• Harleen Gill University of British Columbia
  • Kerri Ritchie The Ottawa Hospital
  • Elizabeth Gerhardt Saint Mary's University
  • Kaitlyn Wilson University of New Brunswick
  • Catherine Ann Cameron University of British Columbia
Keywords: parental attachment, thriving, adolescent transitions, academic adjustment, social support


This study investigated, through an attachment theoretical lens, the relationship between first-year university students’ personal and academic adjustment and 3 psychosocial resources: parental attachment, student resources (parental support, social support, ways of reducing loneliness, emotion regulation, coping strategies, locus of control), and gender. Participants answered questionnaires relating to their psychosocial resources and post-secondary adjustment in first and second term. These data were analysed using a planned regression analysis. In Term 1, paternal attachment predicted students’ emotional adjustment, with social and personal resources accounting for this relationship, and was related to academic adjustment via locus of control. Maternal attachment predicted academic adjustment. Gender and locus of control predicted academic performance (as measured by grade point average [GPA]). In Term 2, parental attachment predicted emotional adjustment, with social support accounting for this relationship, but academic adjustment was no longer related to paternal attachment. Overall, gender and locus of control predicted academic success. Suggestions are made for developing transitional theoretical models that address psychosocial processes that will help shape responsive institutional programming and planning in support of incoming college students. These recommendations include designing more personalized programs to match students and their family systems where possible and keeping parents/guardians informed of helpful supports for students’ experiences when needed.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Harleen Gill, University of British Columbia

Research assistant, Department of Psychiatry

Kerri Ritchie, The Ottawa Hospital

Clinical, Counseling, and Health Psychologist and Senior Psychologist, People Health and Wellness

Elizabeth Gerhardt, Saint Mary's University

MSc student, Department of Psychology

Kaitlyn Wilson, University of New Brunswick

PhD student, Department of Psychology

Catherine Ann Cameron, University of British Columbia

Honorary Emerita Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology

Emerita Professor, University of New Brunswick


Association of Atlantic Universities. (2021). 2020-2021 Preliminary survey of enrolments.

Ames, M. E., Pratt, M. W., Pancer, S. M., Wintre, M. G., Polivy, J., Birnie-Lefcovitch, S., & Adams, G. (2011). The moderating effects of attachment style on students’ experience of a transition to university group facilitation program. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 43(1), 1–12.

Armsden, G. C., & Greenberg, M. T. (1987). The inventory of parent and peer attachment: Individual differences and their relationship to psychological well-being in adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 16(5), 427–454.

Cameron, C. A. (2008). Identification and classification of childhood developmental difficulties in the context of attachment relationships. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 17(2), 58–68.

Cameron, C. A., Theron, L., Tapanya, S., Li, C., Lau, C., Liebenberg, L., & Ungar, M. (2013). Visual perspectives on majority world adolescent thriving. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 23(1), 149–161.

Baker, R. W., & Siryk, B. (1984). Measuring adjustment to college. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31(2), 179–189.

Bal, M., & Barušs, I. (2011). Perceived parental attachment and achievement motivation. Psychological Reports, 109(3), 940–948.

Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator–mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182.

Bernardon, S., Babb, K. A., Hakim-Larson, J., & Gragg, M. (2011). Loneliness, attachment, and the perception and use of social support in university students. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 43(1), 40–51.

Bowlby, J. (1988). A secure base: Parent-child attachment and healthy human development. Basic Books.

Catanzaro, S. J., & Mearns, J. (1990). Measuring generalized expectancies for negative mood regulation: Initial scale development and implications. Journal of Personality Assessment, 54(3-4), 546–563.

Chen, B.-B. (2017). Parent–adolescent attachment and academic adjustment: The mediating role of self-worth. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 26(8), 2070–2076.

Closson, L. M., & Bond, T. A. (2019). Social network site use and university adjustment. Educational Psychology, 39(8), 1027–1046.

Cohen, S., & Hoberman, H. M. (1983). Positive events and social supports as buffers of life change stress. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 13, 99–125.

Compas, B. E., Jaser, S. S., Dunbar, J. P., Whatson, K. H., Bettis, A. H., Gruhn, M. A., & Williams, E. K. (2014). Coping and emotion regulation from childhood to early adulthood: Points of convergence and divergence. Australian Journal of Psychology, 66(2), 71–81.

