Students face many stresses in their everyday lives and may often be overwhelmed. To assist Appalachian States Student Success team in identifying factors that will increase student retention and well being we sought out the construct of resilience. Through our initial research we know there are many variables which exist when studying resilience in individuals and that in order to ascertain what factors strengthen this perception in college students it was necessary to identify and develop a new scale in which to measure this construct in students ages 18-24. Through strategic interviews, scale development and data testing we were able to identify which correlating factors were pertinent among perceived resilience in this demographic. Included in our survey was an existing scale, “Ego Scale” in which we used to compare and contrast our developed items. Utilizing statistical methods such as ANOVA correlations, linear regression and reliability testing we were able to revise, retest, and extrude recommendations based on our collected data. Reliability testing of the scales used for data collection do not show as preferable when measuring our intended construct, but through further testing we can make recommendations on restructuring for a more reliable measure. Through our research we are also able to see which themed statements created from our interviews work in tandem and which themes negate each other. Testing showed us linear relationships between the items as well as the significance between these items and demographic categorical variables. Key findings our study showed us are that many individuals liken the construct of resilience with ones internal recovery processes such as mindset and attitude. There are also strong connotations that strong will, open mindedness, and positive attitudes are key in how well one is able to adapt to problems in their life. Our categorical variable testing shows that there are strong differences in correlating resilience based on age, religion, relationship status, sexual orientation, education and occupation. Negative factors regarding resilience show us that as increased perception of resilience rises individuals do not feel as responsible for their own problems, perhaps then if one is able to build up their adaptability to overcome their problems, they won’t seem as large. Respondents show a large majority of white ethnicity who identify as straight, it is therefore important to target a more diverse demographic in order to ascertain whether or not these findings can be generalized among different ethnicities. Further testing is also recommended based on key findings that point towards stronger resilience in higher-income households. Although further revision, data collection, and testing is recommended we were still able to utilize our findings to create recommendations in targeted messaging to aid in student retention and well being, most of which should serve as supportive and reinforcing in existing key beliefs of our intended demographic.
Construct of Resilience
Resilience is the adaptability to respond to tragedies or changes in one’s life. Research has shown that resilience is not a unique human characteristic, but that every individual has their own measure of resilience. This does not mean stress or emotional pain does not weigh heavily on an individual with high resiliency, the path to resiliency is likely paved with distress, but the behaviors, thoughts, and actions that attribute to resiliency can be learned and developed in any person; it’s these factors that we as researchers focus on when studying sensitive subjects that often affect one’s mental state and coping mechanisms. Methodologies for measuring resilience are numerous, and there is no particular scale that outweighs the other. Since the complexity of the construct and its system of measurements has been widely recognized as full of variables it has made the operational definition of resilience hard to achieve in the research field. In order to understand resilience in relation to college students, 18-24 years old, new variables had to be collated to best facilitate our understanding of our specific social problem
In order to develop a unidimensional measure for perception of resilience the first step was to compile data from qualitative interviews targeted at the 18-24 year old demographic who have not attended college. After receiving informed written consent from the participants we utilized a 10 question script for recorded interviews with additional questions as needed for probing further into answers, being mindful to not lead the interviewees. Concluding the interview we let the participants know we were studying resilience and asked them to define what the construct meant to them.
1. Qualitative Interviews
From the interviews we compiled generalized themed statements on resilience based around participants answers. We then cross examined our compiled themes to correlate the most prevalent statements in order to build a universal measure on variables most relatable to our target demographic.
2. Development of Themed Statements
Survey Instrument Development
Developing the survey instrument we found commonalities among the respondents from the individually compiled themes from our qualitative interviews. Many of the commonalities related to state of mind when faced with adversity and support structures and from these themes we developed 10 themed statements for our Scale. Each themed statement is measured by a four point scale on how strongly the respondents feel towards our designed statements; does not apply at all, applies slightly, applies somewhat, and applies very strongly. Included in the survey were 10 key demographic questions; age, income, gender, etc. To measure the effectiveness of our now structured Likert scale based survey, we included an Ego Resilience Scale from an existing study as a control measure to test our themed statements against.
