• July 25, 2018 2:15 PM | TN Chairs (Administrator)

    This post is about efforts to conduct culturally diverse research with parents and families of emerging adults. Below I share a few experiences relevant to the topic and then ask for you to share your thoughts.

    Laura Williams, a master’s student in cultural sustainability at Goucher College, contacted me to encourage discussion for pre-conference topics on how parents can better support children through emerging adulthood by using the research process itself. Through conducting interviews and focus groups with transnational and transracial adoptees, Laura has found that these participants in her research gained the confidence to engage their parents in difficult conversations about race and adoption, thus contributing to social change.

    Ohad Nahum, a clinical psychologist from Israel, contacted me to encourage discussion for pre-conference topics related to working with parents of emerging adults who remain dependent on their parents. Ohad described these individuals as a distinctive subgroup of individuals who do not gain independence or maintain productive lifestyles. Such individuals may be underrepresented in the literature given the relative difficulty of connecting with them.

    Psi Chi’s Network for International Collaborate Exchange (NICE; https://osf.io/juupx/) started a project titled Connecting Students and Faculty across the Globe to Study Cross Cultural Questions. I understand the goal of their group is to connect researchers with each other so that data may be collected across culturally diverse sites both nationally and internationally. Mary Rogers, a student working with me, submitted a proposal to NICE. We hope to investigate how the Olson (2000) Family Circumplex Model generalizes across cultures.

    What practices or research are you conducting to consider these and other culturally diverse factors? What are your ideas about the current state of practice and research in addressing these factors? What more can be done to make further progress?

    Please share your thoughts about our efforts to conduct culturally diverse practice and research with emerging adults and their parents and families by responding directly to this post or emailing me directly at cm998@msstate.edu.

    -Cliff McKinney

  • May 15, 2018 4:18 PM | TN Chairs (Administrator)

    Our lab researches psychological and physical maltreatment by parents against emerging adult children over the past 12 months, as reported by emerging adults using the Conflict Tactics Scale: Parent-Child Version (CTSPC; Straus et al., 1998). We are finding that emerging adult children are endorsing that their parents are committing psychological and physical maltreatment against them.

    Sample characteristics include N = 2,374, 18-25 years old (M = 18.85), 67.9% female, 74.1% White, 20.5% African American, attending college, 80% two-parents living together, >50% mothers and fathers with > bachelor’s degree, and 95% reporting frequent parental contact.

    Self-report is one of several valid methods of gathering data, with some researchers positing that perception is reality, although it is undoubtedly subject to limitations and biases (e.g., depressed children reporting more severe and more frequent negative occurrences) that must be considered.

    With that caveat, what are your thoughts on the prevalence of items reported below? What other literature/citations are you aware of that investigates this topic in emerging adults? 

    Please send me your ideas for blogs, including sharing your own research!

    Cliff McKinney, Associate Professor, Mississippi State University, cm998@msstate.edu

  • August 24, 2016 8:52 AM | Deleted user

    My name is Jonathan Mattanah and I am a professor of psychology at Towson University in Baltimore, MD.  I have been studying emerging adults in college for the past 15 years and have been particularly interested in understanding how students’ relationships with their parents, peers, and romantic partners affect their social-emotional adjustment to the campus.  I am pleased to announce that I have recently completed an extensive review of the literature on students’ psychological adjustment to college, which is being published in a set of two books entitled College Student Psychological Adjustment, by Momentum Press. 

    I have published a number of articles in this area, including a major meta-analytic review paper in the 2011 issue of Journal of Counseling Psychology that reviewed over 150 studies examining links between parent-student attachment relationships and college outcomes.  That review found that both mother-student and father-student relationships exert an enduring influence on students’ adjustment, especially in terms of students’ ability to separate smoothly during the college transition and develop satisfying relationships with peers.  These patterns were stronger for students who lived on campus than for those who were commuting to school from home.

    My two books being published by Momentum Press pick up where this review paper left off.  The first book, College Student Psychological Adjustment: Theory, Methods, and Statistical Trends provides an overview of theoretical perspectives and research on the adjustment process.  I provide the latest statistics on numbers of students attending college in the United States today and note trends in the diversity of students attending college.  I also highlight some of the significant mental and physical health challenges students report while in college. I then review major theoretical perspectives on college development, including the work of Arthur Chickering, William Perry, Alexander Astin, Vincent Tinto, and, our own, Jeffrey Arnett, locating Arnett’s work in the context of a new developmental theory to capture many of the psychological dilemmas college student experience. The last two chapters of this book review college adjustment research, examining domains of functioning in college, methodological tools for studying the adjustment process, and examining adjustment outcomes for both majority and minority students. This book, due to be published by October of this year, is particularly valuable for students who may not know a lot about studying college students and who may be interested in designing their own study of college adjustment.

