Changes in parental emotional support and psychological control during the transition to adulthood: direct and indirect associations with educational, occupational, and financial adjustment through mental health symptoms




Desjardins, Tracy

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Young adulthood is a critical period during which advances in educational, occupational, and financial adjustment set the stage for lifelong economic capital, health, and well-being. Greater understanding of the factors that contribute to positive and negative adjustment in young adulthood is warranted. This longitudinal study highlights the important role of parents by investigating (1) changes in the emotional quality of parent-youth relationships during adolescence and the transition to adulthood, (2) whether such changes relate to young adults’ adjustment outcomes in three age-salient domains, and (3) whether the effects of changes in parental relationships are associated with young adults’ adjustment outcomes through the intervening effects of mental health symptoms. Specifically, I examined direct and indirect associations between changes in mother and father emotional support (ES) and psychological control (PC) and young adults’ educational, occupational, and financial outcomes through youths’ depressive and anxiety symptoms. Sex and SES group differences were also examined. Participants were 545 youth from a medium-sized Canadian city. They were assessed at four time points over a six-year period. All analyses were conducted separately by two developmental transition groups: The young adult transition group included 240 participants who were initially 18 to 21 years old, and the adolescent transition group included 305 participants who were 14 to 17 years old at the initial assessment. Measures of parental ES and PC, youth’s mental health symptoms, and youth’s adjustment were obtained through self-reports. Multi-level modeling analyses showed that mother and father ES increased over time for both transition groups. Declines in mother and father PC were significantly greater for the young adult transition group. Results from latent growth curve mediation analyses revealed that parental ES was linked to positive and negative youth adjustment directly and indirectly through depressive symptoms. Findings also highlight the negative effects of parental PC on youth’s adjustment outcomes directly and also indirectly through changes in youth’s depressive and anxiety symptoms. Differences for mothers and fathers, males and females, and lower and higher SES groups are discussed. Overall, the quality of parent-youth relationships changes during the transition to adulthood, and such changes are important factors in understanding young adults’ educational, occupational, and financial adjustment.



Transition to adulthood, Parent-youth relationships, Emotional support, Psychological control, Depressive symptoms, Anxiety symptoms, Educational adjustment, Occupational adjustment, Financial adjustment