students with no corresponding e-mail addresses we re removed from the list, resulting in a sampling frame total of 6545 graduate students. Response Rates A random sample of 2000 graduate students was se lected to participate in the main study. Twenty-one of the 2000 e-mails sent to the samp le were undeliverable for the following reasons: over quota error, user unknown e rror, blocked by spam firewa ll, fatal error, no longer valid address, message too olddelivery e xpired, message too olddelivery expired spam blocked, and unknown address error. As a result, a total of 1979 graduate students received a cover letter email with survey link inviting them to participate in the study. Of the 1979 graduate students in the sample, 33% (n=654) answered at least half of the questions from

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46 each section of the survey. A total of 572 comp leted all of the survey items, yielding a 29% response rate. Demographic Characteristics A majority of the main study participants were white (70.2%, n = 475), female (56.3%, n = 383), pursuing a masters degree (56.3%, n = 382) and focusing a significant portion of their time and energy on coursework (64.9%, n = 440). In terms of field of study, several colleges were represented by more than 10% of the study participants: Liberal Arts and Sciences (22.1%, n = 150), a combination of the health-relate d colleges (Dentistry, Health and Human Performance, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and P ublic Health and Health Professions) (15.68%, n = 112), Business Administration (14.7%, n = 100) Education (13.7%, n = 93), Agricultural & Life Sciences (13.2%, n = 90), and Engineeri ng (12.1%, n = 82). The participant age ranged from 20 to 63 years and, with an average age of 28.6 (SD = 6.6), most of the participants were between the ages of 21 and 30 (72.8%, n = 490). The number of credit hours in which the participants were currently enrolled ranged from 2 to18, and with 9.7 credit hours being the average (SD = 2.6), most of the participants were enrolled as full-time students (71.6%, n = 481). The number of semesters in which the participants had been enroll ed in their current graduate program ranged from 1 to 30, with 5.2 semesters being the average (SD = 3.8). A more detailed description of the categorical demographic characteristics ca n be found in Table 4-1. A comparison of the demographic characteri stics of study partic ipants and the study population revealed that a major ity of both groups were white (study participants: 70.2%, n =475 and study population: 59.3%, n = 6422) and between the ages of 21 and 30 (study participants: 72.8%, n = 490 and study population: 69.5%, n = 7530), with an average age of approximately 29 (study participants: 28.6 and study population: 29.2). In addition, the following colleges were represented by more than 10% of the students in both groups: Engineerin g (study participants:

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47 12.1%, n = 82 and study populati on: 20.7%, n =2236), Liberal Ar ts & Sciences (study participants: 22.1%, n = 150 a nd study population: 19.3%, n = 2095), a combination of the health-related colleges (Dentis try, Health and Human Performance, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health and Health Pr ofessions) (study partic ipants: 15.68%, n = 112 and study population: 15.4%, n = 1684), and Business Ad ministration (study participants: 14.7%, n = 100 and study population: 12.2%, n = 1325). In spite of these similarities, however, certain difference must be noted. The difference in th e percentage of Whites within the group of study participants and the study population was larg e enough to indicate that Whites were overrepresented among study participants. In addi tion, study participants a nd members of the study population differed in terms of sex: the majority of the study participants were female (56.3%, n = 383) while the majority of the study populat ion was male (52.4%, n = 5673). Thus, although similar in a number of ways, the study partic ipants were not representative of the study population of graduate students en rolled at the University of Florida during the Fall 2006 semester. Internal Consistency The Cronbachs alpha statistics calculated for the ISEL, PMI, and PSS indicated that all three instruments used in the main study had high internal consistency (Portney and Watkins, 2000). The ISEL had a Cronbachs = .947 (n = 635), which was sli ghtly better than but still comparable to the Cronbachs s calculated for this instrument when it was used in previous studies ( = .88 to = .90) (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarc k, & Hoberman, 1985). The PMI had a Cronbachs = .942 (n = 644), which was slightly bette r than but still co mparable to the Cronbachs s calculated for this instrument when it was used in previous studies ( = .88 to = .91) (Reker, 1992). The PSS had a Cronbachs = .862 (n = 654), which wa s slightly better than but still comparable to the Cronbachs s calculated for this instrument when it was used in

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48 previous studies ( = .84 to = .86) (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstein, 1983). Thus, the items comprising each of these instruments reliably measure social support (ISEL), meaning and purpose (PMI), and stress (PSS). Levels of Social Support, Life Purpose, and Stress The ISEL has possible scores that range from 40 to 160. Participants in this study had social support scores ranging from a low of 58 to a high of 160, with a mean of 130.6 (SD = 17.3) that fell within the upper thir d of possible scores. The PMI has possible scores that range from 16 to 112. The participants in this study had life purpose scores ranging from a low of 25 to a high of 112, with a mean score of 81.4 (S D = 17.4) that fell with in the upper third of possible scores. The PSS has possibl e scores that range from 14 to 70. Participants in this study had stress scores ranging from a low of 17 to a high of 67, with a mean score of 39.3 (SD = 7.8) that fell within the middl e third of possible scores. Research Question #1 What is the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students?: A bivariate correlation was calculated to determine if there was an association between social support and life purpose in graduate students. The bivariate correlation results of r (588) = .500, p = .000 indicate that, among graduate st udents, social support and life purpose are significantly correlated in a positive direction. Research Question #2 Does the association between social suppo rt and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f) credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus?: Bivariate correlations were calculated to determine whether an association between soci al support and life purpose in graduate students was influenced by various demogr aphic variables. In order to achieve target power when

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49 conducting bivariate correlations for a two-tailed test, n must be at least 61. Therefore, only categories in which the n used to calculate the correlation was great er than or equal to 61 were included in the following analyses. 2a. Does the association between social suppo rt and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by sex?: Two bivariate correlations were calculated to assess research question 2a, one based on data collected from male participants and another based on data collected from female participants (Table 4-2). These correlations were then compared to determine whether the difference between them wa s significant. The biva riate correlation results indicate that there is a significant ( p = .000), positive association be tween social support and life purpose for both male and female graduate stude nts. A comparison of these correlations revealed that, while the correlation associated with males is slightly smaller than the correlation associated with females, the difference be tween the correlations is not significant ( p = 0.61, = .05). 2b. Does the association between social suppo rt and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by age?: Four bivariate correlations were calculated to assess research question 2b, one based on data collected from participants between the ages of 21 and 25, one based on data collected from participants betw een the ages of 26 and 30, one based on data collected from participants betw een the ages of 31 and 35, and one based on data collected from participants over the age of 35 (Table 4-2). The data from the age ranges of 36, 41, 46 50, 51, 56, Over 60 were combined to form the category Over 35 due to the fact that each of the age ranges over the age of 35 consisted of data from relatively few participants (n 61). These correlations were then compared to determine whether the differences among them were significant. The bivariate correlation re sults indicate that there is a significant ( p = .000),

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50 positive association between social support and life purpose for each age range category. A comparison of these correlations revealed that, wh ile the correlations, from largest to smallest, were associated with participants between the ages of 21 and 25, 31 and 35, 26, and 30, and over 35, the differences among the corr elations was not significant ( p = 0.98, = .05). 2c. Does the association between social s upport and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by race?: Two bivariate correlations were calculated to assess research question 2c, one based on data collected from th e White participants and another based on data collected from the Non-White participants (Table 4-2). Information from the racial categories other than White were combined to form the cat egory of Non-White because less than 25% of the main study participants were represente d by each of these race s (i.e., Black, African American, Negro; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Paci fic Islander; Spanish, Hispanic, Latino; Other). These correlations were then compared to determine whether the difference between them was significant. The bivariate correl ation results indicate that there is a significant ( p = .000), positive association between social support and life purpose for both White and NonWhite graduate students. A comparison of these correlations revealed that, while the correlation associated with Whites is slightly larger than the correlation associated with Non-Whites, the difference between the correlations is not significant ( p = 0.94, = .05). 2d. Does the association between social suppo rt and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by field of study?: Six bivariate correlations were calculated to assess research question 2d, one based on data collected from the participants in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, one based on data collected from the participants in the College of Business Administration, one based on data collect ed from the participan ts in the College of Education, one based on data collected from the pa rticipants in the College of Engineering, one

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51 based on data collected from the participants in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and one based on data collected from the participants in the Health-Related Colleges (Table 4-2). Bivariate correlations could not be calculated for the particip ants in the Colleges of Design, Construction and Planning, Dentistry, Fine Arts Health and Human Performance, Journalism and Communications, Law, Medici ne, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public He alth and Health Professions, and Veterinary Medicine because the number of respondents within each of these categories were insufficient for analysis (i .e., < 61). However, the data from the colleges of Dentistry, Health and Human Performance, Medicine, Nursi ng, Pharmacy, and Public Health and Health Professions were combined to form the cate gory Health-Related Colleges because this study addressed spiritual and social h ealth topics found with in these disciplines. These correlations were then compared to determine whether the differences among them were significant. The bivariate correlation results indica te that there is a significant ( p = .000), positive association between social support and life purpose for each college. A comparison of these correlations revealed that, while the correlation associated wi th the Health-Related Colleges was larger than the correlations associated with the other colleges, the difference among the correlations was not significant ( p = 0.22, = .05). 2e. Does the association between social suppo rt and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by type of degree?: Two bivariate correlations were calculated to assess research question 2e, one based on data collecte d from participants working toward a masters degree and another based on data collected from participants working toward a doctoral degree (Table 4-2). These correlations were then compared to determine whether the difference between them was significant. The bivariate correl ation results indicate that there is a significant ( p = .000), positive association between social support and life purpose for graduate students

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52 working toward a masters degree as well as for graduate students working toward a doctoral degree. A comparison of these co rrelations revealed that, while the correlation a ssociated with graduate students working toward a masters de gree is slightly larger than the correlation associated with graduate students working towa rd a doctoral degree, the difference between the correlations is not significant ( p = 0.67, = .05). 2f. Does the association between social s upport and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by credit hours?: Three bivariate correlations were calculated to assess research question 2f, one based on data collecte d from part-time students, one based on data collected from full-time students, and one based on data collected from over-time students (Table 4-2). Participants enrolled in 8 or fewer credit hours were considered part-time, those enrolled in 9 credit hours were considered full-time, and t hose enrolled in 13 or more credit hours were considered over-time (University of Florida Graduate School, 2006). These correlations were then compared to determine whether the differenc es among them were significant. The bivariate correlation results indicate that there is a significant ( p = .000), positive association between social support and life purpose for part-time, full-time, and over-time graduate students. A comparison of these correlations revealed that, wh ile there were only slight differences between the correlations with the correlation associat ed with over-time gradua te students being the highest and the correlation associated with fu ll-time students being the lowest, the difference between the correlations was not significant ( p = 0.27, = .05). 2g. Does the association between social suppo rt and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by time in program?: Four bivariate correlati ons were calculated to assess research question 2g, one ba sed on data collected from stude nts enrolled in their first or second semester, one based on data collected from students enrolled in their third or fourth

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53 semester, one based on data collected from student s enrolled in their fifth or sixth semester, and one based on data collected from students enroll ed for more than six semesters (Table 4-2). These correlations were then compared to de termine whether the differences among them were significant. The bivariate correlation resu lts indicate that there is a significant ( p = .000), positive association between social support a nd life purpose for each semester category. A comparison of these correlations revealed that, wh ile there were only slight differences between the correlations, the difference between the correlations was not significant ( p = 0.51, = .05). 2h. Does the association between social suppo rt and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by program focus?: Two bivariate correlations were calculated to assess research question 2h, one based on data collected fr om participants focusing a majority of their time and energy on coursework and another based on data collected from participants focusing a majority of their time and energy on thesis or dissertation research (Table 4-2). These correlations were then compared to determ ine whether the difference between them was significant. No bivariate correla tion was calculated for the partic ipants focusing a majority of their time and energy on comprehensive or qua lifying examinations due to respondents numbering less than 61. The bivariate correlation results indicate that there is a significant ( p = .000), positive association between social support a nd life purpose for graduate students focusing a majority of their time and energy on coursewo rk as well as for graduate students focusing a majority of their time and energy on thesis or dissertation research. A comparison of these correlations revealed that, while the correlation associated with graduate students focusing a majority of their time and energy on coursework is slightly larger than the correlation associated with graduate students focusing a majority of their time and energy on thesis or dissertation research, the difference between the correlations is not significant ( p = 0.69, = .05).