Next step was wide spread dissemination of the survey with demographic based nominal questions. Methods for data collection included peer to peer and internet forum dispersals. Our total collective data set was compiled from 1030 responders in which no identifying data was retained.
Developed Resilience Survey
When challenged with troubles I do not give up easily
I overcome adversity through my faith in a higher power
I handle adversity through the support of my friends and family
I can face adversity because it presents a learning opportunity
Being patient helps me get through troubling times
I maintain a positive attitude when facing troubling times
I keep an open mind when facing adversity
I believe I'm responsible for my own problems in troubling times
One reason I withstand adversity is that I'm strong willed
When facing troubling times I help myself by helping others
Does not apply at all
Applies very strongly
Reliability of Resilience Scale
Testing for reliability of a measure is pertinent to determine how well these measures correlate with what they were designed to measure in order to possibly recreate these measures from abstract to application. To measure internal consistency (how closely related a set of items are as a group) of our constructed resilience measure we utilized the Chronbach’s alpha statistic. An ideal measure of reliability within this test would measure at a .8 or higher on a scale from 0-1. Initial testing of our scale shows that the items do not work well enough together to pattern our intended measure of resilience. The highest testing item in our scale for reliability was “I overcome adversity through my faith in a higher power”. Of the 1030 observations provided only 1018 were used with the totality of our scales producing a 0.67 scale of reliability. Removing certain scales produced slightly higher reliability at .72, but still not significant enough. However, in testing reliability of the existing Ego scale we see the alpha measures at 0.67 also, with its highest item “I usually think carefully about something before acting” measuring at 0.68. Revision of items working against each other in our created measure we should see an increase in reliability of measuring resilience.
Descriptive Analysis of Respondents
Who is our sample audience?
Descriptive Analysis of Respondents Continued
...Who They Are, and Where They're From
Utilizing zip codes provided in the survey we were able to create a geographic map showing our respondents locations, many of whom are from the Southeastern states of America with smaller samplings from the Midwest and Northeastern segments and several outlier respondents from the Western States. Outliers not shown are a few respondents hailing from Canada and singular outliers responding from US territories of Alaska, Hawaii and other countries such as Costa Rica, Germany, India, and the UK.
Our variables from the data correlate well, but diversity is scarce as data shows our main respondents are white, straight females. As well, many specified their religion as "other" but filled in a different sect of Christianity than we had listed. Because of our included 12 scale measure indicating the age demographic, we were able to isolate the data from the 18-24 year old age group of our intended study and the remaining respondents.
Higher Managerial, Professional Occupation
Religion Specified as Other
$100,000 - $149,999
18 - 24 Years Old
4-year University Degree
Correlations Among Created and Existing Scales
Next step in our research was correlation testing to look for relationships between our items using Pearson r (which shows as significant at p = <.001), showing the strength of linear association of the items. Through this testing we can see positive or negative relationships represented from +1.0 to -1.0, generally denoted as “r”.
Most of our created scales showed strong significance with a p value of <.001, the top correlating items being…
“I maintain a positive attitude when facing troubling times” & “I keep an open mind when facing adversity” with r = 0.54
“I maintain a positive attitude when facing troubling times” & “Being patient helps me get through troubling times” with r = 0.4
These items move in a positive direction with each other, increasing each others value and showing a strong linear correlation between these measures. Understanding that these correlations are not causation, we can asses that these variables work together when it comes to an individuals resiliency. Many of these correlating pairs are related to frame of mind, the practical application here being that we can determine significance in relation to an individuals resilience is highly dependent on one’s ability to logically asses a situation and alter their mental state to accept a hardship and overcome it.
