Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Elin Ovrebo

Committee Member

Nancy Nishimura

Committee Member

Chloe Lancaster


Women earn roughly 58% of all conferred higher educational degrees in the United States and this number is projected to continue to grow (U.S. Department of Education, 2012). It is commonly known that going to college provides a number of benefits, especially to women, as education is one of women's primary means of upward social mobility and earning power (Benjamin, 2005; Hill, 2003; Hout, 1998; Simmons, 2009). However, relatively few studies have explored the backside of educational upward mobility. As women who are seeking a higher degree often experience pushback from family, friends, support persons, and the educational systems themselves, the current study investigates how these women's perceived backlash, self-esteem, and race predicted psychological distress. It was expected that perceived backlash would predict psychological distress and that this relationship would be moderated by women's self-esteem and race. The current study examined survey responses from 207 women participants who were either currently seeking a higher educational degree or had their degree conferred in the last five years. A hierarchical multiple regression showed that perceived backlash had a unique relationship with psychological distress, however not without the presence of self-esteem in the model. Neither self-esteem nor race was found to moderate the relationship between perceived backlash and psychological distress, although self-esteem was significantly and positively related to psychological distress. Self-esteem was rather shown to have a mediating effect on the relationship between perceived backlash and psychological distress. This study has implications for how mental health professionals and educators may assist women in their pursuit of higher education in the future.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.