Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Patrick H. Munley, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mary Z. Anderson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Toni Woolfork-Barnes, Ph.D.


Attrition, development, doctoral program culture/context, doctoral students, intention to persist, resilience


Attrition is a major problem for the doctoral education system and in particular for underrepresented groups. Research has proposed several reasons for students dropping out that include both personal and programmatic variables. A review of the literature identified several factors that overlap in the research on attrition, resilience, and intention to persist however, there have also been varied results across studies and very few studies focused specifically on doctoral students. Doctoral education can be considered in three phases of the education process, each with its own stresses and challenges. Factors and variables that could be the most helpful for universities to foster to promote resilience and intention to persist in doctoral study are not well understood. This study endeavored to learn more about how stress, social support, self-efficacy, and doctoral program culture/context, may relate to doctoral students’ level of resilience and intention to persist in doctoral study, and explore the possible relationships of these variables with phase of doctoral study, race, and gender.

A sample of 251, Counseling Psychology, Counselor Education, and Higher Education Leadership/Administration/Student Affairs doctoral students participated in this study. Participants were given a background characteristics survey and five assessment measures: Perceived Stress Scale (PSS10) (Cohen, Kamarck, & Mermelstein, 1983), Interpersonal Support Evaluation List-12 (ISEL-12) (Cohen, Mermelstein, Kamarck & Hoberman, 1985), Doctoral Program Context Inventory (DPCI) (Sorokosh 2004), New General Self-Efficacy Scale (NGSE) (Chen & Gully, 1997), and Scale of Protective Factors (SPF24) (Ponce-Garcia, Madewell, & Kennison, 2015). Correlation analyses, analysis of variance, multiple regression analysis, canonical correlational analysis, and Welch tests followed by Games-Howell post-hoc tests were used to examine the variables that may predict resilience and intention to persist as well as differences between phase, gender, and race. A multiple regression was performed on resilience and 41.4% of the variance in resilience was explained by the combined predictor variables of perceived stress, social support, self-efficacy, interpersonal environment, and academic environment. A hierarchical multiple regression was conducted on intention to persist and 28.6% of the variance was explained by the predictor variables of perceived stress, social support, self-efficacy, interpersonal environment, academic environment, and resilience. Correlations were conducted to study the relationships between the 11 DPCI subscale scores and resilience. DPCI subscales correlating significantly with resilience included curriculum quality, faculty-student relationships, instructor quality, peer-student relationships, advisement, psychological integration, and climate.

Differences on the variables in this study across program phases were investigated and participants in their first phase of doctoral study were found to score statistically higher than students in the second and/or third phase on curriculum quality, professional activities, psychological integration, climate, academic environment, and interpersonal environment. Analysis was also conducted to explore relationships between perceived stress, social support, self-efficacy, interpersonal environment, academic environment, and the DPCI subscales with gender and race. Findings, implications, and directions for future research are discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access