A Social Belonging Intervention for Minority Students


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A Social Belonging Intervention for Minority Students
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Ege, Engin
University of Florida
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Gainesville, Fla.
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Master's ( M.S.)
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University of Florida
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Rice, Kenneth G
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Chambers, John Robert
Moradi, Banafsheh


Subjects / Keywords:
belonging -- minority -- social
Psychology -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Psychology thesis, M.S.
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government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
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Social belonging is related to positive physical, psychological, and academic outcomes. However, feelings of social belongingness are not shared equally across all groups. In particular, minority groups often face social alienation and the consequences associated with not fitting in (Walton & Cohen, 2007). Their proclivity towards uncertainty about social belonging leaves some minority groups at risk for academic failure. This vulnerability becomes more pronounced with competing theories in the literature regarding minority groups’ need to assimilate to the majority culture versus an institution’s responsibility to be inclusive of all students (Museus & Maramba, 2011; Tinto, 1993). Despite the potentially beneficial nature of social belonging in improving outcomes for minority groups, relatively few studies have produced successful interventions that enhance such feelings (Cohen, 2004). The current study addressed this gap in the literature by replicating a previously supported social belonging intervention with a broader range of minority students (N = 149, Walton & Cohen, 2011). Results revealed the intervention did not significantly decrease uncertainty about social belonging for minority students nor did the intervention significantly predict increases in happiness and health. Implications and future directions are discussed in light of these findings.
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by Engin Ege.
Thesis (M.S.)--University of Florida, 2013.
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2 2013 Engin Ege


3 To my grandparents


4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank my advisor Dr. Ken Rice for his dedication to mentorship, which played an enormous role in my successful def ense. I also thank the Perfectionism Lab members for their significant involvement in the implementation of this study. Finally, I thank my family for their consistent support and love, which empowered me to pursue this project.


5 TABLE OF CONTENTS p age ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 7 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 8 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 10 Theories of Social Belonging ................................ ................................ ................................ 10 Benefits of Social Belonging ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 11 Social Belonging and Psychological Functioning ................................ ................................ .. 12 Social Belonging and Friendship ................................ ................................ ............................ 14 Minority Group Differences in Social Belonging and Outcomes ................................ .......... 15 Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups ................................ ................................ ........................ 17 Asian Americans ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 17 African Americans ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 1 8 Hispanics ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 19 Social Belonging and Cultural Integration ................................ ................................ ............. 21 Social Belonging Interventions ................................ ................................ ............................... 23 Individual and Group Differences in Disclosure ................................ ................................ .... 25 2 THE CURRENT STUDY ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 27 Hypotheses ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 27 Method ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 28 Participants ................................ ................................ ................................ ...................... 28 Uncertainty About Social Belongingness ................................ ................................ ........ 29 The Subjective Happiness Scale ................................ ................................ ...................... 29 Medical Outcomes Study Short Form Health Survey ................................ ..................... 30 Harmony Scale ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 30 Procedure ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 31 Results ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 33 Attrition and Data Cleaning ................................ ................................ ............................. 33 Descriptive Analyses ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 34 Tests of Assumptions ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 34 Preliminary Analyses ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 36 Testing Group Differences ................................ ................................ .............................. 36 Testing the Moderated Media tion Model ................................ ................................ ........ 36 Exploratory Analyses ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 37 Discussion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................... 38


6 Limitations and Possible Explanations for Findings ................................ ....................... 39 Str engths of the Current Study ................................ ................................ ........................ 42 Implications for Future Research ................................ ................................ .................... 43 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ .............................. 52 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 63


7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 2 1 Gender and Racial/Ethnic Composition of the Sample ................................ ..................... 45 2 2 Comparison of Sample Characteristics for Treatment and Control Groups ...................... 46 2 3 Means, standard deviations, and reliability of the variables in the analyses .................... 47 2 4 Correlations between mediator variable, covariate, and outco me variables in control group ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 48 2 5 Correlations between independent variables, covariates, and outcome variables in treatment group ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. 49


8 LIST OF FIGURES Figu re page 2 1 The moderating role of race in explaining the indirect effect of treatment, uncertainty about social belonging, and positive outcomes. ................................ ................................ 50 2 2 Flow chart of participant retainment. ................................ ................................ ................. 51


9 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science A SOCIAL BELONGING INTERVENTION FOR MINORITY STUDENTS By Engin Ege August 2013 Chair: Kenneth G. Rice Major : Psychology Social belonging is related to positive physical, psychological, and academic outcom es. However, feelings of social belongingness are not shared equally across all groups. In particular, minority groups often face social alienation and the consequences associated with not fitting in (Walton & Cohen, 2007) Their proclivity towards uncerta inty about social belonging leaves some minority groups at risk for academic failure. This vulnerability becomes more pronounced majority culture versus an insti Museus & Maramba, 2011 ; Tinto, 1993) Despite the potentially beneficial nature of social belong ing in improving outcomes for minority groups, relatively few studies have produced successful interven tions that enhance such feelings (Cohen, 2004). The current study address ed this gap in the literature by replicating a previously supported social belonging intervention with a broader range of minority students ( N = 149, Walton & Cohen, 2011 ). Results re vealed the intervention did not significantly decrease uncertainty about social belonging for minority students nor did the intervention significantly predict increases in happiness and health. Implications and future directions are discussed in light of t hese findings.


10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION According to the Belongingness Hypothesis, i ndividuals have a natural innate drive to form and maintain relationships with each other (Baumeister & Leary 1995 ) Cognitively, individuals are preoccupied think ing ab out relations and assess real life situations in these terms. Emotionally humans regar d the formation and deepening of soc ial bonds as joyous occasions ( e.g., birth of a child, wedding). that arises from last i ng, positive, and significant can make adjustments easier and increase achievement in academic areas (Walton & Cohen, 2011; Walton, Cohen, Cwir, & Spencer, 2011, p. 2). Furthermore, social belonging may play a greater role in t he life success of some groups over others, namely, historically vulnerable groups such as racial/ethnic minorities. Theories of Social Belonging The importance of social belonging is both empirically and theoretically supported. According to Tajfel and Tu social identities from group membership and seek positive identities. Positive social identity is obtained by satisfactory comparisons with other in group members and feelings of group su periority. In addition, those with less favorable identities within a group tend to remove themselves from it or work toward a more positive social identity (Brown, 2000 ). basic unsatisfied needs, namely, physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, and self actualization needs. Some needs take precedence over others, and therefore, must be met in a certain order (hierarchy). For example, belongingness must be sati sfied before esteem needs (e.g., achievement) can be met (Hagerty, 1998). In a study designed to determine which of the


