Mattering and Psychological Well-being in College and University Students: Review and Recommendations for Campus-Based Initiatives

Abstract

The current paper examines the unique protective role of feelings of mattering in psychological well-being. Mattering is the feeling of being significant and important to other people. We provide an overview of research on individual differences in mattering as described initially by Rosenberg and McCullough (1981). Mattering is central to psychological well-being and health, but the concept of mattering itself has been severely neglected by researchers, counselors, and clinicians. Research on mattering in post-secondary school students is summarized and various ways of assessing and understanding individual differences in mattering are described, including mattering at university and in the community. It is demonstrated that feelings of not mattering are uniquely implicated in depression and suicidal tendencies. The need to matter among post-secondary students from diverse backgrounds is highlighted. This paper concludes with a discussion of proposed steps that colleges and universities can take to promote mattering among students. Campus-based initiatives, practices, and policies that instill a sense of mattering and address the need for students to feel like they matter are considered.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Becker, M. A. S., Schelbe, L., Romano, K., & Spinelli, C. (2017). Promoting first-generation college students’ mental well-being: student perceptions of an academic enrichment program. Journal of College Student Development, 58, 1166–1183. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2017.0092.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Chaves, C. (2006). Involvement, development, and retention: theoretical foundations and potential extensions for adult community college students. Community College Review, 34, 139–152. https://doi.org/10.1177/0091552106293414.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. DeForge, B. R., & Barclay, D. M. (1997). The internal reliability of a general mattering scale in homeless men. Psychological Reports, 80, 429–430.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Demir, M., Ozen, A., & Dogan, A. (2012). Friendship, perceived mattering and happiness: a study of American and Turkish university students. The Journal of Social Psychology, 152, 659–664.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Di Placito-De Rango. (2018). Situating the post-secondary instructor in a supportive role for the mental health and well-being of students. International Journal of Mental Health Addiction, 16, 284–290. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-017-9740-4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Dixon Rayle, A. (2006). Mattering to others: implications for the counseling relationship. Journal of Counseling and Development, 84, 483–487.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Dixon Rayle, A., & Myers, J. E. (2004). Counseling adolescents toward wellness: the roles of ethnic identity, acculturation, and mattering. Professional School Counselling, 8, 81–90.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Dixon, S. K., & Robinson Karpius, S. E. (2008). Depression and college stress among university undergraduates: do mattering and self-esteem make a difference? Journal of College Student Development, 49, 412–424.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Dixon, A. L., & Tucker, C. (2008). Every student matters: enhancing strengths-based school counseling through the application of mattering. Professional School Counseling, 12, 123–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Duenas, M., & Gloria, A. M. (2017). Pertenezco a esta Universidad? The mediating role of belonging for collective self-esteem and mattering for Latin@undergraduates. Journal of College Student Development, 58, 891–906. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2017.0070.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Elliot, G. C., Colangelo, M. F., & Gelles, R. J. (2005). Mattering and suicide ideation: establishing and elaborating a relationship. Social Psychology Quarterly, 68, 223–238.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Elliott, G. C., Kao, S., & Grant, A. (2004). Mattering: empirical validation of a social-psychological concept. Self and Identity, 3, 339–354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Flett, G. L. (2018a). Mattering. In M. H. Bornstein (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Lifespan Human Development (pp. 1343–1344). https://doi.org/10.4135/9781506307633.n504.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Flett, G. L. (2018b). The psychology of mattering: understanding the human need to be significant. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press/Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Flett, G. L., & Nepon, T. (2018). Mattering versus self-esteem: associations with regulatory focus, social feedback, and psychological distress. Manuscript submitted for publication.