Testing of the existing Ego scale showed a majority of the existing items also show strong significance with a p value of <.001, the top correlating items being…
“I enjoy trying new foods I have never tasted before” & “I like to do new and different things” with a positive Pearson’s r = 0.392. 2.
“I like to take different paths to familiar places” & “I am more curious than most people” work together with a positive Pearson’s r = 0.390
From the correlations of these scales for practical applications we can ascertain that these variables show similar attributes of adaptability with curiosity being a contributing factor.
Looking at the comparison chart for mean values of the descriptive statistics testing on measures for COM3928 Resilience Scale, differences between 18-24 year olds who have attended college versus non-college individuals is relatively minute. Each variable from our created scale test well as corresponding measures with both demographics, one could surmise that aiming a singular message at the 18-24 year old demographic could reach across the college and non-college segments.
Add short body of text
Comparison of Mean
“When facing troubling times I help myself by helping others” = 3.12
“I handle adversity through the support of my friends and family” = 3.42
“I can face adversity because it presents a learning opportunity” = 3.29
“I maintain a positive attitude when facing troubling times” = 2.96
This path of thought in regards to resilience makes sense when thinking about those who have university background, we can ascertain that much of the epistemology of being a student carriers over into their perspective.
“I overcome adversity though my faith in a higher power” = 2.87
“I believe I am responsible for my own problems in troubling times” = 3.41
This ascertains a sort of schism within the demographic on where their resilience is attributed from.
Both demographics tested almost equally among the measures: “When challenged with troubles I do not give up easily”, “Being patient helps me get through troubling times”, “I keep an open mind when facing adversity”, and “One reason I withstand adversity is that I am strong willed”.
This correlation shows a relational factor to mental stamina lending to resilience between the college and non-college demographic.
Exploratory Factor Analysis of Scales
In order to identify the underlying relationship between our measured variables we performed a statistical method known as exploratory factor analysis for each of the scales in which we then extracted and collapsed items from each scale into new dependent variables. These new dependent variables were determined from their Eigenvalues predicated in testing. Eigenvalues are a measure of the power of the cluster of the variables in which we look for a value >1. We then collapsed the scales with the highest Eignvalue into our new latent variables which we can then utilize for further testing of our scales.
**We had to force our analysis to produce 3 different clusters for our scale that produced 3 strong scales with an Eigenvalue of 3.
“I keep an open mind when facing adversity”
“Being patient helps me get through troubling times”
“I maintain a positive attitude when facing troubling times”
"Mind Over Matter"
“I quickly get over and recover from being startled”
“I get over my anger at someone reasonably quickly”.
"Let It Go"
In assessing these new latent variables we can see that one’s perception of resilience is heavily dependent on processing and maintaining state of mind, the implication being that problems don’t seem as daunting when we are able to recognize our mindset and restate a sort of “let it go” mentality.
ANOVA Testing of Categorical Variables
Unfortunately both of our new dependent variables did not show statistical significance among categorical variables, so we continued testing with the original DV “I am a resilient person” which produced significant differences in occupation, religion, age, education, sexual orientation, and relationship status in correlation to resilience.
significant at <.001 with a medium effect size of .04 with strong differences between...
higher managerial positions and students (.03)
higher managerial positions and the unemployed (.03)
lower management positions and retired (.05)
business owners and the unemployed (.04)
those who are unemployed and those who are retired (.003)
From this we can generalize that those who do not hold jobs whether retired, unemployed, or students have a different perception on resilience from those who are in management positions or hold their own business and that those who cannot find work and those who have retired from work are also statistically different in their perceived resilience, likely being that those who are unemployed have a harder time processing the troubles in their life and do not have a high perception of personal resilience.
significant at .005 with a small effect size of .03 but none of the individual Religions showed strong differences among themselves...
