Developing a Family Achievement Guilt Scale Grounded in First-Generation College Student Voices

Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin / March 2020

K State FG Grad Family

As the first in their families to attend college, first-generation students plausibly experience family achievement guilt—socioemotional distress related to “leaving family members” to attend college. Family achievement guilt is little studied but a promising indicator of student outcomes. The present work used psychometric methods to develop the family achievement guilt scale. First-generation (46.6%) and continuing-generation (i.e., at least one parent has a 4-year degree, 53.4%) students completed a 41-item guilt measure online. Exploratory factor analysis revealed four factors, including guilt related to Leaving Family Behind, Having More Privileges, Becoming Different, and Experiencing Pressures about not being successful. The scale yielded good internal and test–retest reliability. Moreover, guilt predicted greater engagement in family roles and interdependent motives for college, even after controlling for general negative affect. In measuring guilt in psychometrically sound ways, we validate the voices of first-generation college students and alert institutions to adjust how they serve students.