After all the thinking about belonging I’ve done recently, I came across the article by Janke et al. (2017) today that measures “social identification with academia” as Venn-diagram with varying degrees of overlap of the circles for “self” and “academics”, which I thought was neat. The reason I found the article was because I was looking for the connection between generation in college and test anxiety, which they investigate. The idea is that for continuing-generation students, i.e. students who have at least one parent who has gone to university, it is much easier to identify with academia and to take failure as something normal that they can overcome, and not as a sign of failure and not belonging. They find that this acts as a buffer for negative experiences, so continuing-generation students can feel more satisfied and less test-anxious in the face of failure (both of which likely makes it easier to succeed again). The academic disadvantage that first-generation students have is therefore not just about not knowing the hidden curriculum and untold rules (as well as typically growing up with less resources (I once read that the number of books in the household a child grows up in is a good predictor for their academic career — how horrible is that?)), but also about their social identity that doesn’t help them feel like belong but that makes belonging depend on how well they do and therefore adds a lot of stress.
I don’t know if there are easy interventions to fix this issue, but it’s at least important to be aware that academic privilege of continuing-generation students is even larger than previously assumed, and to keep this in mind going forward.
Janke S, Rudert SC, Marksteiner T and Dickhäuser O (2017) Knowing One’s Place: Parental Educational Background Influences Social Identification with Academia, Test Anxiety, and Satisfaction with Studying at University. Front. Psychol. 8:1326. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01326