From this we can assume that because the majority of our respondents practiced some sort of religion, that this demographics perception of resilience is dependent on their faith in a higher power, where the rest of the respondents to replied to being Agnostic (114) or Atheist (59) identify more strongly with their perception of resilience being related to being responsible for their own problems: messaging for these two groups should be structured differently around their perceptions in order to be effective.
Testing of Categorical Variables Continued
significant at .005 with small effect size of .02. with strong differences between...
18-24 & 65-74 (.02)
Relating this to targeted messaging we can assume that the vast difference in age groups will have different attributes that they find commonality with, so when aiming a message one must determine which group they are aiming to reach in regards to resilience and how they will respond to it. Group 65-74 will likely hold higher values in imagery associated with some of the outliers in the variables - such as a more positive reaction to imagery focused on familial or faith, where 18-24 would relate more to images of self reliance and independence.
significant at <.001 with a small effect size of .03.strong differences between...
Masters degrees and High School diploma/GED (.02)
Two-year degree & Masters degree (.009)
It is interesting to note that although the majority reported having a 4-year degree we see significant differences in those with Masters versus those who have a 2-year degree and those with High school or equivalent. Messaging aimed at those with a Masters degree would hold higher value with resilience in relation to it being a learning experience, where those that have a 2-year degree or High school equivalent may respond better to messaging strategized around resilience in relation to helping others and support networks.
significant at<.001 with minimal effect size of .02 with strong differences between those who identify as...
asexual and gay (.01)
asexual and straight (.003)
Majority of respondents identified as being straight, with small differences in those who are asexual, straight and gay we can ascertain that messaging directed at our straight demographic, who were the majority of respondents, would relate better to self reliance and independence, where asexuals being the smaller category would respond better to more cautious messaging and our gay demographic would likely have a stronger reaction to messaging regarding curiosity and trying new things in relation to resilience.
significant at .05 with a minimal effect size of .01 with strong differences between...
single and married (.04)
We can then assume that resilience in those who are single test more towards resilience as a construct of self reliance, where those in a relationship test more towards resilience as a construct of their support network.
Regression Analysis of Created Scale
**Because our new latent variables from our collapsed items did not show as much significance in the items in regression analysis we continued to use our original dependent variable "I am a resilient person".
Overall testing of our created scale showed it measures as significant in determining resilience. Measuring at less than .001 for its p value, the line for significance draws closed at .05. Three measures from the class resilience scale all tested as highly significant with p >.001
“When challenged with troubles I do not give up easily”
"I keep an open mind when facing adversity”
“One reason I withstand adversity is that I’m strong willed”
All of these correlate strongly together, being related to state of mind. We can ascertain our presumed audience (as predicated in the correlation study) values one’s ability to logically asses a situation and alter their mental state to accept hardship and overcome it a determining factor in resilience, keeping ones head high so to speak. Our strongest predicator tested at 6.85 for it’s t value, “One reason I withstand adversity is that I’m strong willed”, showing a strong relation to our intended measure of resilience. The other two measures still prove strong in testing resilience, “not giving up easily” had a t value of 5.88 and “”keep an open mind” had a t value of 4.62. The next significant measure tested at .005, “I maintain a positive attitude when facing troubling times”, with the measures strength testing at 2.79. “I believe I am responsible for my own problems in troubling times” also tested fairly significant at .03, but had a negative t value of 2.16, showing that although heavily assumed to be related to frame of mind, we cannot totally assume the demographic relates to resilience resting solely upon the individual.
Regression Analysis of Existing Ego Scale
The ego scale also showed it’s significance, testing at less than .001, however only two measures from this scale tested as significant at >.001
“I quickly get over and recover from being startled”
“My daily life is full of things that keep me interested”.