11 five needs were most important for self reported happiness in college students, Pettijohn and Pettijohn (1996) found that belongingness and love prevailed. Determination Theory, there are three human needs that must be present for positive growth and personal well being to occur: competence, autonomy, and relatedness. In regard to relatedn ess, when persons are in relationally supportive environments, they feel comfortable testing themselves. Similarly, relatedness encourages intrinsic motivation and internalization of school related behaviors across the lifespan, which are important compone nts of academic success (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Benefits of Social Belonging physical benefits. Feelings of social belongingness have been shown to be beneficial to mental h ealth, encouraging clinically important changes in depression (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck, & Hoberman, 1985; Lakey & Cronin, 2008), anxiety, (Cohen et al., 2000), post traumatic stress disorder symptoms (Brewin, Andrews, & Valentine, 2000), non specific p sychological distress (Barrera, 1986; Cohen & Wills, 1985; Procidano, 1992), and negative affect (Finch, Okun, Pool, & Ruehlman, 1999). Two forms of social belonging are social integration and social support, both of which have been linked to positive heal th outcomes. S structure and quantity of social relationships, such as the size and density of networks and the whereas s relationships, Knoll, 2007, p. 234). Berkman and Syme (1979) had reported a connection between social integration and lower rates of mortality, controlling for other factors such as relati ve health. Since then, researchers have expanded on this finding, revealing that social support lowers mortality rates in individuals with cardiovascular (Brummett et al., 2001) and infectious diseases


12 such as HIV (Lee & Rotheram Borus, 2001). Additionally social support affects less life threatening but more prevalent health problems such as upper respiratory infections (Cohen, Doyle, Skoner, Rabin, & Gwaltney, 1997) and general functioning of the immune system (Uchino, 2006). Social support has been lin ked to cognitive improvement across adulthood. The presence of social support can lead to less severe cognitive decline with aging (Cohen et al., 2000) and decreased rates of dementia (Fratiglioni et al., 2004). Social support can also result in improved e xecutive functioning in middle aged African Americans, as measured by performance on the Stroop Color and Word Test and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) (Sims et al., 2011). Walton and Cohen (2011) concluded that a social belonging intervention facil itated an increase in cumulative grade point average (GPA) among African American college students. Moreover, perceived social exclusion was shown to affect a decline in IQ scores, GRE scores, and performance on complex cognitive tasks (Baumeister, Twenge, & Nuss, 2002). Social Belonging and Psychological Functioning The need for social belonging is well grounded in theory and research; however, there is a less precise understanding of the nature of the relationship between social belonging and positive and negative outcomes. When trying to appreciate what mediates the relationship between social support and other variables, researchers turn to behavioral and psychological pathways as possible explanations (Uchino, 2006). Behaviors such as eating right and exercising may be promoted by means of social support, either directly through friendly advice or indirectly through support, giving meaning to life for the individual (DiMatteo, 2004). In a ddition, the amount of support provided for a given problem can be a function of how active a person is in attempting to solve the problem themselves (Schwarzer & Weiner, 1991). Psychologically, social support impacts the cognitive


13 appraisal of a stressful situation that, in turn, can ease coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984 ). For example, perceived social support from family and friends predicts positive perceptions of the school environment, self esteem, and cultural congruity among Asian Americans (Gloria & Ho, 2003). The d issonance existing between provided and perceived support may be attributed to the level of intimacy of the relationship as well as time lagged recognition of support (Coriell & Cohen, 1995; Schwarzer & Knoll, 2007). Finally, social support may be reciprocally influenced by behavioral and psychological p athways. For instance, an individual who is feeling depressed may appraise a lack of social support, and consequently, be more likely to engage in negative interactions ( Coyne, 1976 ). The example of self efficacy demonstrates the ambiguous relationship that exists between social support and other variables. Social support has been suggested to enable self efficacy in persons by reducing negative affect that is often an internal indicator for competence as well as safeguarding individuals against stressful situations (Brown & Harris, 1978; Schwarzer & Knoll, 2007). This model is referred to as the Stress Buffering Theory. However, according to the Support Cultivation Hypothesis, it may also be that self efficacy increases social support in those who are driven by their self efficacy to expand social networks (Brown & Harris, 1978; Schwarzer & Knoll, 2007). It is possible that these two theories are not necessarily mutu ally exclusive, but rather that social support and self efficacy reciprocally influence each other. The relationships between social belonging and some outcome variables (e.g., self efficacy ) remains ambiguous, however there is a clearer understanding in the literature regarding extensions of social belonging, such as the quality of social relationships, and how they vary across different gender and racial groups.


14 Social Belonging and Friendship Minority groups are more susceptible to social alienation a s well as the psychological and health consequences of that alienation than other non minority groups (Walton & Cohen, 2007). Social belonging directly affects physical and mental health outcomes and carries important implications for positive life consequ ences for minority groups including persistence in school. In predominantly White educational settings, the presence of social support networks for minorities has been shown to increase level of comfort of these groups and to predict level of college adapt ation amongst Asian Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics ( Hausmann, Schofield, & Woods, 2006; Kimbrough, Molock, & Walton, 1996; Yosso et al., 2009; Zea, Jarama, & Bianchi, 1995). For example, Gloria and Ho (2003) found that for Asian American under graduates, social support was the single biggest predictor for persistence in school. Reciprocal relationships or shared agreement in regards to a friendship between two people has important implications for feelings of social belonging. Adolescents tend t o be more motivated and involved in school and have higher achievement scores when they rate their friendships as supportive and reciprocal (Cros noe, Cavanagh, & Elder, 2003). I nterracial friendships tend to be less reciprocal than intra racial friendships leaving minority groups at a disadvantage (Way et al., 2005). Inter racial friendships tend to be less reciprocal and are more difficult to maintain partly because individuals in these friendships have fewer shared activities (Vaquera & Kao, 2008 ). Those minority students with reciprocal friendships have feel ings of school belonging and do better in school t han those whose friendships are not reciprocated (Vaquera & Kao, 2008 ) Asian American adolescents have the highest rates of reciprocal friendships af ter White adolescents, then Hispanics, and finally African American adolescents have lowest rates of friendship reciprocity (Vaquera & Kao, 2008 ). Furthermore, Asian American adolescents tend to have shorter and fewer close friendships than African America n


15 and Hispanic adolescents. This may be because African American and Hispanic parents are less likely to discourage time outside of school to be spent with friends than their Asian American parent counterparts (Way et al., 2005). Class differences may also play a role on social support outcomes. For example, those minorities with higher socioeconomic statuses tend to have greater numbers of reciprocal friendships (Vaquera & Kao, 2008). Besides creating and maintaining friendships, the quality of friendships matters as well. Walton and Cohen suggest minority groups are more likely to experience uncertainty about more uncertain of the quality of their social bonds and thus more sensitive to issues generally, women are also more sensitive to the quality of a relationship, and as such, may rate benefits from an opposite sex relationship lower than men do (Coriell & Cohen, 1995). Women tend to take more respon sibility for those with whom they are in a relationship, and hence, there is a greater cost to the relationship for women that is absent for men in their opposite sex friendships (Kessler, McLeod, & Wethington, 1985). In review, there is empirical support that the benefits of friendship are not shared equally across gender and racial groups. This disparity highlights a larger problem for racial and ethnic minorities in regards to social belonging and academic adjustment. Minority Group D ifferences in Socia l Belonging and Outcomes Research suggests that disparities exist between majority and minority racial groups at most levels of outcome measurement (e.g., academic performance, finances, health). African American and Hispanic students among other minoriti es in schools face prejudice and discrimination ( Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000 ; Harber, 1998 ). Academically, these same students also receive lower grades than their majority counterparts ( Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002 ). Tinto (1993) suggests that meeting academic demands, among