  16. Flett, G. L., Galfi-Pechenkov, I., Molnar, D. S., Hewitt, P. L., & Goldstein, A. L. (2012). Perfectionism, mattering, and depression: a mediational analysis. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 828–832.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Flett, G. L., Su, C., Ma, L., & Guo, L. (2014). Academic buoyancy and mattering as resilience factors in Chinese adolescents: an analysis of shame, social anxiety, and psychological distress. International Journal of Child and Adolescent Resilience, 2, 37–45.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Flett, G. L., Goldstein, A. L., Pechenkov, I., Nepon, T., & Wekerle, C. (2016a). Antecedents, correlates, and consequences of feeling like you don’t matter: associations with maltreatment, loneliness, social anxiety, and the five factor model. Personality and Individual Differences, 92, 52–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Flett, G. L., Su, C., Ma, L., & Guo, L. (2016b). Mattering as a unique resilience factor in Chinese children: a comparative analysis of predictors of depression. International Journal of Child and Adolescent Resilience, 4, 91–102.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Fraley, R. C., Waller, N. G., & Brennan, K. A. (2000). An item-response theory analysis of self-report measures of adult attachment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 350–365.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. France, M. K., & Finney, S. J. (2010). Conceptualization and utilization of university mattering: a construct validity study. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 43, 48–65. https://doi.org/10.1177/0748175610362369.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Gummadam, P., Pittman, L. D., & Ioffe, M. (2016). School belonging, ethnic identity, and psychological adjustment among ethnic minority college students. The Journal of Experimental Education, 84, 289–306. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220973.2015.1048844.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Heath, K., Garcia, G., Hanson, B., Rivera, M., Hedwig, T., Moras, R., Reed, D., Smith, C., & Craig, S. (2015). Growing up in Anchorage: Anchorage youth and young adult behavioural health and wellness assessment. Anchorage, Alaska: University of Alaska Anchorage: Center for Human Development.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Holden, R. R., Lambert, C. E., Bianchini, G., Wong, R. E., Towheed, S., Yeung, C., & Fekken, G. C. (2018). Response surface modeling of how love mitigates the associates between a need to belong and suicidality. Personality and Individual Differences, 134, 210–213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Huerta, A. H., & Fishman, S. M. (2014). Marginality and mattering: urban Latino male undergraduates in higher education. Journal of the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, 26, 85–100.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Ibrahim, A. K., Kelly, S. J., Adams, C. E., & Glazebrook, C. (2013). A systematic review of studies of depression prevalence in university students. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 47, 391–400.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Joeng, J. R., & Turner, S. L. (2015). Mediators between self-criticism and depression: fear of compassion, self-compassion, and importance to others. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 62, 453–463.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Johnston, J. L., & Moody, S. J. (2013). Motivation to learn: mattering from a multicultural perspective in schools. Journal of Counselling in Illinois, 2, 27–35.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Joiner, T. E., Jr., Van Orden, K. A., Witte, T. K., Selby, E. A., Ribeiro, J. D., Lewis, R., & Rudd, M. D. (2009). Main predictions of the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior: empirical tests in two samples of young adults. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 118, 634–646. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016500.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  30. Karcher, M. J., Nakkula, M. J., & Harris, J. (2005). Developmental mentoring match characteristics: correspondence between mentors’ and mentees’ assessment of relationship quality. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 26, 93–110.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Lambert, N. M., Stillman, T. F., Hicks, J. A., Kamble, S., Baumeister, R. F., & Fincham, F. D. (2013). To belong is to matter: sense of belonging enhances meaning in life. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1418–1427. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146162713499186.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Marcus, F. M., & Rosenberg, M. (1987, March). Mattering: its measurement and significance in everyday life. In Paper presented at the 57 th annual eastern sociological society meeting. Boston: Massachusetts.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Marshall, S. K. (2001). Do I matter? Construct validation of adolescents’ perceived mattering to parents and friends. Journal of Adolescence, 24, 473–490. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2001.0384.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  34. Mortier, P., Cuijpers, P., Kiekens, G., Auerbach, R. P., Demyttenaere, K., Green, J. G., Kessler, R. C., Nock, M. K., & Bruffaerts, R. (2018). The prevalence of suicidal thoughts and behaviours among college students: a meta-analysis. Psychological Medicine, 48, 554–565. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291717002215.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. Murphey, D. A., Lamonda, K. H., Carney, J. K., & Duncan, P. (2004). Relationships of a brief measure of youth assets to health-promoting risk behaviors. Journal of Adolescent Health, 34, 184–191.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. Olcon, K., Kim, Y., & Gulbas, L. E. (2017). Sense of belonging and youth suicidal behaviors: what do communities and schools have to do with it? Social Work in Public Health, 32, 432–442. https://doi.org/10.1080/19371918.2017.1344602.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. Patterson, D. A., Perkins, J., Butler-Barnes, S. T., & Walker, T. A. (2017). Social belonging and college retention: results from a quasi-experimental pilot study. Journal of College Student Development, 58, 777–782. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2017.0060.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Pearlin, L. I., & LeBlanc, A. J. (2001). Bereavement and the loss of mattering. In T. J. Owens, S. Stryker, & N. Goodman (Eds.), Extending self-esteem theory and research: sociological and psychological currents (pp. 285–300). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Piliavin, J. A., & Siegl, E. (2007). Health benefits of volunteering in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 48, 450–464.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Pittman, L. D., & Richmond, A. (2008). University belonging, friendship quality, and psychological adjustment during the transition to college. The Journal of Experimental Education, 76, 343–361.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Raque-Bogdan, T. L., Ericson, S. K., Jackson, J., Martin, H. M., & Bryan, N. A. (2011). Attachment and mental and physical health: self-compassion and mattering as mediators. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58, 272–278.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Rayle, A. D., & Chung, K.-Y. (2007/2008). Revisiting first-year college students’ mattering: social support, academic stress, and the mattering experience. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice, 9, 21–37.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Ribera, A. K., Miller, A. L., & Dumford, A. D. (2017). Sense of peer belong and institutional acceptance in the first year: the role of high-impact practices. Journal of College Student Development, 58, 545–563. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2017.0042.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Rosenberg, M. (1985). Self-concept and psychological well-being in adolescence. In R. L. Leahy (Ed.), The development of the self (pp. 205–246). Toronto: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Rosenberg, M., & McCullough, C. B. (1981). Mattering: inferred significance and mental health among adolescents. Research in Community and Mental Health, 2, 163–182.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Schlossberg, N. K. (1989). Marginality and mattering: key issues in building community. New Directions for Student Services, 1989(48), 5–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Schlossberg, N. K., Lasalle, A., & Golec, R. (1990). Mattering scales for adult students in post-secondary education. Washington, DC: American Council on Education, Center for Adult Learning and Educational Credentials. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED341772).