Dave, H. P., Keefer, K. V., Snetsinger, S. W., Holden, R. R., & Parker, J. D. A. (2019). Predicting the pursuit of post-secondary education: Role of trait emotional intelligence in a longitudinal study. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, Article 1182.

Dave, H. P., Keefer, K. V., Snetsinger, S. W., Holden, R. R., & Parker, J. D. A. (2021). Stability and change in trait emotional intelligence in emerging adulthood: A four-year populationbased study. Journal of Personality Assessment, 103(1), 57–66.

DeSteno, D., Gross J. J., & Kubzansky, L. (2013). Affective science and health: The importance of emotion and emotion regulation. Health Psychology, 32(5), 474–486.

DiTommaso, E., Brannen, C., & Best, L. A. (2004). Measurement and validity characteristics of the short version of the Social and Emotional Loneliness Scale for Adults. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 64(1), 99–119.

DiTommaso, E., & Spinner, B. (1997). Social and emotional loneliness: A re-examination of Weiss’ typology of loneliness. Personality and Individual Differences, 22(3), 417–427.

Duchesne, S., & Larose, S. (2007). Adolescent parental attachment and academic motivation and performance in early adolescence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(7), 1501–1521.

Dyson, R., & Renk, K. (2006). Freshmen adaptation to university life: Depressive symptoms, stress, and coping. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(10), 1231–1244.

Eriksson, K., Bjornstjerna, M., & Vartanova, I. (2020). The relation between gender egalitarian values and gender differences in academic achievement. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 236–236.

Fullerton, D. J., Zhang, L. M., & Kleitman, S. (2021). An integrative process model of resilience in an academic context: Resilience resources, coping strategies, and positive adaptation. PLoS ONE, 16(2), e0246000.

Gordon, M. S., & Cui, M. (2012). The effect of school-specific parenting processes on academic achievement in adolescence and young adulthood. Family Relations, 61(5), 728–741.

Gross, J. J. (2001). Emotion regulation in adulthood: Timing is everything. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10(6), 214–219.

Harper, C. E., Sax, L. J., & Wolf, D. S. (2012). The role of parents in college students’ sociopolitical awareness, academic, and social development. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 49(2), 137–156.

Hiester, M., Nordstrom, A., & Swenson, L. M. (2009). Stability and change in parental attachment and adjustment outcomes during the first semester transition to college life. Journal of College Student Development, 50(5), 521–538.

Holt-Lunstad, J. (2017). The potential public health relevance of social isolation and loneliness: Prevalence, epidemiology, and risk factors. Public Policy & Aging Report, 27(4), 127–130.

Howe, D. (2011). Attachment across the life course: A brief introduction. Palgrave Macmillan Hysing, M., Petrie, K. J., Bøe, T., Lønning, K. J., & Sivertsen, B. (2020). Only the lonely: A study of loneliness among university students in Norway. Clinical Psychology in Europe, 2(1), Article e2781.

Katz, S., & Somers, C. L. (2017). Individual and environmental predictors of college adjustment: Prevention and intervention. Current Psychology, 36(1), 56–65.

Kochanska, G., & Kim, S. (2013). Early attachment organization with both parents and future behavior problems: From infancy to middle childhood. Child Development, 84(1), 283–296.

Lee, C., Sung, Y.-T., Zhou, Y., & Lee, S. (2018). The relationships between the seriousness of leisure activities, social support and school adaptation among Asian international students in the U.S. Leisure Studies, 37(2), 197–210.

Leonhardt, D., & Chinoy, S. (2019, May 23). The college dropout crisis. New York Times [Opinion section].

Măirean, C., & Turliuc, M. N. (2011). The relationships between dispositional coping and personality variables. International Journal of Education and Psychology in the Community, 1, 7–28.

Mattanah, J. F., Lopez, F. G., & Govern, J. M. (2011). The contributions of parental attachment bonds to college student development and adjustment: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 58(4), 565–596.

Maymon, R., Hall, N. C., & Harley, J. M. (2019). Supporting first-year students during the transition to higher education: The importance of quality and source of received support for student well-being. Student Success, 10(3), 64–75.

McMillan, W. (2016). ‘People form their own support systems – like forming their own families’: The role of parents and friends in the first year at dental school. European Journal of Dental Education, 20(2), 112–119.

Moilanen, K. L., DeLong, K. L., Spears, S. K., Gentzler, A. L., & Turiano, N. A. (2021). Predictors of initial status and change in self-control during the college transition. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 73, Article 101235.