    The second book, College Student Psychological Adjustment: Exploring Relational Dynamics that Predict Success has just been published and it focuses specifically on relational dynamics among college students. I examined five major relational figures that are important for all college students:  (1) Parents, (2) professors, (3) roommates, (4) friends, and (5) romantic partners. For each of these relationships, I examine the ingredients that make the relationship successful and examine problematic patterns that may derail college student success.  Just as an example, the chapter on parent-student relationships provides a detailed examination of the concept of helicopter parenting, reviewing the most recent research showing the ways in which it is problematic for college student development and adjustment. The final chapter of this book provides an overview of innovative, relationship enhancement intervention programs that have been tested on college students in hopes of improving students’ relationship functioning with peers and romantic partners, and thereby enhancing college adjustment. 

    I hope that you will check out these two books and find them of value to your scholarly and teaching efforts, especially in more advanced classes that focus on lifespan development

    al.  Here is the link to the publisher’s website, which provides more information about both books:


    Also, the second book is available for purchase through the above website or through Amazon at:


    Finally, if you just have more questions or want to discuss these books or my work more with me, you can always email me at jmattanah@towson.edu.

    Thanks for reading this long post! 

  • June 20, 2016 10:16 AM | Deleted user

    We are halfway through 2016, and so far it has been a great year for research on parents and family in emerging adulthood! Here is a summary of studies published this year that are of interest to our topic network. Click on the journal names below for a link to each study.

    Bosch et al. have a paper in press at Emerging Adulthood that suggests that parents play a role in the development of financial identity in emerging adults.

    In a paper at Journal of Child and Family Studies, Portner & Riggs report evidence that parent-child relationships set the stage for sibling relationship functioning in emerging adulthood.

    Also at Journal of Child and Family Studies, Kwon et al. present novel research exploring the construct of helicopter parenting in a sample of emerging adults in Korea.

    Also at Journal of Child and Family Studies, McClelland & McKinney report that emerging adults’ perceptions of their parents’ psychopathology and parenting behavior contribute to emerging adults’ disruptive behavior.

    In a study published at Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, I found that the link between parent depressive symptoms and emotional adjustment was contingent on emerging adults’ physiological reactivity to stress.

    In a study published in Eating Behaviors, my research group presents evidence that parent psychological control, emerging adult coping behavior, and physiological stress reactivity interactively contribute to risk for disordered eating in college students.
    In a paper at Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Stanger et al. found that parent socialization of coping interacts with age of onset of alcohol use and physiological stress reactivity to predict heavy drinking in college students.

    Finally, in a paper at Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Wagner & Abaied found that the link between parent psychological control and relational aggression in emerging adults varied as a function of psychophysiology. 
    This study received some attention from a number of media outlets – for a discussion of how the media covered this paper, please see a commentary I published on Medium.com

    Do you know of any other studies that should be added to this list? If so, please email me at jabaied@uvm.edu and I will add them!

  • February 10, 2016 1:50 PM | Deleted user

    Written by Laura Padilla-Walker, PhD

    Helicopter parenting during emerging adulthood – it’s a relatively hot topic the last few years. Especially in the news media. But what is helicopter parenting, how much of this hype is reflected in the research, and how common is this type of parenting during emerging adulthood? 

    Larry Nelson and myself have published a few studies in this area and are learning more about this construct, though still scratching our heads to some degree. Helicopter parenting can be simply defined as parental over-control – so an instance where a parent is solving problems for their emerging adult child that he or she could solve for themselves. So if a parent is calling her child’s college professor to debate a grade or setting up job interviews for her son, she may be a candidate for a parent who hovers a bit too much! We know from our research that helicopter parenting is a form of parental control, though it’s distinct from both behavioral and psychological control. There are at least three measures of helicopter parenting now in circulation (and probably more in the works), but most research outside of our lab suggests this form of parental control to be universally negative, while we find a somewhat more nuanced set of findings. We certainly can’t claim that helicopter parenting is a good thing, but we haven’t found it to be as bad a thing as all the excitement suggests. In addition, levels of helicopter parenting are similar to levels of behavioral control during emerging adulthood – which are generally quite low. So the visions we have of helicopter mothers and fathers rushing around college campuses or frantically following their children as they go to work and maybe even peering in the window to make sure their child is staying on task…may not be as rampant as the media sometimes lets on. In addition, our findings suggest it isn’t nearly as detrimental to the child’s well-being as other forms of control.

