Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Clinical Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Lewine, Richard R.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Hirschy, Amy

Committee Member

Hirschy, Amy

Committee Member

Pani, John

Committee Member

Rosen, Paul

Committee Member

Woodruff-Borden, Janet

Author's Keywords

psychological risk; college transition; worry; rumination; poverty; college student retention


College students face significant mental health and academic challenges their first academic year. The college transition period can be stressful. In addition, students are increasingly endorsing anxious and depressive symptoms. Depressive and anxious symptoms are linked to repetitive negative thinking styles that present in college students, which contributes to academic interference. The first year of college can be challenging for students who are unable to adjust and adapt. Students who struggle and feel overwhelmed by life stressors experience psychological disruption that interferes with academic performance. Growing up in poverty has been associated with lower grade point averages and poorer graduation rates in low-income college students. Low-income college students also tend to have poorer psychological well-being when compared to their same-aged peers. Campus retention programs give support for students from impoverished backgrounds to counter the negative influence of poverty on academic outcomes. While many programs address academic challenges, few programs address the mental health needs of low-income college students. This research aimed to explore the relationship between mental health factors (emotional distress, repetitive negative thinking styles) and academic performance in low-income college students arriving to college, with further exploration of the unique relationship between repetitive negative thinking styles and academic performance while accounting for emotional distress among low-income college students. Lastly, the study aimed to investigate the overlapping of repetitive negative thinking styles. Participants for the study were recruited from a university retention program for students from families meeting the U.S. poverty threshold. Students completed a study packet that collected demographics data, academic history, mood symptoms, repetitive negative thinking styles, first-semester academic performance, and other student characteristics. Hypotheses were that repetitive negative thinking styles would co-occur and were related to and predicted first-semester academic performance. Results of 54 participants include demographic data, group comparisons, and correlations. Findings show no influence of repetitive negative thinking styles on first-semester academic performance. Repetitive negative thinking styles also co-occurred in the absence of emotional distress, with ruminative thinking and worry presenting at rates equivalent to excessive worriers and ruminative thinkers. Future directions and implications are discussed.