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54 Research Question #3 Which of the following variables are asso ciated with stress level among graduate students: (a) social support, (b) life purpose, (c ) sex, (d) age, (e) race, (f) field of study, (g) type of degree, (h) credit hours, (i ) time in program, (j) program focus?: Correlations between stress and all of the quant itative independent variables ar e presented in Table 4-3. The two quantitative independent variables found to si gnificantly correlate with stress were social support ( r = -.393, p = .000) and life purpose ( r = -.470, p = .000). Means and standard deviations for stress as a function of the categori cal independent variables are presented in Table 4-4. The means ranged from 37.8 to 40.4, falling w ithin the middle third of possible scores on the PSS. A multiple linear regression analysis was conducted to determine the strength of association between the dependent variable of stress and the i ndependent variables of social support, life purpose, sex, age, ra ce, field of study, type of degree, credit hours, time in program and program focus (Table 4-5). A residual an alysis was conducted a nd the residual plots revealed that the assumptions of regression analys is were met. Results revealed a significant adjusted R2 of .272, F (10, 540) = 21.51, p = .000, which indicated that 27.2% of the total variance in the stress score was e xplained by the predictor set, which was comprised of measures assessing (a) social support, (b) life purpose, (c) sex, (d) age, (e) race, (f) field of study, (g) type of degree, (h) credit hours (i) time in program and (j) program focus. Of these independent variables, however, only social support, life purpose, and sex significantly contributed to the total variance in th e stress score, thereby exhibiting main effects. Specifically, an analysis of the unstandardized regression coefficien ts of these variables revealed the following: For each unit increase in stress score the level of social sup port of the participants decreased by .101 units ( b = -.101, t (540) = -5.349, p = .000) and their sense of purpose in life

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55 decreased by .153 units ( b = -.153, t (540) = -8.448, p = .000). In addition, being male was associated with lower stress scores ( b = -3.136, t (540) = -5.588, p = .000). An analysis of the R2 increase for social support and life purpose allowed for a determination of how much the added predictors improve the ove rall fit of the regression line (Dooley, 2001, p. 336). The increase in R2 that occurred when social support was added to the regression equation ( R2 = .038), revealed that, of the 27.2% of total variance in stress score that was explained by the predicto r set, 3.8% was uniquely associated with social support. The increase in R2 that occurred when life purpose was added to the regression equation ( R2 = .095), revealed that, of the 27.2% of total variance in stress sc ore that was explained by the predictor set, 9.5% was uniquely associated with life purpose. These findings indicate that, of these two variables, life purpose is better than social support at pred icting stress levels. Research Question #4 Does the interaction between social suppo rt and life purpose influence the stress levels of graduate students?: A multiple linear regression anal ysis was conducted to determine whether or not the interaction be tween social support and life purpos e influences the stress levels of graduate students (Table 4-6). Results revealed a significant adjusted R2 of .295, F (4, 566) = 60.752, p = .000, which indicated that 29.5% of the total variance in the stress score was explained by the predictor set, which was comp rised of measures assessing (a) sex, (b) social support, (c) life purpose, and (d) the interaction of these two va riables (social support X life purpose). Sex was included in this multiple linea r regression analysis based on the results found for research question 3, which showed that it was one of the variables that significantly contributed to the total variance in the stress score. The results revealed th at the interaction term was not statistically significant ( p = .812). However, additional results from this multiple linear regression analysis did confirm the results found for research question 3, revealing the presence

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56 of significant main eff ects for social support ( p = .000), life purpose ( p = .000), and sex ( p = .000). Research Question #5 Is there variation in how the interaction between social support and life purpose influences the stress levels of graduate students when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f) cred it hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus?: Due to the fact that no si gnificant interacti on effect was found between social support and life purpose in terms of its influence on the stress levels of graduate students there was no reason to explore whether interaction effect s differed when compared by the various demographic variables. As such, the fifth re search question was deemed irrelevant and no analyses were conducted. Limitations When interpreting results from this study, so me limitations should be noted. The study sample was not representative of the study popul ation, thus restricti ng generalizabiltiy of findings. The study sample included graduate students at one larg e southeastern university, thus also restricting generalizability of findings. The correlational natu re of the cross-sectional study design allowed for determination of associatio ns between and among variables, but precluded inferences regarding cause and effect. Social support and life purpose were measured as broad variables, not as subscales, which may have yi elded more detailed inform ation. Likewise, stress was the one dependent variable considered in the study, thus potentially limiting the understanding of main and inte raction effects for social s upport and life purpose.

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57 Table 4-1. Categorical demographic characte ristics of the main study participants Demographic Variables N % Sex Male 297 43.70 Female 383 56.30 Race White 475 70.20 Black, African American, Negro 35 5.20 American Indian or Alaskan Native 1 0.10 Asian 85 12.60 Pacific Islander 1 0.10 Spanish, Hispanic, Latino 56 8.30 Other 24 3.50 Field of Study Agricultural & Life Sciences 90 13.20 Business Administration 100 14.70 Design, Construction & Planning 21 3.10 Dentistry 1 0.10 Education 93 13.70 Engineering 82 12.10 Fine Arts 8 1.20 Health & Human Performance 22 3.20 Journalism & Communications 12 1.80 Law 9 1.30 Liberal Arts & Sciences 150 22.10 Medicine 21 3.10 Nursing 17 2.50 Pharmacy 5 0.70 Public Health & Health Professions 46 6.80 Veterinary Medicine 3 0.40 Type of Degree Masters 382 56.30 Doctoral 297 43.70 Program Focus Coursework 440 64.90 Comprehensive or Qualifying Exams 42 6.20 Thesis or Dissertation Research 196 28.90

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58 Table 4-2. Bivariate correlation coefficients between social su pport & life purpose as compared by demographic variables Demographic Variables Pearson Correlation Sig. (2-tailed) N Sex Male .483 .000 256 Female .515 .000 329 Age 2125 .521 .000 232 2630 .495 .000 201 3135 .501 .000 79 Over 35 .489 .000 68 Race White .508 .000 414 Non-White .503 .000 171 Field of Study Agricultural & Life Sciences .369 .000 77 Business Administration .520 .000 90 Education .570 .000 80 Engineering .556 .000 73 Liberal Arts & Sciences .439 .000 133 Health-Related Colleges .632 .000 89 Type of Degree Masters .531 .000 330 Doctoral .494 .000 253 Credit Hours Part Time (8 or Fewer Credits) .550 .000 99 Full Time (912 Credits) .475 .000 410 Over Time (13 or More Credits) .613 .000 69 Time in Program (# of Semesters) 12 .528 .000 191 34 .481 .000 121 56 .412 .000 119 7 or More .543 .000 150 Program Focus Coursework .502 .000 377 Thesis or Dissertation Research .474 .000 168

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59 Table 4-3. Bivariate correlation coefficients betw een stress & the quantitative independent variables Stress Social Support Life Purpose Age Credit Hours Time in Program Stress Pearson Correlation 1 -.393 -.470 -.001 .039 .008 Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .000 .972 .322 .842 N 654 593 624 648 645 650 Social Support Pearson Correlation -.393 1 .500 -.045 .015 -.059 Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .000 .266 .714 .147 N 593 635 588 605 602 606 Life Purpose Pearson Correlation -.470 .500 1 .011 .064 -.033 Sig. (2-tailed) .000 .000 .773 .106 .400 N 624 588 644 635 633 637 Age Pearson Correlation -.001 -.045 .011 1 -.243 .147 Sig. (2-tailed) .972 .266 .773 .000 .000 N 648 605 635 673 664 669 Credit Hours Pearson Correlation .039 .015 .064 -.243 1 -.211 Sig. (2-tailed) .322 .714 .106 .000 .000 N 645 602 633 664 671 667 Time in Program Pearson Correlation .008 -.059 -.033 .147 -.211 1 Sig. (2-tailed) .842 .147 .400 .000 .000 N 650 606 637 669 667 676 Table 4-4. Levels of stress as a function of the categorical in dependent variables Study Variables M SD Sex Male 37.8 7.6 Female 40.4 7.7 Race White 39.1 7.7 Non-White 39.9 7.7 Field of Study Health-Related 39.6 7.7 Non-Health-Relat ed 39.2 7.8 Type of Degree Masters 39.4 7.7 Doctoral 39.2 7.8 Program Focus Coursework 39.1 7.7 Non-Coursework 39.6 7.9

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60 Table 4-5. Main study multiple linear regressi on unstandardized regression coefficients, standardized regression coeffi cients, t-test statistics, & R squared increase for study & demographic variables Variables b Std Error t p R2 Intercept 64.492 3.041 21.208 .000 Social Support -.101 .019 -.230 -5.349 .000 .038 Life Purpose -.153 .018 -.358 -8.448 .000 .095 Sex -3.136 .561 -.208 -5.588 .000 Age -.004 .047 -.003 -.081 .936 Race .152 .613 .0 09 .248 .804 Field of Study .206 .787 .010 .262 .794 Type of Degree .018 .638 .001 .028 .978 Credit Hours .166 .111 .058 1.493 .136 Time in Program .032 .098 .016 .330 .742 Program Focus -.219 .728 -.014 -.301 .764 Table 4-6. Multiple linear regression unstandard ized regression coefficients, standardized regression coefficients & t-test statistics Variables b Std Error t p Intercept 40.696 .385 105.687 .000 Sex -3.499 .548 -.227 -6.387 .000 Social Support -.110 .018 -.245 -5.936 .000 Life Purpose -.154 .018 -.353 -8.555 .000 Social Support X Life Purpose .000 .001 .009 .238 .812

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61 CHAPTER 5 SUMMARY, CONCULSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS Previous research indicates that both social support and life purpos e prove independently beneficial in the lives of young adults because th ese factors provide a buffe r against stress (Bolt, 2004; Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hodges, 2002; Ka nters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Mallinckr odt & Leong, 1992; Tanyi, 2002; Thoits, 1995; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995), and promote physical and ps ychological health (B olt, 2004; Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Hawks, 1994; Hodges, 2002; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Tanyi, 2002; Thoits, 1995). The stress buffering effect associated with social support and life purpose, independently, also benefits young adults academically by decreasing the likeli hood of burnout (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995) a nd attrition (Golde, 1998; Pi nes & Keinan, 2005; Reed & Giacobbi, 2004; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982). Theorists posit that developing a social support network and discovering a sense of meaning and purpose in life represent necessary steps in the process of human development (Frager & Fadiman, 2005; Maslow, 1987) and young adult development in particular (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Pa rks, 2000). However, no research to date has explored the association and interaction between the presence of social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, or the association of th ese factors with h ealth benefits. Summary This study (1) described the association betw een social support a nd life purpose among graduate students; (2) explained how the main effect s, as well as the intera ction effect, of social