Certainly the strongest measure, with a t value of 6.93, “quickly get over and recover” relates strongly to our intended measure of resilience, although previous correlation testing showed this measure being more of an outlier in relation to the other measures. “Life is full” had a t value of 4.57, reasonably strong, and also correlates with our initial summation of a demographic with a “let it go” mentality, that perhaps in resilience when one finds life is so full, the challenge of adversity shrinks in it’s shadow (although only a possible summation, not causation of resilience). The next two most significant measures almost equate, “I get over my anger at someone reasonably quickly” had a p value of .036 (rounding to .04), and “I am more curious than most people” had a p value of .035 (rounding also to .04), and had the same strength with their t values both equalling 2.1. These two measures have an odd equality when testing our intended measure of resilience, perhaps showing curiosity inclines an ability to quickly digest ones anger, lending towards a more resilient stature.
Network Analysis of Created Scale
1. "Being patient helps me through troubling times"
2. "When challenged with troubles I do not give up easily"
3. "I can face adversity because it presents a learning opportunity
4. "When facing troubling times I help myself by helping others"
5. "I keep an open mind when facing adversity"
6. "I maintain a positive attitude when facing troubling times"
7. "I overcome adversity through my faith in a higher power"
8. "I believe I'm responsible for my own problems in troubling times"
9. "One reason I withstand adversity is that I'm strong willed"
10. "I handle adversity through the support of my friends and family"
There is strong association between those who regard resilience in terms of keeping an open mind and maintaining a positive attitude so targeted messaging associated with acceptance and being aware of ones mental state will help reinforce the ideals set in their perceived resilience.
We can also see a strong association between being strong willed and not giving up easily , here we can ascertain that utilizing powerful imagery related to inner strength will be effective.
Those who maintain positive attitudes during troubling times also seem to associate with being patient in terms of perceived resilience, messaging focused on reinforcing this mindful attitude can be a powerful tactic.
Another strong correlation is those who have faith in a higher power associate resilience strongly with having a support network, in application strong familial and faith based imagery will work together in appealing to those with strong religious backgrounds.
The strongest negative correlation existing is that between faith and personal responsibility, we can ascertain then that messaging that those who have strong backgrounds in religion will not likely accept messaging that puts responsibility on the individual for their problems.
After strong consideration of data testing, regarding student resilience, we would recommend re-releasing the survey targeted at a more diverse group, being that the vast majority of our respondents were white in ethnicity. We also recommend further study into resilience in relation to household income since there was such a high proportion of respondents who reported on the higher spectrum annual household income. Further, there seems to be a need in revising the nominal data in regards to religion as most identified as "other" with the typed responses being largely other sects of Christianity, the recommendation would be to collapse all the sects of Christianity into one item.
In regards to student retention and well being from our research we recommend that setting up inter-student based support networks for their intended majors will go a long way in increasing student resilience. "Help yourself while helping others" "We've got this together". By adding an online portal in which students can interact with others from their intended majors, we are sure to see an increase in retention and well being by having easy access to a support network in which those who feel more resilient by helping others can strengthen the resilience of those who require support.
We also recommend messaging that reinforces mindfulness and inner strength will help retain a positive mindset when students are feeling overwhelmed. "Shake it off" "Appalachian State students grow stronger everyday" "You never know what you can do till you put your mind to it". Through reminder messages around campus with visuals relating to strength and mindfulness in regards to Appalachian students we can effectively remind them that half the battle is their perceptions of their problems. Another form of reinforcing messaging would be strategically released emails to all ASU students around finals that will help build them up in reminding them of their strength, and their ability to adapt and overcome through reinforcing positive messages.
Being that such a large segment of the respondents from the survey identified as having a religious background, giving students options for practicing their preferred faiths on campus will help aid in retention as a method of reinforcing their resilience. "You were born for this" "Take some time out of your day to pray" "Everything happens for a reason, don't give up". By providing a safe space for individuals of faith to come together in a welcoming environment we should see an increase in overall perceived well being, especially since this demographic also has a positive correlation with support networks for increasing resilience.
For your considerations, we hope this study aids the Student Success Team in their endeavors.