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Stress, Depression, and Anxiety Among Transitioning College Students: The Family as a Protective Factor

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Stress associated with the college transition can bring about depression and anxiety symptoms, but family relationships can reduce the impact of stress. We hypothesized that secure attachment to parents, comfort with talking about stressors, and family support would reduce the strength of the relationships between transition-related stress and symptoms experienced during the first week of college. First-year students (N = 90) completed measures related to parental attachment, stress, depression and anxiety, and family support during the second week of their first semester. Regression analyses indicated the relation between transition-related stress and depression was strongest when attachment anxiety (i.e., fear of rejection) was high, when students did not talk about their problems, and when family support was low. Family support had a moderating effect on anxiety, and high attachment avoidance (i.e., fear of dependency) was associated with a stronger relation between stress and anxiety. University programs should emphasize the importance of family relationships when promoting successful psychological adjustment to college.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2017

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition is a semiannual refereed journal providing current research on the first college year and other significant student transitions. The primary purpose of the Journal is to disseminate empirical research findings on student transition issues that inform practice in all sectors of postsecondary education, such as explorations into the academic, personal, and social experiences (including outcomes related to success, learning, and development) of students at a range of transition points throughout the college years; transition issues unique to specific populations (e.g., non-traditional, traditional, historically underrepresented students, transfer students, commuters, part-time students); and explorations of faculty development, curriculum, and pedagogical innovations connected to college transitions.
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