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62 support and life purpose influence stress levels of graduate students; and (3) determined if the association and influence of the interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics. The study included a two-phase pilot study and a main study. Phase One of the pilot study assessed whether the design and layout of the we b-based survey were eas ily understood. Phase Two of the pilot study assessed the reliability of conducting a web-based survey with instruments developed and used to measure levels of soci al support, life purpose, and stress among young adults. The main study included a random sample of graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during Spring semester 2007. Data were analyzed using inferentia l statistics, bivariate correlations, and multiple linear regression analyses. Research Question #1 What is the association between social support and life purpose in graduate students?: Up to this point, the presence of a relationship between social support and life purpose has been theoretical in nature, commonly posited within personal development theories such as Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, Chicke rings Seven Vectors of Development Revised, and Parks Faith Development Theory (Chick ering & Reisser, 1993; Frager & Fadiman, 2005; Maslow, 1987; Parks, 2000). This study, however, was able to provide empirical support for a relationship between social suppo rt and life purpose by revealing that, among graduate students, social support and life purpose are signifi cantly correlated in a positive direction ( r (588) = .500, p = .000). This finding suggests that levels of so cial support and life purpose vary in the same direction. Additional implications based on this finding are addressed in the discussion of the relationship between social support and life purpose with regard to demographic variables. Research Question #2 Does the association between social suppo rt and life purpose in graduate students vary when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f)

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63 credit hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus?: The second research question examined associations between social support and life purpose when compared by Sex (male, female); Age (21 to 25, 26 to 30, 31 to 35, and over 35); Race (White, non-White); Field of Study (College of Agricultural and Life Sciences College of Business Administration, College of Education, College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Health-Related Colleges); Type of Degree (masters, doctoral); Credit Hours (part-time, full-time, over-time); Time in Program (first or second semester, third or fourth semester, fifth or sixth semester, more than six semesters); and Program Focus (coursework, thesis or disse rtation research). For all of the preceding demographic variables, social support and life purpose we re significantly and positively correlated. Moreover, none of the correlations for the categories within a demographic variable differed si gnificantly from one another, s uggesting universities may plan comprehensive health promotion programs for st udents without necessarily targeting specific groups. Research Question #3 Which of the following variables are asso ciated with stress level among graduate students: (a) social support, (b) life purpose, (c ) sex, (d) age, (e) race, (f) field of study, (g) type of degree, (h) credit hours, (i ) time in program, (j) program focus?: Multiple regression analysis revealed strength of a ssociation between stress and soci al support, life purpose, sex, age, race, field of study, type of degree, credit hours time in program and program focus. Social support, life purpose, and sex we re the only variables that cont ributed significantly to total variance in the stress score, thereby documenting th e main effects of these variables on stress. Each variable has a unique, independent relati onship with stress. As social support increased, stress decreased. As life purpos e increased, stress decreased. Stress levels were lower among male graduate students than among female gr aduate students. An analysis of the R2 increase for

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64 both social support and life purpose revealed that, of these two va riables, life purpose is better than social support at predicting stress levels. Research Question #4 Does the interaction between social suppo rt and life purpose influence the stress levels of graduate students?: Absence of a significan t interaction effect be tween social support and life purpose indicated no differential eff ects for social support across life purpose with regard to stress. Thus, contra ry to expectations, findings did not support the study hypotheses: 1) Graduate students with high social support and high life purpose will have low stress levels; 2) Graduate students with low social support and low life purpose will have high stress levels; 3) Graduate students with high social support a nd low life purpose or low social support and high life purpose will have moderate stress levels. Up to this point, previous research studies have explored the associ ations between social support and stress and between life purpose a nd stress, but have not considered how the interaction between social support and life purpose may influence stre ss levels. The fact that this study examined the effect of the interaction between so cial support and life pur pose on stress is an important contribution to the profession because it increases our understanding of the relationship between social suppo rt and life purpose and how this relationship impacts stress levels. Research Question #5 Is there variation in how the interaction between social support and life purpose influences the stress levels of graduate students when compared by (a) sex, (b) age, (c) race, (d) field of study, (e) type of degree, (f) cred it hours, (g) time in program, (h) program focus?: No data analysis was conducted to address this question due to the absence of an interaction effect for Research Question 4.

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65 Conclusions A majority of the main study participants we re white, female, pursuing a masters degree, and focusing a significant portion of their time and energy on coursework. In terms of field of study, several colleges were represented by more th an 10% of the study part icipants: Liberal Arts and Sciences, a combination of the health-related colleges (Dentistry, Health and Human Performance, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, a nd Public Health and Health Professions), Business Administration, Education, Agricultur al & Life Sciences, and Engineering. The average age of participants wa s 28.6 (SD = 6.6). The average numb er of credit hours in which participants were currently en rolled was 9.7 (SD = 2.6). The aver age number of semesters in which the participants had been enrolled in their current grad uate program was 5.2 (SD = 3.8). These findings showed the study participants to be similar to, but not representative of, the study population of graduate students enro lled at the University of Fl orida during the Fall semester 2006 semester. Mean scores for social support (M = 130.6, SD = 17.3) and life purpose (M = 81.4, SD = 17.4) respectively fell in the upper third of possible scores for th e ISEL and PMI, suggesting that subjects experienced relatively hi gh levels of both social support and life purpose. Mean scores for stress (M = 39.3, SD = 7.8) fell in the middle third of possible scores for the PSS, suggesting that subjects experienced rela tively moderate levels of stre ss. These findings differ from previous studies which suggested graduate stude nts of all races and both genders perceive the support they receive inadequate (Ellis, 2001). Research documente d that women (Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Ellis 2001; Herzig, 2004) and racial minorities (Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004) were most likely to vi ew social support as l acking. This difference may be due to the fact that pr evious research specifically e xplored social support available through institutions of higher education (i.e., f aculty, advisors, peers), while this study asked

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66 participants to consider social s upport available in all realms of th eir lives (i.e., faculty, advisors, peers and family, friends, co-workers). Subjects in this study reported high levels of life purpose, again differing from previous research. For example, the HERI study (2004) f ound that, as students accumulated more years of higher education, their levels of life purpose declined. These fi ndings held true even when students viewed spirituality as an important aspect in their lives, one they believed institutions of higher education should help them develop (HERI: The Spiritual Life, 2005). However, previous studies explored levels of life pur pose among undergraduate students while this study focused on graduate students. Meaning and purpo se in life guide young a dults in selecting a vocation (Dalton, 2001), so undergraduate student s may feel their lives lack purpose because they have not yet selected a vocation. As young adults develop a sense of meaning and purpose in life, allowing their calling to guide their career path, they may ensure that their actions and beliefs match (Dalton, 2001). Thus, pursuing a graduate degree represents one way young adults aspire to fulfill an identified purpose (Strange, 2001). So, graduate students would be more likely to report purpose in their lives. The fact that subjects experienced moderate levels of stress also differed from previous studies which concluded that st ress constitutes a major health c oncern for young adults in higher education (Abouserie, 1994; Deckro, Ballinge r, Hoyt, & Wilcher, 2002; Geraghty, 1997; Goldman & Wong, 1997; Kanters, Bristol, & A ttarian, 2002; Ross, Niebling, & Heckert, 1999; Sciacca & Melby, 1992). However, high levels of social support and life purpose, as reported by the subjects in this study, can provide a buffer against stress (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995). Thus, stress leve ls among subjects in this study would be

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67 predictably lower than for individuals whose le vels of social support and life purpose were lower. Recommendations Recommendations for Professional Practice The findings from this study can be used to inform professional practice by suggesting several recommendations. Higher ed ucation institutions often do not provide social support that adequately meets the needs of students (Chr istie, Munro, & Fisher 2004; Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Williams, 2000; Williams, 2002). Many uni versities also do not recognize the need for initiatives that focus on students sense of purpose in lif e (Dalton, 2001; HERI: Summary, 2004; HERI: The Spir itual Life, 2005.; Laurence, 2005; Love, 2001; Love & Talbot, 1999). Based on the positive association found be tween life purpose and social support among graduate students, regardless of most demogr aphic characteristics, one such recommendation would be for university health care centers and student affa irs organizations to offer comprehensive programs to promote social support and life purpose, without necessarily offering programs for particular demographic groups. The fact that stress constitutes a major heal th concern for young adu lts in higher education increases the likelihood that university health care centers an d student affairs organizations will dedicate a considerable amount of time and resources toward implementing health promotion initiatives designed reduce stress. A major co mponent of such programs is determining the baseline stress levels of students in an effort to identify those st udents who are most in need of stress reduction as well as to evaluate how successful the program was at reducing stress among these students. Based on the main effects f ound between social support and stress and between life purpose and stress, which reveal ed that students with higher levels of stress tend to have

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68 lower levels of social support and life purpose, an additional advantage of determining baseline stress levels is that, by knowi ng which students have high stress levels, health care center and student affairs staff can identify students who are likely to have low levels of social support and life purpose. Thus, another recommendation would be for university health care centers and student affairs organizations to utilize the informati on obtained through stress reduction programs to identify the need for programs designed to enhan ce social support and life purpose. By revealing this need, such information may en courage institutions of higher e ducation to be more intentional about making programs designed to enhance soci al support and life purpose available to students. Recognizing which stude nts have low levels of soci al support and life purpose can assist university health care cen ter and student affairs staff in directing programs designed to enhance social support and life purpose toward the students most in need. Doing so can conserve scarce time and resources by limiting th e scope of such programs to those in greatest need, instead of attempting to reach the enti re student body, many of whom may not need the services offered by such programs. Female gr aduate students, for example, were found to experience higher stress levels than male gradua te students; and with higher stress levels comes the tendency to experience lower levels of social support and life purpose. Therefore, initiatives aimed at promoting social support and life purpo se may produce a greater positive impact if targeted toward female graduate students. In addition, knowing which students are most in need of enhanced social support and life purpose en ables university health care center and student affairs staff to encourage specific students to pa rticipate in such health promotion initiatives, thereby increasing the likelihood that those most in need will take advantage of and benefit from programs designed to enhance social support and life purpose.

