Who Matters Most? The Contribution of Faculty, Student-Peers, and Outside Support in Predicting Graduate Student Satisfaction

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Social support is one variable that has been linked to a number of positive academic and personal outcomes for graduate students. However, little is known about which sources of social support (faculty mentors, student-peers, family/friends outside of the program) best predict graduate student satisfaction with their training program. The following study examined the relationship between social support from 3 sources (peers, family/friends, and faculty) and 2 indices of satisfaction (program and general life) for graduate students in American Psychological Association accredited professional psychology programs. For this study, 228 doctoral students completed self-report measures pertaining to sources of social support, graduate program satisfaction, and general life satisfaction. The participating graduate students reported receiving significantly more academic socioemotional support from friends/family and student-peers than from their faculty mentors. Regression analyses revealed that taken together, these 3 sources of social support explained 28% of the variance in program satisfaction and 30% of variance in overall life satisfaction. Faculty and student-peer support uniquely explained variance in ratings of program satisfaction, whereas all 3 forms of social support uniquely explained variance in overall life satisfaction. However, for both types of satisfaction, faculty support explained a greater amount of unique variance than the other 2 sources. The findings from this study have implications for ways to best support professional psychology doctoral students during their graduate education.

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