Parent and Peer Social-Emotional Support as Predictors of Depressive Symptoms in the Transition into and out of College
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Human Development and Family Studies
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Depression is common in the college student population. Parent and peer socio-emotional support have long been shown to be associated with greater well-being and less depressive symptoms, including a smoother transition to college. Less is known about how parent and peer support work together to predict subsequent depressive symptoms in both the transition into and out of college. I hypothesized both parent and peer support would predict less depressive symptoms and that peer support would be increasingly predictive of depressive symptoms compared to parent support over time. I also hypothesized that greater peer support would offset risk for low parent support (i.e., moderate the association). The longitudinal College Experiences Study (N = 209; 60% female, 90% white, 85% retention at Wave 2, 80% retention at Wave 3) was used to test hypotheses. Results from the random-intercept cross-lagged panel model showed that parent and peer support in the first year of college was significantly correlated with depressive symptoms that year. No cross-effects or longitudinal associations were observed between parent and peer support in relation to subsequent depressive symptoms in either developmental transition (Wave 1 to Wave 2 or Wave 2 to Wave 3). However, residual correlations at Wave 3 showed that only peer support and not parent support was significantly associated with less depressive symptoms in the transition out of college, suggesting peer support may gain in importance as students’ transition out. There was no support for the moderation hypotheses. Given the strong stability of depressive symptoms over time, and the fact that this stability was largely attributed to stable, trait-like influences, these findings highlight the importance of early identification of depression in the college student population along with empirically validated intervention and prevention programs.