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

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
Note. * p < .01, ** p < .001. Partial correlations controlled for gender and parental marital status.
High School Belonging
4.04 (0.66)
Emotional Support
4.25 (0.81)
Socializing Support
4.28 (0.80)
High Support (+1 SD)
-1 SD
School Belonging
High School Belonging by Emotional Support
Predicting Perceived Scholastic Competence
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.
 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).
-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.
 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
Scholastic Intellectual  For all significant interactions, in the
Self-Worth Acceptance Competence
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
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
 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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