Keywords: Connectedness, affiliation, values, beliefs, identification, relationships, cross-culture

Introduction to Belongingness

The desire to belong, either at a group or cultural level, has been an area of interest for both student affairs professionals and psychologists alike. Formative research on the need to belong was developed by Maslow (1943), in which he proposed that the need to belong is part of becoming a self-actualized human being. Similar research has stressed the importance of humans finding their “in-group” and personal attachment to something beyond the individual level (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Belongingness also entails a person finding others that share similar values and beliefs. More recent student-centered research on belongingness has focused on how having a sense of belonging relates to outcomes such as retention rates, academic performance, and engagement in programs.

When Would You Measure Belongingness?

Student affairs professionals may want to measure belongingness if their goal is to gauge:

  • Perceived affiliation with a certain in-group or disaffiliation with an out-group
  • Alignment of a group’s values, such as before and after completing a program
  • Personal identification as a student transitions into different settings
  • Subjective reports of connectedness with others


Those wanting to measure belongingness may find it helpful to start by reviewing related literature:

The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).

  • Seminal research that provides a review of the fundamental purpose of belongingness as human beings. The authors provide different theoretical explanations across different social levels (such as group vs. cultural interactions).


Comparative effects of belongingness on the academic success and cross-cultural interactions of domestic and international students (Glass & Westmont, 2014).

  • Research that discusses how international students’ perception of belongingness influences both their academic work and their social interactions. The authors utilize different modeling techniques to understand the relationship between belongingness, being an international student, and other variables, such as academic success, enrollment class, and cultural interactions. 


Measuring Belongingness: The Social Connectedness and the Social Assurance Scales (Lee & Robbins, 1995).

  • Provides measures of belongingness based on theory stemming from “self-psychology”, which pertains to the changings relationship between the self and the “other.” The researchers provide validity and reliability evidence for their constructed measures of belongingness.

Frequently Used Instruments/Measures

The following instruments/measures have been used to assess belongingness:

  • Interpersonal Needs Questionnaire (INQ)
  • Global Perspective Inventory (GPI; Campus Community Subscale)
  • Social Connectedness Scale (SCS) and Social Assurance Scale (SAS)

Don’t Think This Construct Matches Your Assessment Goals?  Check Out These Related Constructs:  Engagement, Diversity, Support

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