Ioffe, M., & Pittman, L. D. (2014, March).

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High School Belonging, Social Support, and Adolescent Perceived Competence in a Sample of At-Risk Students Micah Ioffe & Laura D. Pittman Northern Illinois University


likely to drop-out of a four year college program by their second year than their advantaged peers (Horn, 1998).  Research suggests that students with lower levels of social support

struggle more at college (Arellano & Padilla, 1996; Denis et al., 2005).  Yet, a strong sense of high school belonging has been linked to

academic performance and successful completion of high school for ethnic minority students (Booker, 2006) and may help in students’ transition to college (Pittman & Richmond, 2007).  However, factors that may counter low levels of high school

belonging, which are common in students at-risk academically, have not been explored.


M (SD)


1. Global Self-Worth

3.33 (0.63)


2. Social Acceptance

3.11 (0.65)


3. Scholastic Competence

2.79 (0.66)

4. Intellectual Ability


3.02 (0.71)


Participants and Procedures







.52** .58** .60**

1.00 .36*





Note. * p < .01, ** p < .001. Partial correlations controlled for gender and parental marital status.

High School Belonging

4.04 (0.66)


Global Self-Worth .24*

Emotional Support

4.25 (0.81)






Socializing Support

4.28 (0.80)







Social Acceptance .30**

Scholastic Competence .22*


High Support (+1 SD)

2.4 -1 SD

School Belonging

High School Belonging by Emotional Support Predicting Perceived Scholastic Competence

Intellectual Ability .31**

Financial Assistance

3.99 (0.94)






Practical Assistance

4.05 (0.86)










High Support (+1 SD)

 Data came from a sample of 82 late adolescents (M = 18.13, SD =

0.38) who had recently graduated from high school a few months prior to participation in the study.  Participants had been accepted to college through a program

intended for at-risk and academically disadvantaged students and comprised an ethnically diverse sample (79% female; 70% African American, 18% Hispanic, 12% other ethnicities).  A majority of participants reported that their parents were not

married (76%), and while about half of the sample reported that their family had only enough money for basic necessities (45%), some reported living under meager conditions or with extreme financial hardships (25%) and others reported feeling financially comfortable or having more than enough money (30%).  Questionnaires were distributed to incoming students during their

orientation session in June, prior to beginning college classes. Participants were asked to mail consent forms and completed questionnaires back to the researchers with the included businessreply envelope. Completion of questionnaires was expected to take approximately 30 minutes.

Measures  Participants’ reported on their demographic information, including

gender, age, parental marital status, and ethnicity.

* Low Support (-1 SD)


4.12 (0.81)




 Perceived social support was measured using the Social Support

Behaviors Scale (Vaux, Riedel, & Stewart, 1987) and each dimension had excellent internal consistency. The 5 dimensions of social support included Emotional Support (α = .96), Socializing (α = .92), Financial Assistance (α = .94), Practical Assistance (α = .93), and Advice/Guidance (α = .96).  Self-competence was assessed using subscales from the Self-

Perception Profile for College Students (Neemann & Harter, 1986). The 4 aspects of self-competence assessed ranged from poor to good internal consistency: Self-Worth (α = .83), Scholastic Competence (α = .58), Social Acceptance (α = .59), and Intellectual Ability (α = .71).



2.4 -1 SD

 As shown in Table 2, both high school belonging and social support were positively linked to each

dimension of perceived competence, with the exception of the link between financial assistance and selfworth.

While High School Belonging was not associated with Perceived Scholastic Competence among those with high levels of Emotional (b = -.16, t = -.99, n.s.), it was positively associated with the outcome among those with low levels of Emotional Support Assistance (b = .38, t = 1.95, p = .05).

+ 1 SD

School Belonging

Note. + p < .10, * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. Partial correlations controlled for gender and parental marital status. Note. * p = .05.

Discussion  The results of this study revealed that adolescents’ sense of high school belonging and their

 Regression analyses were run using the PROCESS macro in SPSS (Hayes, 2013) to explore whether

perceived social support influenced the strength of the association between high school belonging and areas of self-competence. All analyses controlled for gender and parents’ marital status. Regressions were run separately for each type of social support and outcome variable (see Table 3). To save space, only the unstandardized coefficients for the interaction terms in the model are reported. Each cell represents a specific regression model.