16 other obstacles, makes it more difficult for minority students from disadvantaged backgrounds to adjust to college than the general student population. Educational disparities continue into graduate scho ol. Zhou et al. (2004) reported ethnic minorities in one school psychology graduate program faced a lack of mentors with a shared ethnicity and felt inadequately trained in their undergraduate school for their current program. In light of this academic str uggle, Hausmann, Schofield, and Woods (2006) found a possible buffer for minority groups. Their study revealed sense of belonging significantly predicted social and academic adjustment to college, quality of experience at college, and academic performance Microaggressions are one form of discrimination minorities face that affect their feelings of belonging in university settings ( Clark et al., 2012; Locks, Hurtado, Bowman, & Oseguera 2008) and have been found to be related to psychological adjustment (Me rcer, Zeigler Hill, Wallace, & Hayes, 2011) unconsciously delivered in the form of subtle snubs or d et al., 2007, p. 273). Asian American, Hispanic, and African American minority students have reported being exposed to similar microaggressive themes, such as inferior intellect, potential crimi nal, and inferior cu lture (Sue et al. 2009 ; Sue, Nadal et al., 2008 ; Yosso, Smith, Ceja, & Solo rzano, 2009 ). In addition, Booker (2007) found minority students felt more comfortable in institutions where they had the respect of other students and were not faced with discrimi nation or intolerance regarding their minority status. Hausmann, Schofield and Woods (2006) also found social class to be strongly correlated to sense of belonging in college for students. Walpole (2003) suggested that economic burdens may play a role in h indering social investment for minority students. She found that students


17 from lower SES backgrounds demonstrated less involvement in co curricular activities than high SES students (e.g., more than half of low SES students spend less than one hour per wee k on co curricular activities). Walpole suggested these students simply have less time than high SES students to be involved because they reported spending more time working for pay than high SES students (52% of low SES students spent 16 plus hours at wor k compared to 37% of high SES students). Having less time for extracurricular activities may put these students at a disadvantage. At risk students who participate in extracurricular activities have been found to be less likely to drop out than students wh o do not (Mahoney & Cairns, 1997). Taken together, academic and financial disparities between Whites and minority groups as well as racial climate at many university settings suggest minorities are at an inherent disadvantage in some life outcome variabl es. However, there is promising research that has found feelings of belonging may help improve health and academic success and therefore buffer some of these disparities (Walton & Cohen, 2011). Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups Asian Americans Asian Amer icans have a reputation of educational success in the United States. Asian Americans have exhibited higher college entry, persistence, and completion rates than any other ethnic minority and even their White counterparts ( Hsia & Peng, 1998; Peng & Wright, 1994) However, this level of educational prestige is not evenly distributed among all of the Asian American subgroups. Ong and Hee (1993) suggested the success mimics more of a bimodal distribution with Chinese, Japanese, and Korean individuals exhibiting a much higher level of educational attainment than Filipinos, Pacific Islanders, and Southeast Asians. Despite the positive stereotype, researchers have suggested that the educational success


18 influenced by the lack of opportunity in other areas of life, leaving academic achievement the only options for upward mobility (Chow, 2011). However, there are relatively few studies that have examined social and psycholog ical variables that influence adaptation and consequently act as a possible buffer against academic failure (Gloria & Ho, 2003). The limited empirical analysis of Asian American adaptation may be explained by the powerful positive stereotype of academic an d economic success and few mental health problems associated with Asian Americans (Suzuki, 1994). As mentioned earlier, this stereotype does a disservice for those that share the Asian American minority status, but not the expected success. For example, fo r Cambodian and Vietnamese students, the rate of obtaining a four year baccalaureate degree falls below the national average (Le, 2011; U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). Also, this stereotype perpetuates negative images of other minorities by implying those who h ave not been as successful as Asian Americans (e.g., African Americans) are responsible for their own failings in society (Chow, 2011). Asian American families place great importance on educational success especially in higher education as an avenue for up ward mobility (Lee, 1996). Failure to live up to these expectations may cause Asian American students feelings of shame and familial guilt (Toupin, 1980) as well as loss of support from their family and community (Yeh & Huang, 1996). In light of this inten se pressure to succeed and negative cultural consequences associated with perceived academic failure, research demonstrates social support is needed to encourage academic success in Asian Americans. African Americans For African Americans, being aware of the negative prejudice against them can impact their perceptions of their own race as well as sense of belonging. For example, Barlow et al. (2000), found that African American women who felt excluded from the national identity by


19 Whites judged other Afric an Americans as coming from lower economic and social positions; and these judgments were found to be unrelated to the actual SES of individuals. African Americans are one minority group that has faced a negative intellectual stereotype in American culture Awareness of this stereotype may become amplified for African Americans based on other cues in their environment, such as an underrepresentation of African American students in their schools (Cook et al., 2012). This is problematic for students who tie t heir academic success to feelings of belonging. Mendoza Denton and colleagues (2002) found African American students doubted their belonging at historically White institutions and those who were sensitive to class based discrimination reported significantl y lower feelings of belonging than those who were less sensitive. Solorzano, Ceja, and Yosso (2009) reported African Americans surveyed at ethnic majority universities considered changing schools due to feelings of isolation and insecurity that stemmed fro m being underestimated in the classroom. Furthermore, Hausman et al. (2006) found peer support predicted sense of belonging for African Americans. Taken together, these findings suggest African Americans are sensitive to alienation based on race and may th rive under conditions where they feel accepted by their peers and faculty. Hispanic s In the year 2000, Hispanics exceeded African Americans for the title of largest minority group in the United States (United States Census, 2000). Furthermore, between 2000 and 2010, growth in the Hispanic population accounted for more than half of the growth in the United States (United States Census, 2010). This shift in demographics was partly due to the large number of foreign born Hispanics immigrating into the U.S., co upled with high birth rates among this population (de los Santos & de los Santos, 2003). As this shift continues, trying to encourage academic persistence for thi s group. For example the number of Hispanics in


