- The purpose of this investigation was to identify sources of
influence on one major growth trend for college students: the development
of autonomy. Specifically, the study focused on whether
change in autonomy in college freshmen was related to the background
of the students, their associations with peers, their contacts with
faculty, or the interaction between background and interpersonal
relationships with faculty or peers.
The subjects of the study were 371 Oregon State University
freshmen residing in University housing during the 1972-73 academic
year. The data used in testing the hypotheses under consideration
were collected during the first week of fall term, 1972 and eight
months later during the last week of April, 1973. The autonomy scale
of the Omnibus Personality Inventory was used to measure the change
in autonomy in the subjects. The frequency of contact with faculty
experienced by the students was measured by a self-report assessment
technique. Selected subscales of the University Residence Environment
Scale were used to assess relevant dimensions of peer association
experienced by subjects in their residence units. The dimensions
of peer association identified in the study included involvement,
emotional support, independence, competition, and intellectuality.
Finally, information was gathered regarding the sex, socioeconomic
status, religious background, and academic ability of each participant.
The eleven hypotheses developed for the study were tested using
analysis of covariance and multiple regression analysis. Initial
score on the Autonomy scale was introduced into each analysis in
order to isolate differences in level of autonomy among the subjects
at the beginning of their freshman year. In each of the analyses,
the .05 level of confidence was accepted as indicating significance.
The results of the study showed:
1. During the eight month period of the study, significant
positive change in the development of autonomy was found
in the overall sample of college freshmen and in each of
the subgroupings of students identified in the study.
2. Positive change in autonomy was more likely to occur among
those freshmen who had not experienced as much development
in autonomy prior to college.
3. The background variables of sex, socioeconomic status, and
academic ability were not significant factors influencing
the development of autonomy during the freshmen year.
4. An active religious background, whether represented by
affiliation or commitment, limited the development of
autonomy prior to college and, thus, provided the opportunity for greater growth in autonomy during the
5. Three of the dimensions of peer association examined in the
study independence, competition, intellectuality -- did
not have a significant relationship to the change in autonomy
observed in the freshmen. However, peer group support
in a student's residence unit, as indicated by the peer
association dimensions of involvement and emotional support,
did influence positive development of autonomy in the college
6. The frequency with which female freshmen had contact with
faculty did not affect the change in autonomy observed in
these students. However, development of autonomy during
the freshman year among males was favorably influenced by
greater contact with non-teaching faculty.
7. Significant interaction relative to change in autonomy in
college freshmen was observed between the dimensions of
peer association and the background variables of sex,
socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, and academic
ability. However, no discernible pattern of interaction
effects was apparent.
8. No significant interaction relative to change in autonomy
in the freshmen was found between contact with teaching
faculty and the five background factors. Change in autonomy
was significantly related, however, to the interaction
between contact with non-teaching faculty and the background
variable of academic ability.