Olsson, I., Hagekull, B., Giannotta, F., & Åhlander, C. (2016). Adolescents and social support situations. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 57(3), 223–232.

Pardo, A., & Román, M. (2013). Reflections on the Baron and Kenny model of statistical mediation. Anales de Psicología, 29(2), 614–623.

Procidano, M. E., & Heller, K. (1983). Measures of perceived social support from friends and from family: Three validation studies. American Journal of Community Psychology, 11(1), 1–24.

Regehr, C., Glancy, D., & Pitts, A. (2013). Interventions to reduce stress in university students: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 148(1), 1–11.

Renk, K., Klein, J., & Rojas-Vilches, A. (2005). Predictors of the characteristics of parent–adult child relationships and adult child functioning in a college student sample. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 3(2), 81–100.

Rousseau, S., & Scharf, M. (2015). “I will guide you”: The indirect link between overparenting and young adults’ adjustment. Psychiatry Research, 228(3), 826–834.

Ryon, H. S., & Gleason, M. E. J. (2014). The role of locus of control in daily life. Personality and Social Psychology, 40(1), 121–131.

Scanlon, M., Leahy, P., Jenkinson, H., & Powell, F. (2020). ‘My biggest fear was whether or not I would make friends’: Working-class students’ reflections on their transition to university in Ireland. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 44(6), 753–765.

Schore, A. N. (2017). All our sons: The developmental neurobiology and neuroendocrinology of boys at risk. Infant Mental Health Journal, 38(1), 15–52.

Schore, J. R., & Schore, A. N. (2008). Modern attachment theory: The central role of affect regulation in development and treatment. Clinical Social Work Journal, 36(1), 9–20.

Shannon, M., Barry, C. M., DeGrace, A., & DiDonato, T. (2016). How parents still help emerging adults get their homework done: The role of self-regulation as a mediator in the relation between parent–child relationship quality and school engagement. Journal of Adult Development, 23(1), 36–44.

Siegel, D. J, Schore, A. N., & Cozolino, L. (Eds.). (2021). Interpersonal neurobiology and clinical practice. Norton.

Sorokou, C. F., & Weissbrod, C. S. (2005). Men and women’s attachment and contact patterns with parents during the first year of college. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 34(3), 221–228.

Statistics Canada. (2013). Postsecondary education – participation and dropping out: Differences across university, college and other types of postsecondary institutions.

Statistics Canada (2017, December 7). Canadian postsecondary enrolments and graduates, 2015/2016.

van Ingen, D. J., Freiheit, S. R., Steinfeldt, J. A., Moore, L. L., Wimer, D. J., Knutt, A. D., Scapinello, S., & Roberts, A. (2015). Helicopter parenting: The effect of an overbearing caregiving style on peer attachment and self-efficacy. Journal of College Counseling, 18(1), 7–20.

van Rooij, E. C. M, Jansen, E. P. W. A., & van de Grift, W. J. C. M. (2018). First-year university students’ academic success: The importance of academic adjustment. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 33(4), 749–767.

Vasileiou, K., Barnett, J., Barreto, M., Vines, J., Atkinson, M., Long, K., Bakewell, L., Lawson, S., & Wilson, M. (2019). Coping with loneliness at university: A qualitative interview study with students in the UK. Mental Health & Prevention, 13, 21–30.

Vicedo, M. (2017). Putting attachment in its place: Disciplinary and cultural contexts. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 14(6), 684–699.

Wang, Z., & Su, I. (2013). Longitudinal factor structure of general self-concept and locus of control among high school students. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 31(6), 554–565.

Wintre, M. G., & Yaffe, M. (2000). First-year students’ adjustment to university life as a function of relationships with parents. Journal of Adolescence Research, 15(1), 9–37.

Zhang, Y., Cao, X., Aashiq, Xie, Y., Zhong, Q., Lei, G., Zhang, J., Xiao, Q., Wang, G., Bian, Y., Xie, S., & Huang, F. (2021). Psychological stress of university students in the hardest-hit areas at different stages of the COVID-19 epidemic. Children and Youth Services Review, 125, Article 105980.

How to Cite
Gill, H., Ritchie, K., Gerhardt, E., Wilson, K., & Cameron, C. A. (2023). PARENTAL AND SOCIAL FACTORS PREDICT THRIVING DURING THE TRANSITION TO UNIVERSITY. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, 14(2), 45-67.