20 higher education has doubled over the last two decades (NSF, 2009). Maestas, Vaquera, and Zehr (2007) found academic factors such as participating in education related support programs as well as perceived in terest by faculty in student development increased student sense of belonging in a university with a large Hispanic population (35%). Other factors that increased feelings of belonging were living on campus, being involved in extracurricular activities (e. g., Greek life), and holding leadership positions in student organizations. Yosso et al. (2009) found Hispanic students faced with racial micro aggressions felt isolated, rejected and had race related stress. Furthermore, Hurtado and Carter (1997) found Hi spanics had less of a sense of belonging when exposed a negative racial climate at their university. For many Hispanics in the United States, racial identification may be more a product of feelings of belonging than biological markers. For example, Hispani cs who identify as White are more likely to have a high school diploma, be employed, earn higher wages, be older and vote these correlations, Rothenberg asserted th at Hispanics view race as a product of changeable characteristics such as income or education, and being White therefore represents inclusion and a level of success usually associated with the majority culture. In review, college campuses are not immune t o the positive and negative racial stereotypes perpetuated in the larger society. In fact, such stereotypes may affect educational expectations of minority groups and their academic outcomes (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Solorzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2009). Further more, the changing demographics of minority populations in America and consequently, college campuses, make the known discrimination and social alienation of these groups a primary concern for institutions of higher learning. Understanding and identifying experiences shared across minority groups (e.g., stereotypes


21 regarding intelligence) may help such institutions plan for and buffer social alienation that those with a racial/ethnic minority status will likely face. Social Belonging and Cultural Integratio n Cultural suicide, which is reportedly related to social belonging, reveals gender differences. Museus and Maramba (2011) described c from cultures incongruent with those on their respective college campuses mus t detach from and Maramba (2011) found that women were more likely to experience pressure to commit cultural suicide, more likely to have adjustment difficu lty, and were less likely than men to have feelings of belonging on campus. Museus and Maramba found the effects of cultural suicide on feelings of social belongingness were indirect, with adjustment difficulty mediating the relationship. It appears the cu ltural dissonance experienced by some Asian American groups creates serious obstacles in portraying their true identities and feeling accepted by the campus community. ial belonging in an educational setting. Tinto theorized that integration into academic and social structures largely influences academic persistence in students, especially the first year of college. This integration could be done formally, through follow ing academic regulations and attending extra curricular activities or informally through interaction with professors and peers and socially with minority groups was a good start for integrating into a campus, but ultimately, not enough. There needs to be a real connection to the majority culture for the student as well, in r


22 instead of institutional responsibility for integration of minority groups ( Rendn et al., 2000; Tierney, 1999 ) In response to the inefficiencies described for T researchers have examined sense of belonging and pressures to adapt by institutions among minority students. Previous research indicates Asian Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics experience pressures to conform to t he dominant culture in college settings (Lewis, Chesler, & Forman, 2000) and ethnic student clubs that provide a cultural outlet play a large role in developing their sense of belonging and adjustment at predominantly White institutions (Museus, 2008). Joh nson et al. (2007) measured sense of belonging as agreement with statements such as They found Asian Pacific Islanders had less of a sense of belonging than their White counterparts in their first year of college. Additionally, the amount of belonging was contingent on how smooth the academic and social transition experienced by the student was. Not surprisingly, second generation Asian Americans feel the most press ure to commit cultural suicide, and first generation students feel the least amount of social belonging (Museus & Maramba, 2011). Museus and Maramba found an indirect relationship between pressures to commit cultural suicide, connections to cultural herita ge, and social belonging, with the first two factors mediating the relationship between ease of adjustment and sociable belonging (2011). Museus and Maramba found Filipino Americans had an easier adjustment and sense of belonging when they maintained cu ltural connections on campus. Also, Yoon and Lee (2010) found a sense of social connection to both mainstream and ethnic communities promoted wellbeing among Korean immigrants. In a large scale study of over 370 universities in the US, Chang (1999) found s tudents had a high level of college satisfaction, and social self concept


23 when they had socialized with diverse peers and had discussions surrounding race and ethnic issues outside of class. Maestas, Vaquera, and Zehr (2007) found engaging in positive beha viors related to diversity, socializing with different racial/ethnic groups, and being supportive of affirmative action goals all increased feelings of diversity at one institution where minority groups made up almost 50% of the student population. These f indings suggest institutions have the capacity to encourage academic persistence and success amongst minority groups by shaping that environment (Museus & Maramba, 2011; Museus, 2008). Tierney (1999) suggested that institutions should adopt the idea of cul tural integrity in which they develop programs to engage culture. Social Belonging Interventions According to Cohen (2004), empirical evidence for social support b ased interventions on psychosocial and health outcomes is on the whole inconsistent and unconvincing. As Cohen explained, part of the problem may be that these social interventions tend to utilize strangers as a form of social support (e.g., in group thera py). The target populations of these interventions are expect ed to improve function. Cohen (2004) points out that the early intervention experiments initially showed positive results (e.g., Spiegel, Bloom, & Kraemer, 1989). However, as sample sizes increased dramatically and the trials involved multiple sites and in terventionists, the effects were no longer seen (e.g., Berkman et al., 2003). Hausmann et al. (2006) conducted an intervention to enhance sense of belonging in which participants were asked to complete a series of surveys. Those in the experimental group received communication from their university administrators thanking them for their


24 participation and emphasizing that the participants and their answers were valued by the university. They also received small items such as card holders with the university Both of these tasks were designed to enhance sense of connection and belonging to the campus. There were two control groups, one that received gifts but without the university logo on them and another that did not receive gifts. Both of thes e control groups only had communication with the professor running the study, not university administrators. Although all groups had lower sense of belonging later as the academic year progressed, those in the intervention had a marginally significant smal ler decline in social belonging as well as intention to persist on school. Although these findings were encouraging, the significance and effect size of the findings were small. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of social integration, exper iment based social interventions have been largely unable to replicate these positive effects. Walton and Cohen (2011) addressed social alienation through a series of psychological interventions with promising findings. One such psychological intervention used was the saying is & Higgins, 2008, p. 539). In this case, the topic was unce rtainty regarding social belonging on campus. Walton and Cohen also removed the taboo of an intervention by disguising the study as an opportunity for participants to help future classmates adapt to the new school. Walton and Cohen targeted African America n undergraduate students. The treatment group, comprised of feelings of social isolation are common across all groups of people and those feelings are short lived. The n, in order to help participants internalize this message, participants were prompted to write how their personal experiences were similar to that study. Finally, the participants read


25 their essay to a camera with the impression that their speech would be used with future students in the form of an intervention to help with adjustment to the new school. This intervention was successful in increasing feelings of social belongingness and the positive outcomes associated with those feelings. Results revealed t here were no significant differences between African visits, self reported health, happiness, and greatly reduced in terms of GPA (closed the gap by 52%) three y ears later. African Americans in the control group did not improve in GPA and showed significantly less improvement in health and well being compared to African Americans in the treatment group over time. Whites in the control group showed no difference co mpared to Whites in the treatment group in terms of outcome measures. A major purpose of the current study was to test this intervention on a broader range of minority students. Encouraging feelings of social belongingness through interventions has the pot ential to be a powerful tool for institutions in helping minority students adapt. Individual and Group Di fferences in Disclosure Although there is literature supporting the use of disclosure based interventions there may be certain groups for which such i ntervention s (e.g., expressive writing) do not have robust effects. Lum l ey, Tojek and Macklem (2002) examined existing literature and found support for the hypothesis that disclosure may not be the best intervention for repressed individuals who do not exp ress as much emotion during disclosure. Similarly, preliminary studies of individuals with alexithymia (lacking words for feelings) show that this group does not benefit from the intervention. As another example, Knowles, Campos, and Wearing (2011) randoml y assigned White and Asian American undergraduate participants to two group s Over four sessions, t hose in the treatment group wrote about traumatic events and those in the control group wrote about trivial events. Knowles et al. found Asian Americans did not experience insight over the four