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69 As higher education institutions come to re cognize the importance of programs designed to enhance social support and life purpose in the li ves of graduate students university health care centers and student affair s organization may be more inclined to implement such programs on a more regular basis. A major component of su ch programs should be determining the baseline social support and life purpose le vels of students in an effort to identify those students who are most in need of social support and life purpose as well as to evaluate how successful the program was at promoting social suppor t and life purpose among these students. Based on the main effects found between social support and stre ss and between life purpos e and stress, which revealed that students with lower levels of soci al support and students with lower levels of life purpose tend to have higher levels of stress, an additional advantage of determining baseline social support and life purpose levels is that, by knowing which students have low social support and low life purpose health care center and student affairs staff can identify students who are likely to have high stress levels. Thus, another recommendation would be for university health care centers and student affairs organizations to utilize the informati on obtained through programs designed to enhance social support and life purpose to identify the need for programs designed to reduce stress. By recognizing which students have hi gh stress levels, university h ealth care center and student affairs staff can direct programs designed to re duce stress toward the students most in need. Doing so can conserve scarce time and resources by limiting the scope of such programs to those in greatest need, instead of attempting to re ach the entire student body, many of whom may not need the services offered by such programs. This is especially important considering the fact that stress constitutes a major health concern for young adults in higher education, which may lead university health care centers and students affairs or ganizations to aspire to aid all students

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70 in reducing stress, when in reality they may not ha ve adequate time and resources to achieve this goal. In addition, knowing which students are most in need of stress re duction enables university health care center and student affa irs staff to encourage specific students to participate in such health promotion initiatives, thereby increasing th e likelihood that those most in need will take advantage of and benefit from programs designed to reduce stress. Social support and life purpose have been iden tified as buffers against stress (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995) Such findings may prompt university health care centers and student a ffairs organizations to implement health promotion initiatives designed to enhance social support and life purpose in an effort to reduce stress. Findings from the current study, however, revealed the absence of an interaction effect for social support and life purpose on stress among graduate students, sugge sting that such health promotion initiatives need not include both social suppor t and life purpose in a single in itiative, but would do better to focus on one of these issues at a time. Doing so would allow university h ealth care centers and student affairs organizations to focus their resources on health pr omotion initiatives that address a single factor, which would lik ely enhance positive outcomes. Recommendations for Future Research This study should be extended using a broa der sample that includes undergraduate students, undergraduate and graduate students from different types of institutions (i.e., small, medium, large, public, private, religiously affiliated, located in different geographic regions), young adults who recently graduated from college and began their careers, and young adults who did not attend college. In addition, future studi es could consider how re lationships among social support, life purpose, and stress differ when looking at these diverse samples. When considering such relationships in the lives of graduate stude nts in particular, compar isons between males and

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71 females as well as students in professional and non-professional program s might also be of interest. Experimental studies to determine causal re lationships could be designed to explore the theoretical notion that social support precedes and is necessary for the procurement of life purpose in the process of positive human development (Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, Chickerings Seven Vectors of Development, Park s Faith Development Theory). Such studies could also determine if social support causes a decrease in stress levels or whether decreased stress levels allow for increased social support, as well as whet her a sense of purpose in life can cause a decrease in stress level or if decreased stress levels al low for discovery of a sense of purpose in life. To gather more detailed data, future studies should use instruments that allow for the consideration of social support in terms of type of support (i.e., emotional, informational, instrumental) as well as source of support (i.e., fr iends, family, significant others). Instruments that address identity development variables also would allow for a more in-depth look at how students derive their sense of purpose in life (i .e., self, others, or no sense of purpose). Finally, to gain a better unders tanding about the influence of social support and life purpose on overall well-being, future studies should consider the imp act of social support, life purpose, and their interaction in terms of de pendent variables such as depression, life satisfaction, and personal identity. To decrease error variance, and to understand more clearly what variables contribute to total variance in st ress levels, study de signs should include additional variables in the regression analys is, perhaps by including survey questions on a broader range of demographic va riables (i.e., marital status, re ligious affiliation, number of

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72 children, local versus long-distance support networks, type of employment (graduate assistantship, part-time job, full-time job).

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73 APPENDIX A ORIGINAL INSTITITUIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPLICATION 1. Title of Project: The Relationship between Social Support and Li fe Purpose on Graduate Student Well-being 2. Principal Investigator: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education & Behavior FLG-5 PO Box 118210 Phone: (352) 392-0583 ext 1254 Fax: (352) 392-1909 bajohnso@ufl.edu 3. Supervisor: Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD Department of Health Education & Behavior FLG-5 PO Box 118210 Phone: (352) 392-0583 ext 1289 Fax: (352) 392-1909 brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu 4. Dates of Proposed Research: January 1, 2007December 30, 2008 5. Source of Funding for the Protocol: None 6. Scientific Purpose of the Investigation: Developing a social support networ k and discovering a sense of m eaning and purpose in life are necessary steps in the process of positive human development in general (i.e., Maslows Hierarchy of Needs) and of positive young adult development in particular (i.e., Chickerings Seven Vectors of Development, Parks Faith De velopment Theory). Research documents the existence of health benefits associated with bot h social support (Bolt, 2004; Clara, Cox, Enns, Murray, & Torgrudc, 2003; Thoits, 1995; Hodges, 2002; Kanters, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mal linckrodt & Leong, 1992; Thoits 1995; Vaux & Wood, 1987) and a sense of meaning and purpose in life (Hodges, 2002; Kass, Friedman, Leserman, Zuttermeister, & Benson, 1991; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1994; Laurence, 2005; Love & Talbot, 1999; Mahoney & Graci, 1999; Strange, 2001; Tanyi, 2002; Young, Cashwell, & Woolington, 1998). Within higher education, attempts to aid students in the development of social support are often inadequate (Christie, Munro, & Fisher, 2004; Cronan-Hillix, Gensheimer, Cronan-Hillix, & Davidson, 1986; Ellis, 2001; Herzig, 2004; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992; Williams, 2000; Williams, 2002) and the need to aid students in the discovery of a sense of meaning and purpose

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74 in life is often ignored (Da lton, 2001; HERI: Summary, 2004; HE RI: The Spiritual Life, 2005.; Laurence, 2005; Love, 2001; Love & Talbot, 1999) This neglect may result in young adults not acquiring myriad health benefits. For exampl e, stress is a major health concern among young adults in the pursuit of higher education (Abouser ie, 1994; Deckro, Ballinger, Hoyt, & Wilcher, 2002; Geraghty, 1997; Goldman & Wong, 1997; Kant ers, Bristol, & Attarian, 2002; Ross, Niebling, & Heckert, 1999; Sc iacca & Melby, 1992). Social support (Bolt, 2004, Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Jung, 1997; Lawson & Fuehrer, 1989; Mallinckrodt & Leong, 1992) and a sense of meaning and purpose in life (Kennedy & Kantha mani, 1994; Yiu-kee & Tang, 1995) can provide a buffer against stress. Stress contributes to my riad health problems (Deckro, Ballinger, Hoyt, & Wilcher, 2002; Dixon & Reid, 2000; Duenwal d, 2002; Frazier & Schauben, 1994; Geraghty, 1997; Goldman & Wong, 1997; Hudd, Dumlao, Erdmann-Sager, Murray, Phan, Soukas, et al, 2000; Park & Levenson, 2002; Sciacca & Melby, 1992). It also causes burnout (Schaufeli, Maslach, & Marek, 1993 as cited by Jenkins & Elliot, 2004; Schaufeli & Buunk, 1996 as cited by Peiro, Gonzalez-Roma, Torder a & Manas, 2001; Cooper, Dewe & ODriscoll, 2001; Hobfoll & Shirom, 2000; and Schaufeli & Enzmann, 1998 as cited by Pines & Keinan, 2005; Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001), which can lead pe ople to question th eir vocational choice (Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982, p. 96) and to consider l eaving their line of work (Golde, 1998; Pines & Keinan, 2005; Spicuzza & De Voe, 1982). For graduate students, working on their degree is typically equivalent to a full-time job, one that is preparing them to fulfill their life purpose through their careers. As such, st ress that leads to burnout may cau se an increase in attrition rates among graduate students. No investigations published to da te have explored the associa tion between social support and purpose in life. As a result, potential health bene fits that may result from an interaction between social support and a sense of m eaning and purpose in life, partic ularly those associated with stress buffering, remain unknown. Thus, research designed to explore the nature of the association and interaction between social support and a sense of meaning and purpose in life would contribute to the field of health education research by providing valuable information for university-based health promotion/disease prevention initiativ es. The purpose of this study will be to (1) determine if there is an association between social support and life purpose in graduate students; (2) explore how the in teraction between va rious levels of so cial support and life purpose influences graduate stude nts stress levels; and (3) esta blish whether this association and/or the influence of this interaction vary when compared by demographic characteristics. 7. Describe the Research Methodology: Data will be collected on the variables of social support, life purpose, and stress using existing instruments that have demonstrated psychometric adequacy. Social suppor t will be measured by the Interpersonal Support Evalua tion List (ISEL) (Cohen, Merm elstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985) (Appendix D). Meaning and purpose in lif e will be measured by the Personal Meaning Index (PMI), a composite score of the Purpose and Coherence subscales of the Life Attitude Profile-Revised (LAP-R) (Reker, 2005) (Appendix E). Stress will be measured by the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) (Cohen, Kamarck, Mermelstei n, 1983) (Appendix F). Data will also be collected on the following demographic variable s (Appendix G): sex, age, race, field of study (i.e., the college in which particip ants graduate program department s are housed), type of degree (i.e., the specific degree toward which the participants are working masters or doctoral), credit

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75 hours (i.e., the number of credit hours in whic h participants are enrolled for the current semester), time in program (i.e., the number of year s in which participants have been enrolled in their current graduate program), and program focu s (i.e., the activity toward which participants are focusing a majority of their time and en ergy during the current se mester coursework, comprehensive/qualifying exams, or thesis/dissertation research). The questions from each of the afore-mentioned instruments along with the demographic ques tions will be uploaded onto the SurveyMonkey web-based survey service so th at participants can complete the entire 78question survey on-line. The SurveyMonkey we b-based survey service utilizes passwordprotected access to participant di rectories and survey responses ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to participants names, e-mail addresses, and survey responses, thereby keeping that information c onfidential (SurveyMonkey, 2006). A pilot test to determine whether the web-base d format of the instruments is user-friendly (Daley, McDermott, McCormack, & Kittleson, 2003) will be conducted due to the fact that the instruments were originally designed in paper fo rmat and will be converted to web-based format for purposes of this study. A convenience sample of ten graduate students will be selected to participate in the pilot test. Cover letter e-mails will be sent to the pilot test sample explaining the purpose of the pilot test and inviting them to participate (Appendix A). These e-mails will also include a link to the web-ba sed survey. Questions included in the pilot test are based on several of the principles Dillman (2000) identifies as necessary for constructing web surveys and are designed to assess whether the design and layout of the web-based survey is easy to understand (Appendix B). One week later, another email will be sent to the pilot test sample, thanking respondents for completing the survey and reminding nonrespondents to do so. After completing the web-based survey, responses to the p ilot test questions will be reviewed and used to determine if any changes need to be made to improve the survey prio r to disseminating it to the study sample (Creswell, 2005). The study sample will be selected by means of simple random sampling. A list of all graduate students enrolled at the University of Florid a during the Spring 2007 semester will be obtained from the Office of the University Registrar and will serve as the sampling frame for this study. The names of the students who par ticipated in the pilot test wi ll be removed from the sampling frame prior to selecting the sample. A SAS prog ram will generate a list of random numbers to determine which students from the sampling frame will be included in the sample (Dillman, 2000). A proposed sample of 1,000 participants will be necessary in order to allow for a sufficient response rate of 50%. A prenotification letter will be sent via e-mail to the study sample informing them that they will receive another e-mail within a couple of days requesting thei r participation in a study by completing a web-based survey. Two days later, a cover letter will be sent via e-mail to the study sample explaining the purpose of the study, inviting them to participate, and directing those who choose to participate to a link to the web-based survey (Appendix C). One week later, another e-mail will be sent to the study sample, thanking respondents for completing the survey and reminding nonrespondents to do so. Two w eeks later, nonrespondents will receive another e-mail requesting that they respond and providing them with a copy of the link that will direct them to the web-based survey. Another two weeks later, a final e-mail will be sent to nonrespondents asking them to complete the su rvey (Dillman, 2000). This e-mail will also

