The influence of hardiness, stress and social support on academic achievement among urban commuter students

Linda Marie Cozzi, Fordham University


The first semester in college can be quite stressful, especially for high-risk students in non-selective urban commuter colleges. Academic failure and, consequently, dropping out, is a frequent manifestation of this stress. Such failure can reduce an individual's sense of competence and self-esteem as well as deprive that individual of his/her only opportunity for social mobility. A high attrition rate is also costly to the institution itself, at a time when demographic trends leave fewer college-age candidates in the general population.^ Overall, the present study examined dispositional and socio-environmental factors which differentiated the academic achiever from the non-achiever of the same ability level. Specifically, the main purpose of this investigation was to analyze the relationship between life stress, the hardy personality type, social support and psychophysiological strain as they impacted upon first semester grade point average (GPA).^ A total of 227 first-semester college students (127 female; 100 male) aged 18-30 representing 29 of 38 possible majors in a largely two-year urban commuter college constituted the study sample. Questionnaires administered during 75-minute required remedial and non-remedial English and Mathematics classes. Voluntary participants signed releases which allowed the investigator access to academic data from the Registrar. The questionnaire consisted of self-report measures of hardiness (a combination of three components: commitment, control and challenge), life stress, strain symptoms, social desirability, and a demographical/behavioral report which included demographic questions as well three "social support" questions regarding perceived peer, family and college faculty support for academic work.^ Although cognitive factors (i.e., pre-college math, reading and writing achievement scores) did account for the largest percentage of GPA variance, personality and social-environmental variables did play a significant incremental role. The hardiness component of control and perceived peer support augmented GPA, while life stress diminished GPA, after controlling for pre-enrollment achievement, social desirability and number of remedial courses. The hardiness component of control was also found to be inversely proportional to strain symptoms. Item endorsements on stress scales suggest that high-risk students are preoccupied with academic stressors (e.g. failing an exam) as well as family responsibilities. Findings from this study were translated into counseling goals for high-risk students. ^

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Personality psychology|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Cozzi, Linda Marie, "The influence of hardiness, stress and social support on academic achievement among urban commuter students" (1991). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9127028.