Stress, Depression, and Anxiety Among Transitioning College Students: The Family as Protective Factor

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2017


Stress associated with the college transition can bring about depression and anxiety symptoms, but family relationships can reduce the impact of stress. We hypothesized that secure attachment to parents, comfort with talking about stressors, and family support would reduce the strength of the relationships between transition-related stress and symptoms experienced during the first week of college. First-year students (N = 90) completed measures related to parental attachment, stress, depression and anxiety, and family support during the second week of their first semester. Regression analyses indicated the relation between transition-related stress and depression was strongest when attachment anxiety (i.e., fear of rejection) was high, when students did not talk about their problems, and when family support was low. Family support had a moderating effect on anxiety, and high attachment avoidance (i.e., fear of dependency) was associated with a stronger relation between stress and anxiety. University programs should emphasize the importance of family relationships when promoting successful psychological adjustment to college.


This article was originally published as Kahn, J. H., Kasky-Hernández, L. M., Ambrose, P., & French, S. (2017). Stress, depression, and anxiety among transitioning college students: The family as a protective factor. Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 29(2), 11–25.

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