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76 request that, if they choose not to complete the entire survey, they complete only the demographic questions. Doing so will allo w for a comparison between respondents and nonrespondents based on demographic characteristics. Completion of the 78-question survey will require approximately 15 minutes and will serve as implied consent. All participants who complete the entire survey by responding to all of the questions will receive a $5 Barnes & Noble online gift certificate via e-mail. The SurveyMonkey web-based survey service will ke ep track of who has and has not responded to the survey by indicating their response status next to their e-mail addresses, which are listed in a study sample directory. The SurveyMonkey we b-based survey service utilizes passwordprotected access to participant di rectories and survey responses ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to both pilot test and ma in study participants names, e-mail addresses, and survey responses, thereby keeping that in formation confidential (SurveyMonkey, 2006). In addition, because participant directories are kept separate from survey responses, participants names and e-mail addresses will not be connected to their survey responses, thereby ensuring confidentiality. SPSS, version 13.0, and SAS, version 8, will be us ed to analyze the data by generating both descriptive and inferential statistics. Descriptive statistics will serve to summarize the samples demographic characteristics (i.e., se x, age, race, field of study, type of degree, credit hours, time in program, and program focus). Inferential statis tics will be used to answer the four research questions. Bivariate correlations will be calculated using SPSS to determine if there is an association between social support and life purpose in graduate st udents. Bivariate correlations will also be calculated using SPSS to determine whether such an association is influenced by the afore-mentioned demographic variables. These co rrelations can then be compared using SAS to determine if there is a difference in the asso ciation (Marascuilo, 1966) between social support and life purpose for each demographic variable. Multiple regression analysis will be calculated using SPSS to determine how the interaction between various levels of social support and life purpose influence graduate students stress levels. Multiple regression analyses will also be calculated using SPSS to determine how the interact ion between various levels of social support and life purpose influence graduate students stress levels when compared by the aforementioned demographic variables. 8. Potential Benefits an d Anticipated Risks: Participants may benefit by having a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health. Participants names, e-mail addresse s, and survey results will be maintained in a password-protected SurveyMonkey account (Sur veyMonkey, 2006). Neither the participants names nor e-mail addresses will be connected with th eir survey results. Therefore, participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. 9. Describe How Participants will be Recruit ed, the Number and Age of Participants, and Proposed Compensation: Graduate students will be the population for th is study. The target population will be graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semest er. The pilot test

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77 sample will be selected by means of convenience sampling. The study sample will be selected by means of simple random sampling. A list of a ll graduate students enro lled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester will be obtained from the Office of the University Registrar and will serve as the sampling frame for this study. The name s of the students who participated in the pilot test will be remove d from the sampling frame prior to selecting the sample. A SAS program will generate a list of random numbers to determine which students from the sampling frame will be included in th e sample (Dillman, 2000). A proposed sample of 1,000 participants, ages 18 and older, will be necessa ry in order to allow for a sufficient response rate of 50%. All participants who complete the entire survey by responding to all 78 questions, will receive a $5 Barnes & Noble online gift certificate via e-mail. 10. Describe the Informed Consent Process: A cover letter will be sent via e-mail to the sa mple participants explai ning the purpose of the study, inviting them to participate, and directing those who choose to participate to a link to the web-based survey (Appendix C). Completion of the 78-question survey will require approximately 15 minutes and will serve as implied consent. Thus, students will voluntarily consent to participate in this study by completing the web-based survey. 11. Signatures: The original signature(s) of the Principal Investigator(s) and faculty supervisor (where applicable) of the researc h are required at the bottom of the UFIRB protocol. If the protocol is submitted electr onically, a cover letter be aring these signatures is required. ___________________________ ____________ Principal Investigators Signature Date Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES I approve this protocol fo r submission to the UFIRB. _________________________ ____________ Faculty Supervisors Signature Date Barbara Rienzo, PhD I approve this protocol fo r submission to the UFIRB. _______________________________ ____________ Dept. Chair/Center Dire ctor Signature Date Robert Weiler, PhD

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78 Original IRB Appendix A: Pilot Study Informed Consent Project Title: The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student Well-being Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu ) is a doctoral candidate in the department of Health Education and Behavior. This study proposes to assess graduate students experience related to social s upport, life purpose, and stress. What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below and participate in an online survey. In addi tion, you are being asked to complete feedback questions, which will be located after each sec tion within the online survey. The feedback questions are designed to elicit information on th e design and layout of the online survey in an effort to determine if any changes need to be made. Time required: The online survey will take approximately 25 minutes to complete. Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health. Compensation: You will not be compensated for participating in this study. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your email address will be used to follow-up on your participation in the pilot study. Your name and email address, which will be listed in a pilot part icipant directory, will not be connected to your survey responses. The pilot participant director y and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No names will be used in any report. Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdr aw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu Department of Health Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583. Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433. Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below a nd completing the online survey you are indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily participate in this study.

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79 <<<<< Link to Online Survey >>>>> Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be extremely beneficial in determining the most ef fective design and layout for the online survey. Your help in this matte r is greatly appreciated.

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80 Original IRB Appendix B: Pilot Study Questions These questions will be included at the end of each section of the survey as indicated below Welcome Screen Section Did the message on the welcome screen serve to motiv ate you to participate in the survey? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Did the instructions on the welcome screen ad equately inform you how to proceed to the next page so that you could begin the survey? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Social Support Section Did the instructions adequa tely inform you how to respon d to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Did the layout of the questions and responses make it easy to understand how to respond to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Was the number of ques tions per page adequate? Yes [ ] No Too few ques tions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next page so that you could continue the survey? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below

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81 Purpose Section Did the instructions adequa tely inform you how to respon d to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Did the layout of the questions and responses make it easy to understand how to respond to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Was the number of ques tions per page adequate? Yes [ ] No Too few ques tions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next page so that you could continue the survey? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Stress Section Did the instructions adequa tely inform you how to respon d to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Did the layout of the questions and responses make it easy to understand how to respond to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below

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82 Was the number of ques tions per page adequate? Yes [ ] No Too few ques tions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next page so that you could continue the survey? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Demographics Section Did the instructions adequa tely inform you how to respon d to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Did the layout of the questions and responses make it easy to understand how to respond to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Was the number of ques tions per page adequate? Yes [ ] No Too few ques tions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next page so that you could continue the survey? Yes [ ] No [ ] If No, please explain and suggest revisions in the space below Other How well did the colors used in the surv ey design enable you to read the items? Very Well [ ] Ade quate Could be Improved [ ] Difficult to Read [ ]

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83 If it needs improvement, please explain a nd suggest revisions in the space below In the space below, please provide any addi tional feedback you think would be helpful in making this survey as user-friendly as possible

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84 Original IRB Appendix C: Dissert ation Study Informed Consent Project Title: The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student Well-being Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu ) is a doctoral candidate in the department of Health Education and Behavior. This study proposes to assess graduate students experience related to social s upport, life purpose, and stress. What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below and participate in an online survey. Time required: The online survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health. Compensation: You will receive a $5 Barnes & Nobl e online gift certificate via e-mail for completing the entire survey by resp onding to all of the questions. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your email address will be used to follow-up on your pa rticipation in the study as well as to send you an incentive upon completion of the survey. Your name and e-mail address, which will be listed in a participant directory, w ill not be connected to your survey responses. The participant directory and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No names will be used in any report. Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdr aw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu Department of Health Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583. Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433. Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below a nd completing the online survey you are indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily participate in this study.

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85 <<<<< Link to Online Survey >>>>> Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be extremely beneficial in enhanci ng an understanding of the graduate student experience. Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated.

PAGE 86

86 Original IRB Appendix D: Interperso nal Support Evaluation List (ISEL) Information on obtaining a copy of this instrument can be found at http://www.psy.cmu.edu/~scohen/scales.html

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87 Original IRB Appendix E: Personal Meaning Index (PMI) Information on obtaining a copy of this inst rument can be found by contacting Gary T. Reker, Ph.D. in the Department of Psychology at Trent University, located in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

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88 Original IRB Appendix F: Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) Information on obtaining a copy of this instrument can be found at http://www.psy.cmu.edu/~scohen/scales.html

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89 Original IRB Appendix G: Demographic Information Directions: For each of the following questions check the answer that best represents you. 1. What is your sex? ___ Male ___ Female 2. In which of the following cat egories does your age fall? ___ Under 20 years ___ 20 24 ___ 25 29 ___ 30 34 ___ 35 39 ___ 40 44 ___ 45 49 ___ 50 54 ___ 55 59 ___ 60 64 ___ 65 or older 3. What is your race? Please mark one of th e following race categories (as used by the U.S. Census Bureau) to indicate what you consider yourself to be. ___ White ___ Black, African American, Negro ___ American Indian or Alaska Native ___ Asian (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Other Asian) ___ Pacific Islander (Native Ha waiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, Other Pacific Islander) ___ Spanish, Hispanic, Latino (Mexican, Mexi can American, Chicano; Puerto Rican; Cuban; Other Spanish, Hispanic, Latino) ___ Other: ______________ 4. In which of the following colleges is your graduate program department housed? ___ Agricultural and Life Sciences ___ Business Administration, Desi gn, Construction, and Planning ___ Dentistry ___ Education ___ Engineering ___ Fine Arts ___ Health and Human Performance ___ Journalism and Communications

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90 ___ Law ___ Liberal Arts and Sciences ___ Medicine ___ Nursing ___ Pharmacy ___ Public Health a nd Health Professions ___ Veterinary Medicine 5. What type of degree are you working towards? ___ Masters ___ Doctoral 6. How many credit hours are you currently enrolled in for this semester? ___ 3 ___ 4 ___ 5 ___ 6 ___ 7 ___ 8 ___ 9 ___ 10 ___ 11 ___ 12 ___ More than 12 7. How many academic years, including this year, have you been enrolled in your graduate program? ___ 1 ___ 2 ___ 3 ___ 4 ___ 5 or More 8. On which of the following activities do you focu s a majority of your time and energy with regard to your academics? ___ Coursework ___ Comprehensive or Qualifying Exams ___ Thesis or Dissertation Research

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91 APPENDIX B INSTITUTIONAL REIVEW BOARD REVISION FORM 1 Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research) Protocol Number: 2006-U-1056 Protocol Title: The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student Well-being Investigators Name: Beth Johnson Email Address: bajohnso@ufl.edu Phone: 352-392-0583 ext 1254 Revision / Amendment to Protocol State the revision(s) you are making to the study : Dates of Proposed Research: December 1, 2006 December 30, 2008 Protocol Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence on Graduate Student Wellbeing Pilot Study: A second phase will be added to the pilot study. 100 graduate students will be randomly selected from a list of a ll graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester. The names of the students who participated in phase one of the pilot study (the originally proposed pilot study) will be removed from the list prior to selec ting the sample for phase two of the pilot study. Cover letter e-mails will be sent to the phase two pilot study sample explaining the purpose of the pilot test and inviting them to participate. Th ese e-mails will also include a link to the web-based survey. O ne week later, another e-mail will be sent to the phase two pilot study sample, thanking respondents for completing the survey and reminding non-respondents to do so. A brand new informed consent has been created specifically for phase two of the pilot study. Dissertation Study: Prior to selecting the sample for the disserta tion study, the names of the students who participated in eit her phase of the pilot study will be removed from the list of all grad uate students enrolled at the University of Florida during th e Spring 2007 semester. The proposed samp le will consist of 600 graduate students. Demographic Questions: Response options for questions 2, 6, an d 7 were changed from multiple choice category options to fill in the blank options.

