Maunder, R. (2011) Everybody needs a friend: investigating the relationship between students’ social relationships and their perceived university adjustment and membership. Paper presented to: The British Psychological Society (BPS) Psychology of Education Section Annual Conference 2011: Motivation and Resilience in Education, Preston Marriott Hotel, England, 18-20 November 2011.
Friendship is important for well-being, and can foster resilience to deal with difficult life events (Hartup & Stevens, 1999). The transition to higher education can present challenges for students, and developing good relationships with peers can help students to integrate into and feel part of university life (Pittman & Richmond, 2008). Feeling isolated, or not making effective social connections, is linked to early withdrawals (Wilcox et al, 2005). In order to examine the predicted relationship between students’ relationships with their peers and successful transition, questionnaire data was collected from 135 undergraduate students. University adjustment was measured using the College Adaptation Questionnaire (Crombag, 1968) and membership of the university was measured using the University Attachment Scale (France et al, 2010). Students also completed an adapted version of the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment (Armsden & Greenberg, 1987) in order to explore the quality of their social relationships with other students. Additionally, students were asked about experiences of problematic social relationships with university peers. Results showed that students who reported good social relationships with their peers also had higher levels of membership and adjustment to university. Students who reported difficulties in their relationships with other students had lower levels of membership and adjustment to university. Regression analysis showed that university adjustment could be predicted from peer attachment suggesting that increasing peer attachment could lead to an increase in university adjustment. This suggests that universities should prioritise facilitating the development of students’ social relationships as part of the transition to university