    Because our first study suggested helicopter parenting may actually be related to a few things that are positive (e.g., EAs self-reported parental guidance and involvement), we sought to understand in a more recent study whether there may be some more positive forms of helicopter parenting. More specifically, we wondered if maternal warmth might moderate the links between helicopter parenting and outcomes, where the outcomes might not be so negative if the parent has good intentions and a good relationship with the child (as compared to the helicopter parent who just wants to maintain control). So in this recent study we looked at over 400 emerging adult college students from across the United States and examined the links between helicopter parenting and EA outcomes (e.g., self-esteem, risk behavior, etc) – moderated by parental warmth. Consistent with our other work, we didn’t find helicopter parenting to be directly associated with any outcome (other than a marginally negative finding with school engagement) – but we did find a few instances of moderation, though not necessarily in the expected direction. Turns out that high levels of maternal warmth aren’t overly protective, but lower levels of maternal warmth make a non-ideal situation worse (see Figures 1 and 2). More specifically, self-worth was lowest and risk behaviors were highest when helicoptering mothers were also low on warmth. So helicopter parenting in the context of a non-supportive parent-child relationship may be a much stronger recipe for negative outcomes than helicopter parenting alone. The take home message at this point in the research on helicopter parenting?  It is a complex phenomenon that, fortunately, does not occur as much as we think (at least in the populations we’ve examined.)  It certainly does have the potential to stifle young people’s development but usually only in conjunction with other negative aspects of parenting (e.g., low parental warmth).  It isn’t the worst thing a parent can do but it isn’t the best either.

    Figure 1. Two-way Interaction Predicting Self-Worth

    Note. Simple slope follow-up analyses were significant at -1 standard deviation of maternal warmth and marginally significant at +1 standard deviation of maternal warmth

    Figure 2. Two-way Interaction Predicting Risk Behaviors

    Note. Simple slope follow-up analyses significant at both -1 standard deviation and +1 standard deviation of maternal warmth.

    A couple of ideas on where the field needs to go next! First of all, we are always in need of non-college and longitudinal samples during this age period. The role of helicopter parenting on emerging adults who don’t attend college is a fascinating question that deserves future research, as it may look very different than it does for those who attend college. It will also be important to examine the long-term effects of helicopter parenting, which may significantly delay the transition to adulthood if gone unchecked through the first part of the third decade of life. We also suggest it will be important for future research to distinguish over-involvement from healthy involvement during emerging adulthood, as the last thing we want to do is to suggest that parents shouldn’t be involved in the lives of their children! We know from many other studies that parents continue to be important in the lives of emerging adults, but it’s unclear if this involvement is most helpful in the form of emotional closeness and warmth, or if it extends to other areas of involvement. More importantly, determining how much involvement is too much continues to be nebulous, especially when we consider how that might vary from child to child. We also think it will be important for research to consider helicopter parenting that is initiated by the parent versus that which is initiated by the child. Most of the hype assumes these are parents hovering over their children whom they just can’t seem to let go, but it is equally possible that there are children begging for their parents to keep solving problems for them even though they would grow much more by solving the problems themselves.

    Clearly this is an interesting area of research with a great deal of room for growth! We hope that if any of you have ideas or data sets that would accommodate these types of measures, you will explore them and help us move the field forward in this regard!

    For extra reading:

    LeMoyne, T., & Buchanan, T. (2011). Does “hovering” matter? Helicopter parenting and its effect on well-being. Sociological Spectrum, 31, 399–418.

    Nelson, L. J., Padilla-Walker, L. M., & Nielson, M. G. (2015). Is helicopter parenting

    smothering or loving? Parental warmth as a moderator between helicopter parenting and emerging adults’ indices of adjustment. Emerging Adulthood, 3, 282-285.

