Mind Games: Parental Psychological Control and Emerging Adults' Adjustment

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Jeffrey J. Arnett

Second Advisor

Ana K. Marcelo


Although parental psychological control has been consistently linked with negative outcomes in the child and adolescent literatures, little is known about how it functions in an age-representative emerging adult population beyond college students. Consequently, this study examined the extent to which paternal and maternal psychological control were directly and indirectly (via self-esteem) related to emerging adult adjustment (i.e., life satisfaction, engagement in risk behaviors, and adulthood status). Participants were 310 emerging adults (Mage = 25.37; 55.8% female) from across the United States who completed an online survey. Results revealed that paternal psychological control had a direct effect on all measures of emerging adult adjustment and self-esteem, whereas maternal psychological control solely had a direct effect on risk behaviors. Results also indicated indirect effects of paternal psychological control. Increases in paternal psychological control predicted declines in emerging adult self-esteem, which in turn was associated with decreased life satisfaction and endorsement of feeling "fully" adult. Altogether, findings suggest that even low levels of parental psychological control are linked with detrimental outcomes in a sample of generally well-adjusted representative emerging adults.