Pathways to Persistence: A Study of the Effects of Neighborhood Stress and Family Communication Patterns on Community College Student Outcomes

Jill Marie Inderstrodt, Purdue University


This dissertation draws upon literature from family communication, sociology, public health, and education to determine what neighborhood and family factors contribute to a community college student’s commitment to the goal of completing college. Community college students are more likely to come from low socioeconomic conditions, are more likely to have parents who did not earn a college degree, and are more likely to be ethnic or racial minorities than traditional four-year college students. Because of these demographics, community college students are also more likely to live in neighborhoods with high levels of neighborhood stress: noise and other pollution, crime, high population density, and social disorder. For this study, students from a large community college system in a Midwestern metropolitan area (n = 249) were surveyed about their level of neighborhood stress, perceived individual resilience, Family Communication Patterns in their families of origin, and commitment to the goal of completing college. It was hypothesized that students living in areas with high levels of neighborhood stress would report lower levels of resilience, and would be less committed to the goal of completing college, defined by intentions to either earn an associate’s degree or transfer to a four-year school. It was also hypothesized that participants coming from families of origin with high levels of conversation orientation and low levels of conformity orientation would be more likely to commit to completion, both directly and through other paths such as being more resilient and more integrated into college social life. Analysis showed no significant relationship between neighborhood stress and institutional/goal commitment, and showed that neither social integration nor individual resilience moderated this relationship. Neither conversation orientation nor conformity orientation were associated with individual resilience, either separately as predictors, or with individual resilience as a mediator. Regression analysis did show an interaction between conversation and conformity orientations in predicting institutional/goal commitment. Additionally, conversation orientation was shown to have a significant, positive relationship with social integration, and social integration was shown to be a mediator between conversation orientation and institutional/goal commitment. Future research should include a reconsideration of neighborhood stress and FCP measures to better describe the conditions experienced by this non-traditional, diverse sample. A more detailed explanation of the role of conformity orientation in non-traditional sample families, including how conformity orientation functions in inspiring college persistence, is needed.




Wilson, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Community college education|Public health|Individual & family studies

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server