Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Pittman, Laura D.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


College students--Illinois--De Kalb--Psychology; College students--Social networks--Illinois--De Kalb


Going to college is often the first major transition in the lives of adolescents, and how they navigate this transition may put them at risk for experiencing depression. Two factors, social support and coping strategies, may impact how students manage the transition to college. The current study was designed to test the changes in perceived social support from people at college, coping (i.e., problem-focused, emotion-focused, avoidance), and depression across the transition to college, as well as to examine the associations among perceived social support, coping strategies, and depression during this transition. Students living in residence halls at a midwestem regional university completed measures of social support, coping, and depression at three time points during their first semester of college. On average, students did not report clinically significant levels of depression, and this remained stable over the semester. Levels of perceived social support increased over time. Students’ use of emotion-focused coping increased while their use of avoidance coping decreased over the course of the semester. There were no changes in the use of problem-focused coping. Several relationships were found among support, coping, and depression. Across time points, students who used more avoidance coping experienced more depressive symptoms both concurrently and longitudinally. Problem-focused and emotion-focused coping were not associated with depression at any time point. In regards to social support, near the beginning of the semester, students who perceived more available social support from people at college concurrently experienced less depression. Students who perceived more social support also engaged in more concurrent problem-focused and emotion-focused coping behaviors. No bidirectional effects of depression on support or coping were found. All coping strategies were predictive of later perceptions of social support at some point in the semester. Overall, the current study draws attention to perceptions of social support and coping as relevant factors in facilitating students’ transition to college.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [108]-116).


vii, 135 pages




Northern Illinois University

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