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92 Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research) Justification for Revision Provide a reason / justification for this change : Dates of Proposed Research: To begin data collection for phase one of the pilot study as soon as possible. Protocol Title: A more in-depth description of what the study intends to look into. Pilot Study: To determine the reliability of the web-based fo rmat of the survey with a graduate student population. Dissertation Study: In order to achieve ta rget accuracy necessary to estimate the strength of the relationship between the variables in the study, the minimum N should equal 297 participants, which was rounded up to 300. Over-sampling by 50% indicates that an N of 600 will be sufficient. Demographic Questions: To gather more detailed data. Does this change affect the following documents? Please attach Revised Copy. Informed Consent Yes Questionnaire Yes Flyer No (Principal Investigator Signature) (Date) Supervisors Signature (If PI is student) (Date) This section is for IRB02 use only Comments: Signature of Chair / ViceChair: Approval Date:

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93 IRB Revision 1 Appendix A: Revised Dissertation Study Informed Consent Project Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence on Graduate Student Well-being Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu ) is a doctoral candidate in the department of Health Education a nd Behavior. She is interested in learning about the graduate student experience as it relate s to the various dimensions of health. The purpose of her dissertation is to examine the relationship between social suppor t and life purpose on graduate student well-being. What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below and participate in an online survey. Time required: The online survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health. Compensation: You will receive a $5 Barnes & Nobl e online gift certificate via e-mail for completing the entire survey by resp onding to all of the questions. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your email address will be used to follow-up on your pa rticipation in the study as well as to send you an incentive upon completion of the survey. Your name and e-mail address, which will be listed in a participant directory, w ill not be connected to your survey responses. The participant directory and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No names will be used in any report. Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdr aw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu Department of Health Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583. Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433.

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94 Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below a nd completing the online survey you are indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily participate in this study. <<<<< Link to Online Survey >>>>> Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be extremely beneficial in enhanci ng an understanding of the graduate student experience. Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated.

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95 IRB Revision 1 Appendix B: Pilot Study Phase 2 Informed Consent Project Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence on Graduate Student Well-being Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu ) is a doctoral candidate in the department of Health Education a nd Behavior. She is interested in learning about the graduate student experience as it relate s to the various dimensions of health. The purpose of her dissertation is to examine the relationship between social suppor t and life purpose on graduate student well-being. What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below and participate in an online survey. Time required: The online survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health. Compensation: You will not be compensated for participating in this study. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your email address will be used to follow-up on your pa rticipation in the study as well as to send you an incentive upon completion of the survey. Your name and e-mail address, which will be listed in a participant directory, w ill not be connected to your survey responses. The participant directory and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No names will be used in any report. Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdr aw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu Department of Health Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583. Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433. Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below a nd completing the online survey you are indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily participate in this study.

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96 <<<<< Link to Online Survey >>>>> Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be extremely beneficial in enhanci ng an understanding of the graduate student experience. Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated.

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97 IRB Revision 1 Appendix C: Re vised Demographic Information Directions: For each of the following questions check the answer that best represents you. 1. What is your sex? ___ Male ___ Female 2. How old are you? ____ 3. What is your race? Please mark one of th e following race categories (as used by the U.S. Census Bureau) to indicate what you consider yourself to be. ___ White ___ Black, African American, Negro ___ American Indian or Alaska Native ___ Asian (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Other Asian) ___ Pacific Islander (Native Ha waiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, Other Pacific Islander) ___ Spanish, Hispanic, Latino (Mexican, Mexi can American, Chicano; Puerto Rican; Cuban; Other Spanish, Hispanic, Latino) ___ Other: ______________ 4. In which of the following colleges is your graduate program department housed? ___ Agricultural and Life Sciences ___ Business Administration, Desi gn, Construction, and Planning ___ Dentistry ___ Education ___ Engineering ___ Fine Arts ___ Health and Human Performance ___ Journalism and Communications ___ Law ___ Liberal Arts and Sciences ___ Medicine ___ Nursing ___ Pharmacy ___ Public Health a nd Health Professions ___ Veterinary Medicine 5. What type of degree are you working towards? ___ Masters ___ Doctoral

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98 6. How many credit hours are you currently en rolled in for this semester? _____ 7. How many semesters, including this semest er, have you been enrolled in your graduate program? When considering the nu mber of semesters please include Fall, Spring, and Summer. _____ 8. On which of the following activities do you focu s a majority of your time and energy with regard to your academics? ___ Coursework ___ Comprehensive or Qualifying Exams ___ Thesis or Dissertation Research

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99 APPENDIX C INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD REVISION FORM 2 Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research) Protocol Number: 2006-U-1056 Protocol Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence on Graduate Student Well-being Investigators Name: Beth Johnson Email Address: bajohnso@ufl.edu Phone: 352-392-0583 ext 1254 Revision / Amendment to Protocol State the revision(s) you are making to the study : Pilot Study Phase 2: 300 graduate students will be randomly selected from a list of all graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester. The names of the students who participated in phase one of the pilot study, who were selected to participate in and received su rveys for the initial phase two of the pilot study, and who have been selected to participate in the dissertation study will be removed from the list prior to selecting the additional sample for phase two of the pilot study. No changes will be made to the contact and follow-up procedures for this additional sample for phase two of the pilot study. Contact and follow-up procedures for this additional sample for phase two of the pilot study will be identical to the procedures followed for the initial sample for phase two of the pilot study. Demographic information will be obtained from the University Registrars Office for all graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007. The demographic information will include sex, age, race, field of study (the college in which the graduate progr am department they are enroll ed in is housed), type of degree (the specific degree toward which the participants are working masters or doctoral level), credit hours (the number of credit hours in which pa rticipants are enrolled for the current semester), and time in program (the number of semesters, including this semester, that participants have been enrolled in their current graduate program).

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100 Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research) Justification for Revision Provide a reason / justification for this change : Pilot Study Phase 2: To ensure that enough data is collected so that statistical analyses can be conducted to determine the reliability of the web-based format of the survey with a graduate student population. To allow for a comparison of demographic information be tween members of the sample who participated in the study and the population in question (i.e., all graduate st udents enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester). This comparison will provide information regarding whether the study participants are representative the population in question. Does this change affect the following documents? Please attach Revised Copy. Informed Consent No Questionnaire No Flyer No (Principal Investigator Signature) (Date) Supervisors Signature (If PI is student) (Date) This section is for irb02 use only Comments: Signature of Chair / ViceChair: Approval Date:

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101 APPENDIX D INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD REVISION FORM 3 Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research) Protocol Number: 2006-U-1056 Protocol Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence on Graduate Student Well-being Investigators Name: Beth Johnson Email Address: bajohnso@ufl.edu Phone: 352-392-0583 ext 1254 Revision / Amendment to Protocol State the revision(s) you are making to the study : Dissertation Study Sample Size: An additional 1400 graduate students will be randomly selected from a list of all graduate students enrolled at the University of Florida during the Spring 2007 semester. The names of the students who participated in phases one and two of the pilot study will be removed from the list prior to selecting the dissertation study sample. Doing so will result in a total sample size of 2000 (600 graduate st udents as originally proposed + 1400 additional graduate students). No changes will be made to the contact an d follow-up procedures for the dissertation study. Dissertation Study Incentive: No incentive will be offered to participants for completing the survey. Justification for Revision Provide a reason / justification for this change : Dissertation Study Sample Size: Increasing the sample size for the dissertation study will ensure that enough data is collected so that statistical analyses can be conducted to answ er the research questions posed. Dissertation Study Incentive: Eliminating the incentive from the dissertation study has become necessary due to m onetary constraints. In addition, knowing that incentives will not be distributed allows for an increase in sample size (see proposed change to dissertation study sample size).

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102 Protocol Revision For Already Approved Studies Institutional Review Board Office 02 (Social and Behavioral Research) Does this change affect the following documents? Please attach Revised Copy. Informed Consent Yes Questionnaire No Flyer No (Principal Investigator Signature) (Date) Supervisors Signature (If PI is student) (Date) This section is for irb02 use only Comments: Signature of Chair / ViceChair: Approval Date:

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103 IRB Revision 3 Appendix A: Revised Dissertation Study Informed Consent Project Title: The Relationships between Social Support and Life Purpose and Their Influence on Graduate Student Well-being Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu ) is a doctoral candidate in the department of Health Education a nd Behavior. She is interested in learning about the graduate student experience as it relate s to the various dimensions of health. The purpose of her dissertation is to examine the relationship between social suppor t and life purpose on graduate student well-being. What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below and participate in an online survey. Time required: The online survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health. Compensation: You will not be compensated for participating in this study. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your email address will be used to follow-up on your pa rticipation in the study as well as to send you an incentive upon completion of the survey. Your name and e-mail address, which will be listed in a participant directory, w ill not be connected to your survey responses. The participant directory and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No names will be used in any report. Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdr aw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, PhD at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu Department of Health Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583. Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433. Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below a nd completing the online survey you are indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily participate in this study.

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104 <<<<< Link to Online Survey >>>>> Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be extremely beneficial in enhanci ng an understanding of the graduate student experience. Your help in this matter is greatly appreciated.

PAGE 105

105 APPENDIX E PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: FEEDBACK QUESTIONS These questions will be included at the end of each section of the survey as indicated below Welcome Screen Section Did the welcome screen motivate you to pa rticipate in this survey? Yes [ ] No [ ] If you checked No, please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space below Did the instructions on the welcome screen ad equately inform you how to proceed to the next page so that you could begin the survey? Yes [ ] No [ ] If you checked No, please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space below Social Support, Life Purpose, & Stress Section Did the instructions adequa tely inform you how to respon d to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If you checked No, please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space below Did the layout of the questions and respons e options make it easy to understand how to respond to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If you checked No, please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space below Was the number of ques tions per page adequate? Yes [ ] No Too few ques tions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ] If you checked one of the No options, plea se provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space below

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106 Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next page so that you could continue the survey? Yes [ ] No [ ] If you checked No, please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space below Demographics Section Did the instructions adequa tely inform you how to respon d to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If you checked No, please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space below Did the layout of the questions and respons e options make it easy to understand how to respond to the questions? Yes [ ] No [ ] If you checked No, please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space below Was the number of ques tions per page adequate? Yes [ ] No Too few ques tions per page [ ] No Too many questions per page [ ] If you checked one of the No options, plea se provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space below Did the instructions at the end of each page adequately inform you how to proceed to the next page so that you could continue the survey? Yes [ ] No [ ] If you checked No, please provide comments and suggestions for revision in the space below End of Survey Did the colors used in the survey de sign make the screen difficult to read? Yes [ ] No [ ]

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107 If you checked Yes, please provide commen ts and suggestions for revision in the space below In the space below, please provide any addi tional feedback you think would be helpful in making this survey as user-friendly as possible

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108 APPENDIX F PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: COVER LETTER E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], Thank you for agreeing to participate in the pilot study for my dissertation research. Please read the following information carefully as it gives yo u a description of my di ssertation research as well as what you are being asked to do as a partic ipant. After reading this information please click on the link below to access the survey. Project Title: The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student Well-being Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu) is a doctoral candidate in the department of Health Education and Behavior. This study proposes to assess graduate students experience related to social s upport, life purpose, and stress. What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below and participate in an online survey. In addi tion, you are being asked to complete feedback questions, which will be located after each sec tion within the online survey. The feedback questions are designed to elicit information on th e design and layout of the online survey in an effort to determine if any changes need to be made. Time required: The online survey will take approximately 25 minutes to complete. Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health. Compensation: You will not be compensated for participating in this study. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your email address will be used to follow-up on your participation in the pilot study. Your name and email address, which will be listed in a pilot part icipant directory, will not be connected to your survey responses. The pilot participant director y and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No names will be used in any report. Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdr aw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, Ph D at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu, Department of Health Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583.