    Padilla-Walker, L. M., & Nelson. L. J. (2012). Black Hawk Down? Establishing helicopter parenting as a distinct construct from other forms of parental control during emerging adulthood. Journal of Adolescence, 35, 1177-1190.

    Schiffrin, H.H., Liss, M., Miles-McLean, H., Geary, K. A., Erchull, M. J., & Tashner, T. (2014). Helping or hovering? The effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 23, 548-557.

    Segrin, C., Woszidlo, A., Givertz, M., Bauer, A., & Murphy, M. T. (2012). The association between overparenting, parent-child communication, and entitlement and adaptive traits in adult children. Family Relations, 61, 237–252.

  • July 08, 2015 2:24 PM | Deleted user

    Hello from Vermont! My name is Jamie Abaied, and I am an Assistant Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Vermont (UVM). I am also the co-chair of the Parents and Family Topic Network of SSEA. This week I’d like to share some exciting research we’ve been conducting in my laboratory on the role of psychophysiology in emerging adulthood.

    Psychophysiology – what is it, and why does it matter for people studying families in emerging adulthood?

    Psychophysiology refers to biological processes that underlie psychological phenomenon, such as attention, emotion, or cognition. Psychophysiological measures thus provide us with a window into how our bodies influence our development.

    Pictured: An ECG waveform.

    In the past decade, we have seen a huge wave of research that examines how children’s physiology shapes their reactions to their family environment. The goal of these studies is to understand why children exposed to similar family experiences show such a diverse array of outcomes. Psychophysiology may shed light on this process. In some cases, psychophysiology could be an underlying vulnerability that, when coupled with a stressful family environment, make it more likely that youth will have problems. Alternatively, some youths’ bodies may be more reactive to the outside world than others; as a result, these youth could be more at risk when things are bad but actually at an advantage when things are good (Pluess, 2015; Roisman et al., 2012). Psychophysiology could also shape which types of environments are ideal for certain people, also known as a “goodness of fit” perspective (Chess & Thomas, 1999). 

    At this point, we have quite a bit of data showing us that youth with distinct psychophysiological profiles also show distinct reactions to their environment (for reviews, see El-Sheikh & Erath, 2011; Obradovic, 2012). However, this research has been conducted almost entirely in samples of children and (to a lesser extent) adolescents. This begs the question – does psychophysiology continue to moderate the effects of the family environment in emerging adulthood?

    The UVM Coping with College Life Study

    My research group at UVM conducted a study designed to answer this question. We recruited a sample of 180 college students who completed a series of slightly challenging tasks and periods of rest, during which we measured their autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity. They also answered questions about their family, their peer relationships, how they cope with stress, and their mental health. A subset of the participants also had one parent complete a brief survey.

    Pictured: Me adjusting the settings on our bioamplifier.

    We’ve explored how psychophysiology relates to three aspects of family environment so far: parent coping suggestions, parent depressive symptoms, and parent psychological control.

    Parent Coping Suggestions

    Parent coping suggestions, also known as socialization of coping, involve parents encouraging children to use particular types of coping strategies in times of stress. We know parent coping suggestions predict adjustment in kids and adolescents, but our study was the first to examine them in emerging adulthood (Abaied, Wagner, & Sanders, 2014; http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0193397314000665)

    We specifically examined respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), an index of the parasympathetic nervous system. When we are exposed to stress, typically RSA decreases, which allows our bodies to allocate resources to respond to our environment; many researchers view this as a sign of good self-regulation. 

    We found that parent coping suggestions were associated with emerging adults’ responses to stress but only among emerging adults who showed (a) decreased RSA in response to an interpersonal stressor (i.e., describing a recent stressful event in one of their relationships), and (b) increased RSA in response to a noninterpersonal stressor (a mirror-tracing task). These findings suggest that psychophysiology does play a role in how sensitive emerging adults are to parent coping suggestions, but the “most sensitive” profile depended on the type of task students were working on when we measured their physiology.

    More recently, we examined how parent coping suggestions interacted with psychophysiology to predict heavy drinking in college. In this study (Stanger, Abaied, & Wagner, under review) we focused on skin conductance level reactivity (SCLR), an indicator of the sympathetic nervous system, to an interpersonal lab task. Blunted SCLR is thought to indicate lack of inhibition, and it is correlated with heightened aggression sensation seeking; thus, we anticipated that it would enhance risk for heavy drinking as well. We also examined the role of age of onset of alcohol use, as starting to drink alcohol early in life is a robust risk factor for later heavy drinking. 

