The influence of background, peers, and faculty on the development of autonomy in college freshmen Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/cv43p1377

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  • 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 freshman year. 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 freshmen. 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.
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