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109 Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433. Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below and completing the online survey you are indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily participate in this study. Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be extremely beneficial in determining the most ef fective design and layout for the online survey. Your help in this matte r is greatly appreciated. Here is a link to the survey: [SurveyLink] (IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056) Thanks again, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list. [RemoveLink]

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110 APPENDIX G PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: NON-RE SPONDENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], Thank you again for agreeing to participate in th e pilot study for my dissertation research. If you have not yet had time to complete the on line survey, please do so as soon as possible. Data collection will end at 5pm on Thursday December 14th. Please review the information below as it gives you a description of my dissertation research as well as what you are being asked to do as a particip ant. After reviewing this information please click on this link to access the survey. Here is a link to the survey: [SurveyLink] (IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056) Project Title: The Relationship between Social Support and Life Purpose on Graduate Student Well-being Purpose of the research study: Beth Johnson (bajohnso@ufl.edu) is a doctoral candidate in the department of Health Education and Behavior. This study proposes to assess graduate students experience related to social s upport, life purpose, and stress. What you will be asked to do in the study: You are being asked to click on the web-link below and participate in an online survey. In addi tion, you are being asked to complete feedback questions, which will be located after each sec tion within the online survey. The feedback questions are designed to elicit information on th e design and layout of the online survey in an effort to determine if any changes need to be made. Time required: The online survey will take approximately 25 minutes to complete. Risks and Benefits: Your participation in this study poses no more than minimal risk. Neither your name nor your e-mail address will be connected with your survey results. The benefit of participation is a greater awareness of the social and spiritual dimensions of human health. Compensation: You will not be compensated for participating in this study. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your email address will be used to follow-up on your participation in the pilot study. Your name and email address, which will be listed in a pilot part icipant directory, will not be connected to your survey responses. The pilot participant director y and survey responses will be maintained in a password-protected web-based survey service account ensuring that only the principal investigator has access to this information. No names will be used in any report.

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111 Voluntary Participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdr aw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES at bajohnso@ufl.edu or Dr. Barbara A. Rienzo, Ph D at brienzo@hhp.ufl.edu, Department of Health Education & Behavior, 05 Florida Gym, (352) 392-0583. Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: UFIRB Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; ph 392-0433. Agreement: By clicking on the web-link below and completing the online survey you are indicating that you have read the above procedures and you are consenting to voluntarily participate in this study. Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. The information you provide will be extremely beneficial in determining the most ef fective design and layout for the online survey. Your help in this matte r is greatly appreciated. Thanks again, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list. [RemoveLink]

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112 APPENDIX H PILOT STUDY PHASE 1: RESPO NDENT THANK YOU E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], Thank you for your prompt participation in the pilot study for my dissertation research. The information you provided will be extremely helpful in informing the changes I make to enhance the effectiveness of the desi gn and layout of the online survey. Your time and effort are greatly appreciated. Thanks again, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida Please note: If you do not wish to receive furthe r emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list. [RemoveLink]

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113 APPENDIX I PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: COVER LETTER E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], You were selected at random to participate in an online survey about your graduate student experience. This survey is being conducted as part of my dissertation re search on the relationships among graduate students social support, life purpose, and general well-being. Completing this survey should take no more than 15 minutes of your time. By clicking on the web-link below and completing the survey you are indicating that you consent to voluntarily participate in this study. If you have any questions about th is study I can be contacted at bajohnso@ufl.edu Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your help is greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida To participate in this survey si mply click on the web-link below. [SurveyLink] If the web-link does not work you can copy and past e the link directly on to your web browser to access the survey. (IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056) Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list. [RemoveLink]

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114 APPENDIX J PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: NON-RE SPONDENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], A week ago you received an e-mail inviting you to participate in an online survey about your graduate student experience. If you have not yet had time to complete the on line survey, please do so as soon as possible. Data collection will end at 5pm on Tuesday February 13th. This survey is being conducted as part of my dissertation re search on the relationships among graduate students social support, life purpose, and general well-being. Completing this survey should take no more than 15 minutes of your time. By clicking on the web-link below and completing the survey you are indicating that you consent to voluntarily participate in this study. If you have any questions about th is study I can be contacted at bajohnso@ufl.edu Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your help is greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida To participate in this survey si mply click on the web-link below. [SurveyLink] (IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056) Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list. [RemoveLink]

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115 APPENDIX K PILOT STUDY PHASE 2: RESPO NDENT THANK YOU E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], Thank you for completing the survey about your graduate student experience. The information you provided has enhanced our understanding of social support, life purpose, and stress. Your time and effort are greatly appreciated. Thanks again, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida Please note: If you do not wish to receive furthe r emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list. [RemoveLink]

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116 APPENDIX L DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONS Directions: For each of the following questions check the answer that best represents you. 1. What is your sex? ___ Male ___ Female 2. How old are you? ____ 3. What is your race? Please mark one of th e following race categories (as used by the U.S. Census Bureau) to indicate what you consider yourself to be. ___ White ___ Black, African American, Negro ___ American Indian or Alaska Native ___ Asian (Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Other Asian) ___ Pacific Islander (Native Ha waiian, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, Other Pacific Islander) ___ Spanish, Hispanic, Latino (Mexican, Mexi can American, Chicano; Puerto Rican; Cuban; Other Spanish, Hispanic, Latino) ___ Other: ______________ 4. In which of the following colleges is your graduate program department housed? ___ Agricultural and Life Sciences ___ Business Administration ___ Design, Construction, and Planning ___ Dentistry ___ Education ___ Engineering ___ Fine Arts ___ Health and Human Performance ___ Journalism and Communications ___ Law ___ Liberal Arts and Sciences ___ Medicine ___ Nursing ___ Pharmacy ___ Public Health a nd Health Professions ___ Veterinary Medicine

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117 5. What type of degree are you working towards? ___ Masters ___ Doctoral 6. How many credit hours are you currently en rolled in for this semester? _____ 7. How many semesters, including this semest er, have you been enrolled in your graduate program? When considering the nu mber of semesters please include Fall, Spring, and Summer. _____ 8. On which of the following activities do you focu s a majority of your time and energy with regard to your academics? ___ Coursework ___ Comprehensive or Qualifying Exams ___ Thesis or Dissertation Research

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118 APPENDIX M MAIN STUDY: PRE-NOTIFICATION E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], I am a fellow graduate student interested in the connections among personal well-being, sense of purpose, and social support. Two days from now will receive an e-mail reque sting your participation in an online survey about your graduate student experience, conduc ted as part of my dissertation research. Thank you in advance. Your help is greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list. [RemoveLink]

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119 APPENDIX N MAIN STUDY: CO VER LETTER E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], You were selected at random to participate in an online survey about your graduate student experience. This survey is being conducted as part of my dissertation re search on the relationships among graduate students social support, life purpose, and general well-being. Completing this survey should take no more than 15 minutes of your time. By clicking on the web-link below and completing the survey you are indicating that you consent to voluntarily participate in this study. If you have any questions about th is study I can be contacted at bajohnso@ufl.edu Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your help is greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida To participate in this survey si mply click on the web-link below. [SurveyLink] If the web-link does not work you can copy and past e the link directly on to your web browser to access the survey. (IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056) Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list. [RemoveLink] For those of you who already asked to be rem oved from the mailing list I apologize for this inconvenience. There was a technica l error with the first e-mail in that people were accidentally removed from the mailing list. I am sending the su rvey to the entire mailing list to make sure everyone who wants to participate has an opportun ity to do so. If you ask to be removed from the mailing list again I will make sure this happens.

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120 APPENDIX O MAIN STUDY: NON-RESPOND ENT FOLLOW-UP E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], A week ago you received an e-mail inviting you to participate in an online survey about your graduate student experience. If you have not yet had time to complete the on line survey, please do so as soon as possible. Data collection will end at 5pm on Sunday March 18th. This survey is being conducted as part of my dissertation re search on the relationships among graduate students social support, life purpose, and general well-being. Completing this survey should take no more than 15 minutes of your time. By clicking on the web-link below and completing the survey you are indicating that you consent to voluntarily participate in this study. If you have any questions about th is study I can be contacted at bajohnso@ufl.edu Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your help is greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida To participate in this survey si mply click on the web-link below. [SurveyLink] (IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056) Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list. [RemoveLink]

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121 APPENDIX P MAIN STUDY: NON-RESPONDENT DEMOGRAPHIC REQUEST E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], I wanted to contact you one last time regarding y our participation in an online survey about your graduate student experience. I would greatly appreciat e it if you would complete the entire survey. However, if you do not feel you have the time to do so I ask that you would take a few minutes to complete just the eight demographic questions at th e end of the survey (#s 71-78). Doing so will allow for a comparison between respondents and non-respondents based on de mographic characteristics. By clicking on the web-link below and completing the survey you are indicating that you consent to voluntarily participate in this study. If you have any questions about th is study I can be contacted at bajohnso@ufl.edu Thank you in advance for participating in this survey. Your help is greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida To participate in this survey si mply click on the web-link below. [SurveyLink] If the web-link does not work you can copy and past e the link directly on to your web browser to access the survey. (IRB Approved Protocol #2006-U-1056) Please note: If you do not wish to participate in this survey and do not wish to receive further emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list.

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122 APPENDIX Q MAIN STUDY: RESPONDE NT THANK YOU E-MAIL Hi [FirstName], Thank you for completing the survey about your graduate student experience. The information you provided has enhanced our understanding of social support, life purpose, and stress. Your time and effort are greatly appreciated. Thanks again, Beth Johnson, MPH, CHES Doctoral Candidate Department of Health Education and Behavior College of Health and Human Performance University of Florida Please note: If you do not wish to receive furthe r emails from me, please click the link below, and you will be automatically removed from my mailing list. [RemoveLink]

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123 LIST OF REFERENCES Abouserie, R. (1994). Sources and levels of suc cess in relation to locu s of control and selfesteem in university students. Education Psychology, 14(3), 323. Algina, J. (Fall 2005). Degrees of freedom (n-2) to achieve target accuracy with .95 probability Course material prepared for EDF 7405: Advanced Quantitative Foundations of Educational Research. Algina, J. (Fall 2005). Sample size to achieve accurate estimate of the squared multiple correlation coefficient ( 2) using the adjusted squared multip le correlation co efficient with .95 probability Course material prepared for EDF 7405: Advanced Quantitative Foundations of Educational Research. Bolt, M. (2004). Pursuing Human Strengths: A Positive Psychology Guide New York: Worth Publishers. Bruce, S.M., Conaglen, H.M, & Conaglen, J.V. (2005). Burnout in physicians: A case for peersupport. Internal Medicine Journal, 35, 272. Chickering, A.W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and Identity (2nd ed). San Francisco: JosseyBass. Christie, H. Munro, M., & Fisher, T. (October 2004). Leaving university early: Exploring the differences between continui ng and non-continuing students. Studies in Higher Education, 29(5), 617. Clara, I.P., Cox, B.J., Enns, M.W., Murray, L.T., & Torgrudc, L.J. (December 2003). Confirmatory factor analysis of the Multidimen sional Scale of Perceived Social Support in clinically distressed and student samples. Journal of Personalit y Assessment, 81(3), 265 270. Coffield, K.E. (February 1981). St udent apathy: A comparative study. Teaching of Psychology, 8(1), 26. Cohen, S., Kamarck, T, Mermelstein, R. (Dec 1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(4), 385. Cohen, S., Mermelstein, R., Kamarck, T., & H oberman, H.M. (1985). Measuring the functional components of social support. In I.G. Sarason, & B.R. Sarason (Eds.), Social Support: Theory, Research and Applications (pp. 73). Boston, Massachusetts: Kluwer Boston, Inc. Creswell, J.W. (2005). Educational Research: Planni ng, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research (2nd ed). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc / Merrill Prentice Hall.

