In the present study the overarching aim was to investigate the relationship between commitment, self-differentiation and pride in undergraduate university students with the view to achieve a better understanding of the extent to which identity-related factors such as self-differentiation and pride as a self-relevant emotion may shape the strength of commitments in a higher education setting.
Findings of the study may contribute to the literature on the psychology of academic commitment by distinguishing it from academic engagement (Baldwin & Koh, 2012) and by broadening the study of commitment to include identity-related constructs in the development of academic commitment (Lord, Diefendorff, Schmidt & Hall, 2010). I argue that a well-differentiated self is relevant to academic commitment because it may provide coherency and consistency in commitments. Academic commitment was operationalised as the extent to which students experience their studies as a source of satisfaction and meaning, the extent to which they have invested resources in their studies, and the quality of alternatives available (Rusbult, Martz & Agnew, 1998). I examined self-differentiation in terms of the ability to take an I-position in the absence of Emotional Reactivity, Emotional Cutoff and Fusion with Others (Skowron & Friedlander, 1998). Authentic pride was described as a self-relevant emotion consisting of two dimensions, namely Authentic and Hubristic pride (Tracy & Robins, 2007d). The Meaning Maintenance Model (MMM) as discussed by Heine, Proulx & Vohs (2006) was the conceptual framework that guided the study.
A quantitative cross-sectional survey was asked for the implementation of a questionnaire that consisted of demographic factors, the Academic Commitment Scale (ACS), the Differentiation of Self Inventory (DSI-R) and the Authentic and Hubristic Pride Scales (AHP). A pilot study was conducted to test the new Academic Commitment Scale’s reliability and construct validity. A one-stage random cluster sampling method was used to complete a sample of undergraduate students from two faculties at the same university. Results of the main study were reported in Chapter 4 and a discussion of findings and conclusions, as well as the contribution, limitations and recommendations for future research were addressed in Chapter 5. Findings of the study indicate that commitment as an identity-level construct, related to identity-related constructs such as differentiation of self and pride, can be utilised in a higher education setting to differentiate between high performance students and students at risk of failure. The results can thus assist policy makers, lecturers, educationists and psychologists to achieve a better understanding of the factors underpinning academic success on the one hand and student dropout on the other hand, in order to develop appropriate support programs. A main feature of the study was the development of a new scale to measure commitment in an academic context. The Academic Commitment Scale was created based on an adapted version of the Rusbult et al. (1998) Investment Model. Meaningfulness was added as a fifth subscale which turned out to be a strong predictor of academic commitment.