26 sessions and did not show increase d health benefits compared to the ir White counterparts. Knowles et al. (2011) argued that individuals from cultures that do n o t emphasize writing/verbalization may not benefit from an e xpressive writing intervention. Although this was a reasonable interpretation, there may be other explanations. For example, Asian Americans may subscribe to cultural values that emphasize interpersonal harmony and conflict avoidance, for this reason, the taboo of an intervention may have discouraged participants from sharing their adverse experiences during disclosure and benefiting from the therapeutic process (Hofstede, 1980). The current study plans to further examine disclosure as a component in an int ervention, in the context of social belonging, by accounting for the covarying effects of such possible cultural variables.


27 CHAPTER 2 THE CURRENT STUDY Due to the strong need for social support to ease adjustment and the relative vulnerable state racial minorities are in to receive it, this intervention study aimed to utilize culturally sensitive techniques to encourage feelings of social belongingness which in turn should predict positive outcomes associated with well being. cent research on African American and White students served as an important foundation for the current investigation. To extend that work, we investigated if their intervention yielded positive outcomes for a more diverse group of racial/ethnic minorities. We extended their work in other ways as well, by examining the effects of disclosure based writing and testing several relevant covariates of potential intervention effects. For example, research by Knowles et al. (2011) did not support the use of express ive writing as a productive intervention for Asian Americans but their stud y failed to account for other variables, such as the cultural influences of interpersonal students using a disclosure based writing intervention in a culturally sensitive way. Hypotheses Figure 2 1 displays the model to be tested in the current study The social belonging intervention is expected to have positive effects on reducing social belonging uncertainty, which in turn should yield positive student outcomes. That is, social belonging uncertainty is hypothesized as the mechanism through which th e social integration intervention will affect outcomes. Additional complexities that will be tested include the modera ting effects of minority status on the mediator model. The covariate effects of empirically relevant variables in the main model will also be tested (e.g., gender, age, GPA, interpersonal harmony/disintegration


28 avoidance), although the current study does not have specific directional expectations for these variables. 1. Previous research suggests racial/ethnic groups face similar experiences o f social alienation and consequent negative life outcome variables ( Dovidio & Gaertner, 2000; Sue et al., 2009; Vaquera & Kao, 2008; Way et al., 2005 ) therefore the current study does not expect minority race group differences in level of belonging or rep orted psychological and physical outcomes. 2. Uncertainty about social belonging will mediate the relationship between treatment and positive reported psychological, and physical outcomes (see Figure 2 1). More specifically, those in the treatment group will ex perience increased social belonging and consequently, increased positive outcomes (i.e., self reported health and happiness), compared to those in the control group. Furthermore, the indirect effect derived from the mediator model is expected to be greater for minority students than for White students. That is, minority status is expected to moderate the indirect effect that the treatment has on positive outcomes. More specifically, racial minorities in the treatment group, compared with those in the contro l group, will experience higher levels of social belonging and consequently increased positive outcomes. This same effect is not expected to be seen for Whites in the treatment group nor minorities or Whites in the control group. Method Participants Data were collected from undergraduates in a large Southeastern university who already completed between one and three semesters at the university. A total of 149 participants (121 women, 28 men) met inclusion criteria for the study (i.e., at least 18 years old completed between one to three semesters at the university; see Figure 2 2 ). The racial/ethnic composition of the sample was 44.3% White, 16.1% Hispanic 1 12.8% Asian American, and 10.1% African American students. Additionally the sample had 2.7% biracial or multiracial, 7.4% American Indian/Alaskan Native, .7% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and 6.0% participants 1 Similar to NIH criteria, the current study identified White as the racial category on the demographic survey and Hispanic or not Hispanic as the ethnic category (Kelty, 2008)


29 46.3% of the participants had completed one semester at the university, 32.2% had completed two semesters, and 19.5% had complet ed three semesters (see Table 2 2) M easures Uncertainty A bout Social Belongingness U ncertainty about s ocial belonging in college was assessed with two items (Walton & Cohen, 2007); the University of Florida and sometimes at my university (2) When something bad happens, I feel that maybe I ) The two items used a 7 point L ikert scale (1=Strongly Disagree through 7=Strongly Agree). The average of these two items provides a final uncertainty about belonging score, with a higher score representing more uncertainty. Regarding validity, uncertainty about belongi ng was found to be negatively correlated with happiness such that greater uncertainty about belonging was related to less happiness ( r = .42) in the current study. Also in the current study, the two items were positively correlated with each other ( r = .6 4). Walton and Cohen (2011) did not report validity for the scores of these two items. The Subjective Happiness Scale (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999). The Subjective Happines s Scale is a 4 item measure with a 7 point L ikert scale. Subjective Happiness Scale scores have been shown to have high reliability, = 89, and moderate to high convergent and discriminant validity with college populations (Mattei & Schaefer, 2004; Walton & Cohen, 2011). Very Happy P mpa red with most of my


30 very happy. They enjoy life regardless of what is going on, getting the most out of everything. To what extent does this char acte rization describe y Great Deal); and Some people are generally not very happy. Although they are not depressed, they never seem as happy as they might be. To what exten t ot At All, 7=A Great Deal) (rev This measure is scored by taking the average of items, with a higher score representing more self reported happiness Medical Outcomes Study Short Form Health Survey The final questionnaire is comprised of the five item General H ealth compone nt of the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form Health Survey (McHorney et al., 1994). Th e Medical Outcome survey scores have been shown to have high internal consistency ( = .84) and moderate to high validity with college populations (Walton & Cohen, 2011; Ware, 2004) The items are measured on a 5 point Likert scale In general, wou I seem to get sick a l I am as ; items 2 5, 1=D efin itely True through 5=Definitely False) This measure is scored by taking the average of items (aft er reverse coding several items), with a higher score representing better perceived health. Harmony Scale The Harmony Scale is comprised of 20 items with 2 subscales: Harmony (12 items) and Disintegration Avoidance (8 items) (Leung et al., 2010). The firs t subscale Harmony, disintegration avoidance measures the evasion o f conflict to protect the interpersonal


31 measured on a five point Likert fo rmat scale (1=Strongly Disagree through 5=Strongly Agree). Previous research studying Asian American populations found that scores for both subscales had good internal consistency and construct validity (Harmony, =0.76; Disintegration Avoidance, = 0.63) (Lim, 2009). In the current study, the scores on this measure had high reliability (Harmony, =0.91; Disintegration Avoidance, = 0.71). This measure is scored by taking the average of items, with a higher score representing more of an inclination towards interpersonal harmony and disintegration avoidance. Procedure The current study was conducted using a 2 (Treatment, Control) by 2 (Minority Race, Majority Race) posttest only, control group design. Samples of freshman and sophomore White, Asian American, A frican American, Hispanic, and other minority students at the university participated in the study for one semester. In exchange for their participation, those enrolled in introductory psychology courses received course credit. Participants completed the c urrent study in two parts. In the first part, participants were alternatively assigned to the in person intervention ( 34 White in control, 32 in treatment; 39 minority in contr ol, 44 in treatment; see Table 2 2 ), which then lasted approximately an hour. The second part of the study involved participants completing the uncertainty about belongingness survey, Subjective Happiness Scale, and Medical Outcome Survey. These items were answered through a web based survey tool (Qualtrics) three weeks after the interv ention. The first minority and first White participants were randomly assigned to either the participant following the first was alternatively assigned to either the treat ment or control group.


32 Also, each participant experienced this phase of the study individually. Following the procedures reported by Walton and Cohen (2011, p. 1), this phase of the study was introduced as an help us provide incoming [University of Florida] students next year and in the years to come with more instructed to read a report detailing the findings of a survey taken from juniors and seniors at their university. This report detailed the finding that most students sur veyed had feelings of social alienation during their first year, but developed feelings of social belongingness over time. This report indicated that this was true of all students regardless of ethnicity and gender. Following Walton and Cohen, the report w as fabricated for the purposes of encouraging feelings of social belongingness within the participants, although there is some evidence that feelings of social belongingness are more fluid and shifts in social belonging do occur ( Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Berkman & Glass, 2000) The second part of this intervention was aimed at having the participants internalize the message, through the saying is experience in college changes in the way the students coming to [univers ity name] next year or in subsequent years, so they know what their Participants were then asked to read this essay aloud to a video camera, with the explanation that the recording would also b e used to help a group of future freshman in their


33 transition to college. The purpose of the video recording was to further internalize the message in the participants as well as remove the potential taboo of an intervention; a possible obstacle in benefit ing from the intervention for minority participants. The control participants received the same procedure, but read a prompt about a study that found academic difficulty decreased over time for students, to make it distinct from social belonging. Three wee ks later, a post intervention survey was distributed online to assess psychological responses to sense of belonging, health and happiness. Participants were also asked to authorize the release of their academic transcripts two years later, so that academic performance data could be measured as a long term study outcome. In review, participants completed measures three weeks after the intervention to evaluate stud y (2011). The experimental condition (with a treatment and control group) instructed participants to write an essay and speak in front of camera using personal experience to support the results of a survey (the topic of the survey was either social belongi ng or academic difficulty). This was done to encourage participants to internalize their message and transform the assigned problem from personal to universal and short lived. Results Attrition and Data Cleaning Of the 212 participants who initially parti cipated, 31 were excluded in the analyses due to not completing the follow up measures. A one way analysis of variance revealed that there were no significant minority status (White or minority) or condition (treatment or control) differences between parti cipants who completed the follow up surveys compared to those who did not. An additional eight participants were excluded due to not meeting study screening requirements (e.g., participants who completed more th an three semesters at the university). Three participants


34 had one missing item on the Medical Outcome Short Form Questionnaire. Mean substitution scoring was used for those participants to reach an average final score on the measure. Of the 173 participants, 24 did not complete part two of the in pe rson intervention (i.e., the video recording). A one way ANOVA and follow up regression analyses revealed significant differences in uncertainty about belonging such that those who did not complete both parts had more uncertainty about social belonging tha n those participants who did complete both parts of the study ( .184, t = 2.30, p <.05 ). This effect was small ( f2 = .04). Therefore these participants were removed from subsequent analyses. A total of 149 participants were included in the final analyses (see Table 2 1 and Figure 2 2 ). Descriptive Analyses T he mean s core on the Subject Happiness Scale for this sample (M=5.18 SD= 1.14) was comparable to previous samples with college un dergraduates (e.g., Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999 report M = 5.07, SD= 1.14 ). Moreover, the mean score on the Medical Outcome Short Form Health Survey for this sample was comparable to previous findings by McHorney et al. (M= 60.18, SD = 27.25; M= 67.02, SD= .74, respectively). Tests of Assumptions Chi square analyses revealed no significant differences between the control and treatment g university 2 (1, N= 149) = .30, p = .58, 2 (1, N= 149) = .52, p= .47, 2 (2, N=149) = 1.55, p = .46 respectively). Furthermore, independent samples t tests revealed no significant differences between the control and treatment groups in terms of age of participants, t(144) = .75, p = .85. The normal Q Q plots and detrended normal Q Q plots were acceptable in shape. Also, judging from the histogram, the shape of the ha ppiness and health variables were roughly


35 normal. The distribution of variables met guidelines for acceptable levels of skewness and kurtosis (i.e., skewness less than 3, kurtosis less than 10; Chou & Bentler, 1995; Kline, 2005). The uncertainty about soc ial belonging, happiness, and health variables had a significant Kolmogorov Smirnov test for normality (p < .01) and non homogeneity of variances (p < .01). The Kolmogorov Smirnov test for normality is very sensitive to a larg e sample size, so this significant finding should be taken in the context of other tests of normality described above (i.e., n Correlation analyses revealed none of the predictor variables had a perfectly collinear coefficients alpha) was acceptable for all outcome measures and ranged from .75 .89 (see Table 2 3). Furthermore when examining by racial group, scores on the questionnaires measuring health and happiness were only weakly correlated with each other (i.e., r ranged from .02 to .20). However, further examinat ion of the scatterplots for the racial groups making up the largest representation in the current study (e.g., White, African American, Hispanic, Asian American) did not indicate non linear relationships (e.g., inverted U shape), nor was there restriction of range in item responses. Further analysis revealed some outliers were detected for the happiness, health, and uncertainty about belonging variables. However, there was minimal difference between all leting the 5% outliers), and the differences were all well below one standard deviation. These cases were also assessed for items, or patterns of 1 5 1 5 across al l items), which was not found. Due to the minimal


36 difference the outliers had from the mean and lack of evidence for random responding, they were all kept in the analyses. Preliminary Analyses Testing Group Differences Three separate analyses of variance ( ANOVAs) were conducted to determine condition group (i.e., 1 = treatment, 0 = control) and racial/ethnic group differences in uncertainty about social belonging as well as condition differences on the outcome variables (i.e., happiness, reported health). N o significant differences were found between the treatment and control groups and these variables (p >.05). For all subsequent analyses, race was recoded into a dummy variable (1= minority, 0= White). Also hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to examine if there were condition by minority effects on uncertainty about social belonging and the outcome variables. There were no significant relationships between the condition by minority status variable and the outcome or uncertainty about belonging v ariables (p>.05). Bivariate correlation analyses on GPA revealed it to be a significant covariate in the model (p<.05). Grade point average had a significant negative correlation with uncertainty about social belonging for White participants in the treatme nt group (see Table 2 4 and Table 2 5). 2 Testing the Moderated Mediation Model The next step in the analyses was to test if the relationship between treatment and positive outcomes was mediated by uncertainty about social belonging and if minority status moder ated this indirect relationship. To test moderated mediation, the current study used the MODMED macro developed by Preacher, Rucker, and Hayes (2007). This macro allowed us to 2 Additional t tests and bivariate correlational analyses were conducted to determine if gender, interpersonal harmony/disintegration avoidance, semesters completed, and age were appropr iate covariates and results were not substantially different so th ey were left out of subsequent analyses.