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124 Cronan-Hillix, T., Gensheimer L.K., Cronan-Hillix, W.A., & Davidson, W.S. (October 1986). Students views of mentors in psychology graduate training. Teaching Psychology, 13(3), 123. Daley, E.M., McDermott, R.J., McCormack, K.R., & Kittleson, M.J. (2003). Conducting Webbased survey research: A lesson in internet designs. American Journal of Health Behavior, 27(2), 116. Dalton, J.C. (Fall 2001). Career and calling: Finding a place for the spirit in work and community. New Directions for Student Services, 95, 17. Deckro, G.R., Ballinger, K.M., Hoyt, M., & W ilcher, M. (May 2002). The evaluation of a mind/body intervention to reduce psychological distress and perceived stress in college students. Journal of American College Health, 50(6), 281. Dillman, D.A. (2000). Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design Method (2nd ed). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Dixon, W.A. & Reid, J.K. (Summer 2000). Positive li fe events as a moderator of stress-related depressive symptoms. Journal of Counseling and Development, 78(3), 343. Dooley, D. (2001). Social Research Methods (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Duenwald, M. (2002, September 17). Students fi nd another staple of campus life: Stress. The New York Times p.F5 Ellis, E.M. (Spring 2001). The impact of race and gender on graduate school socialization, satisfaction with doctora l study, and commitment to degree completion. Western Journal of Black Studies, 25(1), 30. Frager, R. & Fadiman, J. (2005). Abraham Maslow and transpersonal psychology. In Personality and personal growth (6th ed.) (pp. 341). Upper Saddl e River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Frankl, V. (1959). Mans search for meaning. New York: Washington Square. Frazier, P.A. & Schauben, L.J. (April 1994). Stre ssful life events and ps ychological adjustments among female college students. Measurement & Evaluation in Counseling & Development, 27(1), 280. Geraghty, M. (August 1997). Campuses see steep increase in student s seeking counseling. The Chronicle of Higher Educatio n: Past Chronicle Issues. Golde, C.M. (Spring 1998). Beginning graduate school: Explaining first-y ear doctoral attrition. New Directions for Higher Education, 101 55. Goldman, C.S. & Wong, E.H. (Summer 1997). Stress and the college student. Education: Chula Vista, 117(4), 604.

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125 Hawks, S. (Summer 1994). Spiritua l health: Definition and theory. Wellness Perspectives, 10(4), 3. Herzig, A.H. (Summer 2004). Becoming mathem aticians: Women and students of color choosing and leaving doctoral mathematics. Review of Educational Research, 74(2), 171 214. Higher Education Research Inst itute, Graduate School of Edu cation and Information Studies, UCLA. (October 2004). Summary of selected findings ( 2000-2003) The spiritual life of college students: A national study of college students search for meaning and purpose. Retrieved April 30, 2007, from http://www.spirituali ty.ucla.edu/results/ Findings_Summary_00-03.pdf Higher Education Research Inst itute, Graduate School of Edu cation and Information Studies, UCLA. (April 2005). The spiritual life of college students: A nati onal study of college students search for meaning and purpose. Retrieved May 20, 2006, from http://www.spirituality.ucla.edu/spir ituality/reports/FINAL REPORT.pdf Hindman, D.M. (Spring 2002). From splintered li ves to whole persons: Facilitating spiritual development in college students. Religious Education, 97(2), 165. Hodges, S. (April 2002). Mental health, depressio n, and dimensions of sp irituality and religion. Journal of Adult Development, 9(2), 109. Hudd, S.S., Dumlao, J., Erdmann-Sager, D., Murra y, D., Phan, E., Soukas, N., et al. (June 2000). Stress at college: Effects on health ha bits, health status and self-esteem. College Student Journal, 34(2), 217. Jenkins, R. & Elliot, P. (Dec 2004) Stressors, burnout and social support: Nurses in acute mental health settings. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 48(6), 622. Jung, J. (1997). Balance and source of so cial support in re lation to well-being. The Journal of General Psychology, 124(1), 77. Kanters, M.A., Bristol, D.G., & Attarian, A. (Fall 2002). The effects of outdoor experiential training on perceptions of college stress. Journal of Experiential Education, 25(2), 257 267. Kass, J.D., Friedman, R., Leserman, J., Zutte rmeister, P.C., & Benson, H. (1991). Health outcomes and a new index of spiritual experience. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 30(2), 203. Kennedy, J.E. & Kanthamani, H. (December 1994). Ps ychic and spiritual experiences, health, well-being, and meaning in life. Journal of Parapsychology, 58(4), 353. Laurence, P. (April 2005). Teaching, Learning, & Spirituality. Spirituality in Higher Education Newsletter, 2(2), 1.

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126 Lawson, T.J. & Fuehrer, A. (Winter 1989). The ro le of social support in moderating the stress that first-year gradua te students experience. Education, 110(2), 186. Love, P.G. (Fall 2001). Spirituality and stude nt development: Theoretical connections. New Directions for Student Services, 95, 7. Love, P. & Talbot, D. (Fall 1999). Defining spir itual development: A mi ssing consideration for student affairs. NASPA Journal, 37(1), 361. Mahoney, M.J. & Graci, G.M. (September 1999). Th e Meanings and correlates of spirituality: Suggestions from an explor atory survey of experts. Death Studies, 23(6), 521. Mallinckrodt, B. & Leong, F.T.L. (July/August 1992). Social support in academic programs and family environments: Sex differences and role conflicts for graduate students. Journal of Counseling & Development, 70, 716. Marascuilo, L.A. (1966). Large-sample multiple comparisons. Psychological Bulletin, 65, 280 290. Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W.B., & Leiter, P.M. (2001). Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 397. Maslow, A.H. (1987). Motivation and personality (3rd ed.). New York: HarperCollins. Park, C.L. & Levenson, M.R. (July 2002). Drinki ng to cope among college students: Prevalence, problems, and coping processes. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 63(4), 486. Parks, S.D. (2000). Big questions, worthy dreams: Mentor ing young adults in their search for meaning, purpose, and faith San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Pealer, L.N, Weiler, R.M., Pigg, R.M., Miller, D. & Dorman, S.M. (2001). The feasibility of a Web-based surveillance system to collect health risk behavior data from college students. Health Education & Behavior, 28(5), 547. Peiro, J.M. Gonzalez-Roma, V., Tordera, N., & Manas, M.A. (2001). Does role stress predict burnout over time among hea lth care professionals? Psychology and Health, 16, 511. Pines, A.M. & Keinan, G. (2005). Stre ss and burnout: The significant difference. Personality and Individual Differences, 39, 625. Portney, L.G. & Watkins, M.P. (2000). Foundations of clinical re search: Applications to practice (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Reed, S. & Giacobbi, P.R. (2004). The stress and c oping responses of certifi ed graduate athletic training students. Journal of Athlet ic Training, 39(2), 193. Reker, G.T. (1992). Manual for the Life Attitude Profile Revised. Peterborough, ON: Student Psychologists Press.

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127 Reker, G.T. (2005). Meaning in life of young, middl e-aged, and older adults : Factorial validity, age, and gender invariance of th e Personal Meaning Index (PMI). Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 71. Ross, S.E., Niebling, B.C., & Heckert, T.M. (June 1999). Sources of stress among college students. College Student Journal, 33(3), 312. Sciacca, J. & Melby, C. (Fall 1992). Stress-relate d symptoms, beliefs, and behaviors in college students. Wellness Perspectives, 9(1), 70. Spicuzza, F.J. & De Voe, M.W. (October 1982). Bu rnout in the Helping Professions: Mutual Aid Groups as Self-Help. Personnel and Guidance Journal 95. Strange, C. C. (Fall 2001). Spirit ual dimensions of graduate pr eparation in student affairs. New Directions for Student Services, 95, 57. SurveyMonkey. (2006). SurveyMonkey [computer software and services]. Retrieved December 15, 2006 from http://www.surveymonkey.com Tanyi, R.A. (September 2002). Towards clarif ication of the meaning of spirituality. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 39(5), 500. Thoits, P.A. (1995). Stress, coping, and social support Processes: Where are we? What next? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 35 (extra issue), 53. United States Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census. (2000). United States Census 2000: Individual Census Report. Retrieved October 10, 2006 from http://www.census.gov/dmd/www/pdf/d20ap0.pdf University of Florida Graduate School (2006). Graduate Students St udent FAQs: Registration Requirements. Retrieved October 5, 2006 from http://www.gradschool.rgp.ufl.edu/st udents/faqs-registration.html University of Florida Office of Institutional Planning & Research (2006). Table I-5 Enrollment by Age Fall 2006. Retrieved April 26, 2007 from http://www.ir.ufl.edu/factbook/i05_hist.pdf University of Florida Office of Institutional Planning & Resear ch (2006). Table I Enrollment by Level, Gender and Ethnicity Fall 2006. Retrieved April 26, 2007 from http://www.ir.ufl.edu/factbook/facti.pdf University of Florida Office of Institutional Planning & Research (2006). Table I-3 Final Head Count Enrollment by College, Level, and Ge nder Fall Terms. Retrieved April 26, 2007 from http://www.ir.ufl.edu/factbook/i-03_hist.pdf Vaux, A. & Wood, J. (1987). Social support resources behavior, and appraisals: A path analysis. Social Behavior and Personality, 15(1), 105.

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128 Williams, K. (August 2002). Minority and majority st udents retrospective perceptions of social support in doctoral programs. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 95(1), 187. Williams, K.B. (June 2000). Perceptions of social support in doctoral programs among minority students. Psychological Reports : Part 1, 86(3), 1003. Yiu-kee, C. & Tang, C.S. (April 1995). Existent ial correlates of burnout among mental health professionals in Hong Kong. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 17(2), 220. Young, J.S., Cashwell, C.S., & Woolington, V.J. (October 1998). The relati onship of spirituality to cognitive and moral development and purpose in life: An exploratory investigation. Counseling & Values, 43(1), 63.

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129 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Beth Ann Johnson grew up in Chesapeake, Vi rginia, where she graduated from Western Branch High School in 1998. In 2002, she gradua ted summa cum laude from Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia, receiving a Bachelor of Sc ience degree with a major in exercise science and a minor in health education. In 2004, she gra duated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, receiving a Master of Public Hea lth degree with a concentration in community health education. During her time at the Univer sity of North Carolina at Greensboro Beth also became a Certified Health Education Specialis t (CHES). In 2007, Beth graduated from the University of Florida with a doctorate in health education and behavior. Upon admittance to the University of Florida, she was awarded the Alumni Graduate Fellows hip, the highest award offered by the university to incoming graduate st udents. During her time at the University of Florida, Beth was committed to teaching underg raduate students, participating in research projects that lead to publish ed manuscripts and presentations at national conventions, and maintaining active membership in several professional organizati ons. In the fall of 2007, Beth joined the faculty of the Depart ment of Health Promotion in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia.