Family relationships and family predictors of psychological distress in emerging adult college students: A 3-year study

Document Type



During emerging adulthood, family relationships remain salient. This study examined, from a gender perspective, continuity/discontinuity and stability/instability in family relationships, in a two-time repeated-measures study with Spanish emerging adult college students. It also analyzed the implications of the quality of parent–child relationships for emerging adults’ psychological distress. A sample of 400 Spanish college students aged between 18 and 29 years was followed across two time points (M = 20.31 and SD = 2.04 at Time 1; M = 23.66 and SD = 2.08 at Time 2), completing a self-report measure of parenting behaviors and psychological distress. Results indicated continuity in family social support, parental autonomy support, and psychological control; however, they also revealed discontinuity, with parental warmth, parental involvement, and behavioral control decreasing over time. Results also indicated high rank-order stability in family relationships, seen globally. Regression analyses showed that, only for men, parental involvement at T1 consistently predicted psychological distress at T2, as well as changes in psychological distress between T1 and T2. This study provides data supporting the idea that both change and continuity exist in family relationships. It also expands on the scarce research focused on this developmental context during emerging adulthood in Spain and provides support for designing preventive parenting interventions. © The Author(s) 2023.

Publication Title

International Journal of Behavioral Development

Publication Date







emerging adulthood, family relationships, gender, psychological distress, two-time study