Maternal Attachment and Trajectories of Emotional and Social Adjustment During the College Transistion

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Students’ developmental trajectories for social and emotional adjustment to college have not been adequately examined. Moreover, the role of students’ attachment to mothers in predicting membership of adjustment trajectories is unknown. Entering college students (N = 325) completed measures of maternal attachment as well as measures of negative emotional adjustment (i.e., distress), positive emotional adjustment (i.e., well-being), and social adjustment during the summer prior to matriculation and again at two more points throughout the first semester. Multiple trajectories were found, but their number and nature differed depending on the measure of adjustment. A Well-Adjusted class and a Persistently Distressed class were found for all measures of adjustment, an Improved class was found for negative emotional adjustment and social adjustment, one Deteriorated class was found for social adjustment, and two Deteriorated classes were found for negative emotional adjustment. Moreover, attachment avoidance to mother prior to entering college was associated with membership in poor-adjustment trajectories during the first semester. The findings have implications for counselors who work with college-age youth to promote the successful transition to college.


This article was originally published as Kasky-Hernández, L. M., & Kahn, J. H. (2020). Maternal attachment and trajectories of emotional and social adjustment during the college transition. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 33(3), 312–332.