Candidate: Kenneth M. Werner
Doctor of Philosophy
The purpose of
this study was to describe how individual, social, and institutional
factors contributed to the successful transition and adaptation to college
life for students with psychiatric disabilities. The study sought to
identify how students with psychiatric disabilities disclosed their
illness in order to request support services and accommodations, and
which services were essential or peripheral in this process. How. these
factors contributed to the employment preparation of students with psychiatric
disabilities was also examined. Service providers and members of the
students' social network offered additional
perspectives on college students with psychiatric disabilities, and the process of transitioning and adapting to college life.
A "snowball" sampling technique was used to select a "purposive" sample of 19 informants (Yin, 1994). Five of these were students with psychiatric disabilities; nine were service providers from their respective service units; and five were social network members from the student's local support network. Informants were interviewed using a semi-structured interview format to answer research questions which were divided into four thematic areas: (1) Transitioning to College, (2) Adapting to College Life, (3) Requesting Support Services, and (4) Preparing for Employment. A case-study explanation-building process identified plausible and rival explanations for the multiple-cases in the study. Cognitive maps and checklist matrices identified factors relevant to a particular theme, and the relationships between elements comprising a particular factor.
A conceptual model emerged from the study to help explain the process of transitioning and adapting to college life, and the importance of support services and employment preparation for college students whose "principal diagnosis" fell within one of the following categories of psychiatric disability recognized in DSM-IV (1994): major depressive disorder, bipolar disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and schizophrenic disorders.
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