37 test if the hypothesized mediation effect was contingent on the level of the mod erator (i.e., White or minority status). All variables were z transformed before being entered into the model with the purpose to compare effect sizes and reduce multicollinearity, and GPA was controlled in all analyses. First, there are two multiple regr from condition to uncertainty about belonging is moderated by minority status (in the happiness respectiv icant. Furthermore, the non significant conditional indirect effects for the happiness and health model (p=.55, p=.77, respectively) suggested that the indirect effect from condition to positive outcomes was not moderated by minority status. Exploratory A nalyses Similar to the results reported by Walton and Cohen (2011), African American participants in the treatment compared to the control had higher levels of uncertainty about belonging (M= 4.06, SD = 1.43, and M=3.27, SD = 1.52, respectively), health ( M = 58.13, SD = 33.59 and M = 55.00, SD = 23.87, respectively), and happiness (M= 5.28, SD=1.41, and M= 5.02, SD= .88, respectively). However, none of these mean differences were significant, t(15) = 1.15, p>.05, t(15) = 2.4, p>.05, t(15) = .49, p>.05, respectively. The effect size ranged from small to medium for these group differences ( Further exploring minority group differences, Asian American participants in the control and treatment group did not differ in terms of uncertainty about social belonging, happiness or health. Hispanic participants however, had significant differences between the treatment and


3 8 control conditions on uncertainty about belonging, t(22) = .19, p<.05, such that those in the treatment group had less uncertainty about belonging (M = 4.13, SD = 2.09) than those in the control group (M=4.28, SD = 1.09). This same difference did not emerge for health and happiness (ps>.05). Discussion The current study applied a previously supported intervention method (Wal ton & Cohen, 2011 ) with the goal of help ing to ease adjustment into college for minority students Inconsistent with the stated hypotheses, uncertainty about belonging did not mediate the relationship between treatment and positive reported outcomes. In addition, minority status was not found to be a significant moderator for the relationship of treatment and outcome variables. Consistent with previous findings, exploratory analyses revealed, African American participants in the treatment group were higher in uncertainty about belong ing, happiness, and health than African American participants in the control group, however this difference was not significant at the small sample size. African American participants only made up 10.5% of the sample, therefore it is possible the intervent ion designed by Walton and Cohen was successful for African American students, but the sample size in the current study was simply too small to detect the findings, White students w ere not high in uncertainty about belonging and thus did not benefit from the treatment condition (i.e., there were no differences between White students in the control and treatment group on uncertainty about belonging or positive outcomes). The benefits of the feeling of social belongingness, especially for racial minority populations, are well documented; however, there is a less precise understanding of the ways to ion,


39 work on social belonging. Due to over or underestimation of the true effect, failed replications are expected statistically some of the time (Simon, 2012). H owever, several limitations of the present investigation might have contributed to the insignificant effect. Limitations and Possible Explanations for Findings One of the l imitations wa s the use of a self selected sample. Most of the participants were rec ruited from p sychology classes Perhaps this group had unique characteristics that could not be generalized to the larger student population at their university. Though many empirically derived variables were tested to see if they were covariates in the mo del (e.g., gender, interpersonal harmony), it is possible additional extraneous variables exist and had a confounding effect. In addition, the use of self report questionnaires might have produce d response biases due to social desirability or cultural valu es of the participants. For example, many participants were recruited from the same course, it may be reasonable to suspect that through talking to peers, some participants became aware of the experimental design of the study and therefore responded differ ently to follow up measures. Additional research is needed to test the size of the intervention effect on health outcomes using non self report measures (e.g., up measures in less than 20 minutes whereas they were projected to take 45 60 minutes. Despite acceptable levels of reliability and the absence of unusual response patterns mentioned earlier, reduced response time might suggest the participants did not fill o ut the measure in an honest and valid way (i.e., responses may not be accurate reflections of their actual health, happiness, and uncertainty about belonging). The timing of follow up measures may also explain the insignificant effect. Measures were comp leted three weeks following the in person intervention, which may have been too soon to notice an effect. Walton and Cohen (2007) suggested a longer term effect may be seen in a


40 social belonging intervention because the intervention could disrupt the cycle of negative outcome variables belonging which in turn further lowers the outcome variables in question. This cycle of negative outcomes and more uncertainty about belonging may not s ufficiently change in a three week period. Moreover, the outcome variables measured in the current study (i.e., happiness, health) were not examined by Walton and Cohen (2011 ) until 3 years after the in person intervention (from which they had found signif icant effects). The current study received permission from participants to record participant GPA in a two year follow up where the effects of the intervention on social belonging (as moderated by minority status ) will be tested again on this new variable The current study did not have a true control condition to compare to the treatment condition. To review, the control condition was an intervention with the same procedure as the treatment condition, but instead of reading a prompt about uncertainty abou t belonging decreasing over time, participants read a prompt about academic difficulty decreasing over time. Given the close relationship between belonging and academic achievement ( Baumeister, Twenge, & Nuss, 2002; Crosnoe, Cavanagh, & Elder, 2003 ), it is possible the control intervention had a similar effect on minority participants as the treatment intervention, and therefore the insignificant results were not an accurate depiction of the efficacy of the treatment intervention. Another possibility is th at the university setting where the current study was conducted might have institutional policies or programs in place to encourage feelings of belongingness for minority students. Consequently, there was simply less uncertainty about belonging, and hence, a smaller effect that we failed to detect at our sample size than at the institution in which Walton