    Google Scholar 

  49. Taylor, R., & Turner, J. (2001). A longitudinal study of the role and significance of mattering to others for depressive symptoms. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 42, 310–325.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  50. Thompson, R., & Zuroff, D. C. (2004). The levels of self-criticism scale: comparative self-criticism and internalized self-criticism. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 419–430. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0191-8869(03)00106-5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Tinto, V. (2017). Through the eyes of students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice, 19, 254–269. https://doi.org/10.1177/1521025115621917.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Tovar, E., Simon, M. A., & Lee, H. B. (2009). Development and validation of the College Mattering Inventory with diverse urban college students. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 42, 154–178. https://doi.org/10.1177/0748175609344091.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Turner, R. J., Taylor, J., & Van Gundy, K. (2004). Personal resources and depression in the transition to adulthood: ethnic comparisons. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, 45, 34–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Van Orden, K. A., Witte, T. K., James, L. M., Castro, Y., Gordon, K. H., Braithwaite, S. R., Hollar, D. L., & Joiner, T. E., Jr. (2008). Suicidal ideation in college students varies across semesters: the mediating role of belongingness. Suicide and Life-threatening Behavior, 38, 427–435.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  55. Vredenburg, K., Flett, G. L., & Krames, L. (1993). Analogue versus clinical depression: a critical reappraisal. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 327–344.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  56. Wexler, L., Poudel-Tandukar, K., Rataj, S., Trout, L., Poudel, K. C., Woods, M., & Chachamovich, E. (2017). Preliminary evaluation of a school-based youth leadership and prevention program in rural Alaska native communities. School Mental Health, 9, 172–183. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-016-9203-2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Whitten, D., James, A., & Roberts, C. (2017). Factors that contribute to a sense of belonging in business students on a small 4-year public commuter campus in the Midwest. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice. https://doi.org/10.1177/1521025117726520.

  58. Yomtov, D., Plunkett, S. W., Efrat, R., & Marin, A. G. (2017). Can peer mentors improve first-year experiences of university students? Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice, 19, 25–54. https://doi.org/10.1177/1521025115611398.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gordon Flett.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Flett, G., Khan, A. & Su, C. Mattering and Psychological Well-being in College and University Students: Review and Recommendations for Campus-Based Initiatives. Int J Ment Health Addiction 17, 667–680 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-019-00073-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Mattering
  • Depression
  • Suicide
  • Counseling
  • Assessment
  • Self-esteem