Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Education (Educational Leadership)

First Advisor

Linda Serra Hagedorn


This study intends to bridge the gap between understanding homesickness as a merely psychological phenomenon and the paucity of literature on homesickness in the field of higher education, the goals of which include: (1) to advance understanding about the experiences of homesickness in the first-year first-time college students; (2) to identify the characteristics of first-year first-time college students who suffer severe homesickness and to examine how they resemble or differ from other students who experience homesickness only in a mild form; (3) to develop an integrative model of predicting first-year first-time college students’ degree of homesickness which will shed light on the implication for improving practices and policies in universities.

Three theoretical perspectives are used to explore the dynamic process of homesickness among college students: (1) psychological perspective, including Fisher’s (1989) composite model of homesickness, dual process model of coping with bereavement (DPM) (Stroebe & Schut, 1999), belonging theory (Watt & Badger, 2009); (2) student development perspective, including Tinto’s (1987, 1993) theory of student departure and Pascarella’s (1985) general model for assessing change; (3) social cognitive perspective (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1991; Torres & Solberg, 2001; Close 2001). A predictive model of homesickness is proposed subsequently by elaborating student development model and incorporating additional factors from psychological and social cognitive perspectives.

Data are collected from all the first-year first-time students in fall 2013 cohort at a large public research-intensive university in Midwest. The analytical approach employed in this study includes descriptive statistics, ANOVA tests, factor analysis and structural equation modeling. First, descriptive analysis is used to describe the characteristics of the overall sample. Second, frequency analyses are used to study the patterns of homesickness in the student population. Third, ANOVA is utilized to compare the homesickness among different student sub-populations. Confirmatory factor analyses are employed to examine the fit between the sample data and survey constructs, and then structural equation modeling is used to examine the proposed model linking input and environment variables with the output variable.

The results of the study confirm two constructs underlying homesick scales: separation and distress. Females, out-of-state residents, students living on campus and first-generation college students reported a significantly higher degree of homesick separation. As for the intensity of homesick distress, the findings of structural equation modeling provide insights on what factors exert significant impact and how they interact to form the collective influence on homesick distress. Not only do the results of this study contribute to the limited literature on homesickness in the field of higher education, but they also serve as an inspiration for higher education personnel, including administrators, faculty, advisors, mental health counselors, residence staff etc., to develop and implement effective prevention and intervention strategies, in order to ameliorate the intensity of homesick distress and promote a better transitional experience among first-year first-time college students.


Copyright Owner

Jie Sun



File Format


File Size

126 pages