Implications of Parent–Child Relationships for Emerging Adults’ Subjective Feelings About Adulthood

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Abstract

Little is known about the role of parents in promoting their children’s successful transition to adulthood, particularly for college students who may maintain stronger ties to parents than other emerging adults. The present study therefore investigated longitudinal implications of parent–child relationship qualities during emerging adults’ first year of college for their feelings about the upcoming transition to adulthood 3 years later, as well as implications of 3 types of parental control (behavioral control, psychological control, helicopter parenting) for these associations. Multilevel models indicated that emerging adults who reported less negativity in their relationships with mothers and fathers felt more like adults 3 years later compared with emerging adults with low-quality relationships, while high levels of psychological control and helicopter parenting had detrimental implications for their vocational identity development and perceived competence regarding their transition to adulthood. However, nuanced interactions between parent–child relationship quality and parental control indicated that behavioral control had positive implications for outcomes if it occurred within the context of high-quality relationships, or when utilized with sons. The present study highlights the complex role that parents may play during college students’ transition to adulthood, and future work should continue to examine ways that clinicians can incorporate parents as a potential resource for promoting emerging adults’ successful transition to adulthood and the workforce.

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