Somebody to Lean On: Relationships between Social Support Networks and Racial Factors among African American Students Adjusting to a Predominantly White Institution

Open Access
Dawson-andoh, Nana Afua
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 14, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Jose Angel Soto, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jose Angel Soto, Committee Chair
  • Sandra T Azar, Committee Member
  • Dawn Paula Witherspoon, Committee Member
  • Lori Anne Francis, Committee Member
  • Melvin Michael Mark, Committee Member
  • college adjustment
  • social support networks
  • racial campus climate
  • racial socialization
  • racial identity
  • African American
Racial factors have been shown to play a role in the adjustment of African American college students attending predominantly White institutions (Ancis, Sedlacek, & Mohr, 2000; Davis et al., 2004; Jones, 2004; Solórzano, Ceja, & Yosso, 2000; Swim, Hyers, Cohen, Fitzgerald, & Bylsma, 2003). Social support also appears to be an important factor in the successful adjustment of African American students at PWIs (Bean, Bush, et al., 2003; Cohen & Wills, 1985; Guiffrida, 2003, 2004, 2005; Harris & Molock, 2000; Hinderlie & Kenny, 2002; Kimbrough et al., 1996; Lin, Dean, & Ensel, 1986; Mallinckrodt, 1988; Utsey et al., 2000). Utilizing a longitudinal design, the present study investigated how race-related factors such as racial identity, racial socialization, and racial climate influenced the college adjustment experience of African American students as well as how these factors influenced the size and racial composition of the social support networks. It was hypothesized that social support may play a mediating role in the relationship between these racial factors and college adjustment and that these relationships would vary by class status (freshman vs junior transfer students). Results were mixed and indicated that current racial climate and private regard were concurrently, but not prospectively, associated with overall college and institutional adjustment. This effect was moderated by class status. However, the size and racial composition of social support providers was not predicted by any racial factors nor did it predict college adjustment. Limitations and broad implications of findings are discussed.