41 organizations on campus, and previous studies have identified tha t maintaining cultural connections via student clubs is one way minority students experience increased belonging (Museus, 2008; Museus & Maramba, 2011). One requirement of the study was that the students needed to have completed between one to three semes ters at their university. The rationale behind this decision was that after one semester, they were likely to begin to develop a sense of their fit on campus, and thus, those who experienced a level of uncertainty regarding belonging might have benefited f rom the intervention. Following three semesters, the participants were not likely to believe the prompt in the intervention (i.e., that a study at their university found belonging increased over time) due to their substantial experience at their university already. It is possible that this rationale was flawed and those restrictions affected the results. For example, the students who completed one semester might not have had enough exposure to their university to have a sense of their belonging (in either d irection) yet, in which case this group would not have been the appropriate target for the intervention. S ocial integration is presented in this report as being a generally beneficial factor in any ical support (see: Cohen, 2004; Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Berkman & Syme, 1979). Nevertheless, it is important to note that social relationships can also constitute a point of stress and turmoil for a person, and such interpersonal conflict can have detrim being (Cohen, 2004). For example, loss of a loved one can increase risk of mortality (reviewed by Stroebe et al., 2007) and conflict between friends can promote risk for cardiovascular problems (reviewed by Kiecolt Glaser & Newton, 2001). Receiving support in general has been linked


42 with increase in distress what does this mean (Bolger et al., 2000; Dunbar, Ford, & Hunt, 1998). Previous research reviewed in this paper as well as the current data should be considered in the context of these contrary findings that might help explain the obtained insignificant results. Strengths of the Current Study One strength of the present study was its rigorous experimental design, which isolated the contribution of the intervention on social belonging while controlling for extraneous variables (i.e. GPA). Additionally, this intervention took collectivistic cultural norms into account and did not directly describe the investigation as an intervention to the participants. By being sensitive to the effects of interpersonal harmony, the study was likely to encourage Asian Americans and other individuals averse to disclosure to engage in the intervention. Furthermore, this study confirmed earlier findings regarding the impor tance of social belonging on happiness (Walton & Cohen, 2011), as well as validating past data concerning racial minorities feeling more uncertainty about belonging than their racial majority counterparts (Museus & Maramba, 2011) This additional evidence puts further weight on previously suggested institutional policies in support of encouraging belonging and integration without Although minority groups face pressure from negative stereotypes with respect to their academic ability and racial discrimination that contributes to their sense of isolation in a university setting, research indicates they do not seek mental health resources as often as their white counterparts, and consequently, their stru ggles go unchecked (Barreto & Segal, 2005; Chen, Sullivan & Shibusawa 2003; Mendoza Denton et al., 2002; Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Solorzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2009; Sue et al., 2007; Yosso et al., 2009 ). This may be due to the cultural emphasis on interperson al harmony for Asian Americans and the lack of culturally


43 competent and unbiased therapists for Asian American, African American, and Hispanic populations (Atkinson, Morten, & Sue, 1998; Sue & Sue, 2003). Implications for Future Research Future studies sh ould test the role additional moderating and mediating variables may play on belonging and other outcome variables (e.g. individual differences in personality, SES and attachment styles ; Vaquera & Kao, 2008 ). Future social belonging intervention i s ts should also consider Minority Stress Theory when building the framework of their study This theory essentially states that being from a socially stigmatized group contributes additional stress to 2003). Accordingly, future intervention i s ts should consider t he effects of the social belonging condition on buffering and distal (e.g., experiences of prejudice and discrimina tion) stressors, as identified by this theory ) Previous studies have already documented that the nature of social connections (e.g., interracial friendships, reciprocal friendships ; Vaquera & Kao, 2008; Way et al., 2005 ) affect social belonging. Therefo re, it may be fruitful to design an intervention that target s the nature of relationships (e .g., encouraging reciprocal friendships either artificially in the lab or in another setting that mimics real world circumstance s such as an online chat room) for m inority students Future research may benefit from exploring uncertainty about social belonging at an institutional level by making specific comparisons across institutions to determine if the presence of certain programs (e.g., minority inclusion campaign s, organizations dedicated to minority adjustment to campus) play a direct role in encouraging social belonging or if the absence of such programs explore if th e nature of the program predicts the level of belonging (e.g., student run cultural clubs versus administration based events).


44 In conclusion, the current study did not find a previously successful intervention (Walton & Cohen, 2011) to significantly decre ase uncertainty about social belonging for minority students nor did the intervention significantly predict increases in happiness and health. Several limitations of the study may explain the lack of an effect. However, the absence of significant findings also underscores a larger problem in the prevailing literature in regard to the dearth of successful and replicated social belonging interventions (Cohen, 2004).


45 Table 2 1 Gender and Racial/Ethnic Composition of the Sample Variable Frequency Sample 149 Female 121(81.2 %) Race White (Non Hispanic) 66(44.3 %) Hispanic 24(16.1 %) Asian American 19(12.8 %) African American 15(10.1 %) American Indian/Alaskan Native 11(7.4%) Other 9(6.0 %) Biracial/Multiracial 4(2.7 %) Native Hawaiian/Pacif ic Islander 1(.7%)


46 Table 2 2 Comparison of Sample Characteristics for Treatment and Control Groups Treatment Control p value N 76 73 Female sex, % 78.9 83.6 .52 White race, % 42.1 46.6 .58 Semesters completed M (SD) 1.72(.75 ) 1.73(.81 ) .46 Age, M (SD), y 18.77(.75 ) 18.87(.86 ) .45 value of omnibus analysis of variance (for continuous measures) or a Chi Square Test (for categorical measures).


47 Table 2 3 Mean s, standard deviation s and reliability of the variables in the analys es Variable M 5% Trimmed Mean SD Coefficient for White participants Coefficient for minority participants Uncertainty about Social Belonging 3.87 3.86 1. 81 .81 75 Happiness 5.18 5.21 1.14 .87 .8 1 Medical Outcome Survey SF 60 .18 60.85 27.25 .89 .89


48 Table 2 4 Correlations between mediator variable covariate, and outcome variables in control group Variables 1 2 3 4 1 GPA -.01 25 .0 1 2 Uncertainty about Social Belonging .30 -.19 .15 3 Ha ppiness .04 .48** -.12 4 Health .20 .01 .11 -Note. The correlations between the covariate GPA uncertainty about social belonging, and positive outcomes. White participants are below the line, minority participants are above the line. p <.05. p <.01.


49 Table 2 5. Correlations between independent variables, covariates, and outcome variables in treatment group Variables 1 2 3 4 1 GPA -.23 .002 .21 2 Uncertainty about Social Belonging .42* -.51** .002 3 Happiness .35 .47** .22 4 Health .23 .32 .25 -Note. The correlations between the covariate GPA uncertainty about social belonging, and positive outcomes White participants are below the line, minority participants are above the line. p <.05. ** p <.01.


50 Figur e 2 1. The moderating role of race in explaining the indirect effect of treatment, uncertainty about social belonging, and positive outcomes.


51 Figure 2 2. Flow chart of participant retainment.


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63 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Engin Ege was born in Fairfax, Virginia. She grew up with her parents and one elder brother in Germantown, Maryland. She attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA and gr aduated in 2011 with a B.A. in p sychology and e nvironmental p olicy. After graduating, Engin joined the c ounseling p sychology program at the University of Florida in fall 2011. Engin received her M.S in psychology in 2013 and expects to receive her Ph.D. in p sychology in 2016.