Lower SES PhD students experience interpersonal disconnection from others both inside and outside of academia

Hyun Joon Park, Peter M. Ruberton, Joshua M. Smyth, Geoffrey L. Cohen, Valerie Purdie-Greenaway, Jonathan E. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Students from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds can experience stigma in undergraduate educational settings but little research on this topic has been conducted at the PhD level. Lower-SES PhD students may feel lower levels of social integration as they experience incidents of interpersonal disconnection from others inside and outside of academia. Interpersonal disconnection may be a mechanism by which lower-SES leads to a lower sense of social integration. In this prospective study of first-year PhD students at three North American universities (N = 608), we assessed students’ perceived social integration and their interpersonal perceptions inside and outside of academia 2–8 times throughout their first year of graduate school. Relative to higher-SES students, lower-SES students perceived lower levels of social integration. They had difficulty making academic friends, felt dissimilar to their academic peers, and perceived a lack of understanding about their work in graduate school from non-academic families and friends. They also lost non-academic social ties. These interpersonal disconnections prospectively mediated the association between lower SES and lower levels of perceived social integration. Lower-SES PhD students are at risk of impaired interpersonal relationships. Institutional policies to promote social connections among PhD students may help lower-SES students integrate into academia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-107
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Volume79
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences

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