Table 3. Unstandardized Coefficients of the Interaction between High School Belonging and Specific Types of Social Support Predicting Perceived Competence from Regression Analyses Global Social Scholastic Intellectual  For all significant interactions, in the Self-Worth Acceptance Competence Ability context of low support, high school High School Belonging by





Emotional Support





Socializing Support





belonging was positively linked to perceived intellectual ability and scholastic competence. However, these two constructs were not associated when support was high.  Interactions between high school

Financial Assistance





Practical Assistance










 Sense of high school belonging was assessed using the Psychological

Sense of School Membership Scale (Goodenow, 1993). Internal consistency alpha for this sample was .89.

+ 1 SD

While High School Belonging was not associated with Perceived Intellectual Ability among those with high levels of Financial Assistance (b = .01, t = .03, n.s.), it was positively associated with the outcome among those with low levels of Financial Assistance (b = .54, t = 3.23, p < .01).

Note. * p < .01.

Table 2. Descriptive Statistics of and Partial Correlations between High School Belonging, Social Support, and Perceived Competence M (SD)


* Low Support (-1 SD)

moderate to strong associations, with perceived intellectual ability and scholastic competence displaying the strongest association.




 Bivariate correlations among the dimensions of perceived competence (see Table 1) ranged from

 The present study explores associations between high school

belonging, perceived social support, and perceived competence among an at-risk sample, considering whether social support can be protective in the context of low school belonging.


Intellectual Ability

individuals’ lives, for those from low socioeconomic backgrounds or who are an ethnic minority, this progression may not come easily.  First generation, low-income, or minority college students are more

High School Belonging and Financial Assistance Predicting Perceived Intellectual Ability

Table 1. Descriptive Statistics of and Correlations among Dependent Variables

Scholastic Competence

 While transitioning to college is a significant milestone in many


Note. + p < .10, * p < .05. Regression analyses included controls for gender and parental marital status, the main effect for both high school belonging, as well as the specific social support constructs, and the interaction term.

belonging and the types of social support predicting perceived global self-worth and social acceptance were not significant, although there were two trend level findings for self-worth.

References Arellano, A. R., & Padilla, A. M. (1996). Academic invulnerability among a select group of Latino university students. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 18, 485-507. Booker, K. C. (2006). School belonging and the African American adolescent: What do we know and where should we go? The High School Journal, 89, 1-7. Dennis, J. M., Phinney, J. S., & Chuateco, L. I. (2005). The role of motivation, parental support, and peer support in the academic success of ethnic minority first-generation college students. Journal of College Student Development, 46, 223-236. Goodenow, C. (1993). The psychological sense of school membership among adolescents: Scale development and educational correlates. Psychology in the Schools, 30, 79-90. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Horn, L. (1998). Stopouts or stayouts? Undergraduates who leave college in their first year (NCES 1999-087). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Neemann, J., & Harter, S. (1986). Manual for the self-perception profile for college students. University of Denver. Pittman, L. D., & Richmond, A. (2007). Academic and psychological functioning in late adolescence: The importance of school belonging. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75, 270-290. Vaux, A., Riedel, S., & Stewart, D. (1987). Modes of social support: The social support behaviors (SS-B) scale. American Journal of Community Psychology, 15, 209-232.

surrounding social support hold separate but positive influences on their perceived competence in different domains.  Overall, in the context of low social support, high school belonging is associated to perceived

academic competence for those adolescents who are academically and economically disadvantaged. However, when there is high social support for these adolescents, high school belonging seems to be neither beneficial nor harmful. Given that previous research has found that students with low social support may have difficulty in the college setting (Arellano & Padilla, 1996; Denis et al., 2005), it seems warranted for high schools to encourage a better sense of belonging, especially in an at-risk population since they are more likely to perceive less surrounding social support. This is also likely to be highly beneficial for students hoping to pursue higher education.  Social support was not found to moderate the strength of the association between high

school belonging and perceived global self-worth or social acceptance, although two trend level associations for self-worth were found. Perhaps, for these at-risk students, settings outside the school (e.g., home, neighborhood) are more influential on their perceived selfworth and social acceptance than on their school-related competencies, whereas the latter seem to be heavily influenced by their school setting. It may be that for their more advantaged peers, these aspects of competence are more equally influenced by a variety of settings.  As the findings indicate, high levels of school belonging promote perceived intellectual ability

and scholastic competence, which are both likely to encourage students to pursue higher education, as well as to serve students well within the college setting.  The low internal consistency found for the domains of perceived competence within this

sample are lower than what would be expected based on previous research using this measure (e.g., Pittman & Richmond, 2007) and pose a limitation to this study.  Future research should examine how these factors continue to influence outcomes for at-risk

youth after the transition to college. Another focus could be on replicating these associations in a sample of at-risk students not yet enrolled in college.  Please contact Micah Ioffe with comments, questions, or feedback about this poster at [email protected] or via the Psychology Department, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115.

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