    We found that in the presence of physiological risk only (blunted SCLR, late age of onset), engagement and disengagement suggestions buffered against heavy alcohol use. This suggests that for these youth, parent coping support was helpful even if parents encouraged disengagement from stress (which we typically think of as a bad thing). However, if both risk factors were present (blunted SCLR, early age of onset), engagement suggestions were problematic, predicting more heavy alcohol use among college students. Although engaging with stress is usually adaptive, it is possible that emerging adults who are otherwise at risk for drinking apply engagement suggestions inappropriately and increase their alcohol use.

    Parent Depressive Symptoms

    In another recent paper, I explored whether SCLR moderates the link between parent depressive symptoms and several aspects of emerging adults’ psychosocial well being (Abaied, 2015 http://spr.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/04/15/0265407515583170.full). I found that parent depressive symptoms predicted heightened depressive symptoms, maladaptive responses to stress, and insecure attachment in emerging adults, but only when emerging adults showed high SCLR to an interpersonal lab task. In contrast to blunted SCLR, high SCLR may indicate over-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system, which could amplify emerging adults’ reactions to their parents’ depressive symptoms. Importantly, these findings are highly consistent with previous work done with children and adolescents, suggesting there may be some developmental continuity in the ways that SCLR shapes reactions to family environments.

    Parent Psychological Control

    Finally, we examined whether baseline RSA (i.e., RSA measured at rest) interacted with parent psychological control to predict disordered eating in emerging adults (Abaied, Wagner, Lafko, & Flynn, under review). Parents who are psychologically controlling undermine their child’s autonomy by manipulating thoughts and feelings, making affection contingent upon compliance, and inducing guilt or shame. Previous work in our lab (Abaied & Emond, 2013) and others suggests that psychological control is detrimental to emerging adults’ adjustment, and threats to autonomy are particularly relevant to disordered eating. We also examined how participants tended to respond to stress. 

    We found that in the context of maladaptive responses to stress and high psychological control, RSA predicted increased disordered eating over time (6 months later). However, in the absence of parent psychological control, high RSA was beneficial in most cases, even when individuals reported maladaptive responses to stress. This suggests that supportive parenting coupled with physiological self-regulation can help to prevent disordered eating, whereas controlling parenting can potentially cause physiological self-regulation to be inappropriately applied, yielding heightened eating pathology.

    What is the Take Home Message Here?

    Psychophysiology is highly relevant to our understanding of the impact of families in emerging adulthood. This seems to be true across different areas of family environment and different aspects of emerging adult development.

    These relations are complex. These data tell an interesting story, but not a simple one. The role that psychophysiology plays in shaping emerging adults’ development depends upon a number of individual and contextual factors.

    There is still a lot of work to be done. We need more studies with longitudinal designs and diverse populations of emerging adults to move this area of research forward.

    Have questions or interested in hearing more? Please feel free to email me at jabaied@uvm.edu. I also hope to see you at the SSEA Conference in October 2015!


    Abaied, J. L. (2015). Skin conductance reactivity as a moderator of the link between parent depressive symptoms and emotional adjustment in emerging adults. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. doi:10.1177/0265407515583170

    Abaied, J. L., & Emond, C. (2013). Parent psychological control and responses to stress in emerging adulthood: Moderating effects of behavioral inhibition and behavioral activation. Emerging Adulthood, 1, 258-270. doi: 10.1177/2167696813485737

    Abaied, J. L., Wagner, C., & Sanders, W. (2014). Parent socialization of coping in emerging adulthood: The moderating role of respiratory sinus arrhythmia. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 35(4), 357-369. doi: 10.1016/j.appdev.2014.06.002

    Abaied, J. L., Wagner, C., Lafko, N., & Flynn, M. (2015). Respiratory sinus arrhythmia as a predictor of disordered eating in college students: moderation by responses to stress and parent psychological control. Manuscript under review.

    Chess, S., Thomas, A., 1999. Goodness of fit: Clinical applications from infancy through adult life. Bruner/Mazel, Philadelphia, PA.     

    El-Sheikh, M., & Erath, S. A. (2011). Family conflict, autonomic nervous system functioning, and child adaptation: State of the science and future directions. Development and Psychopathology, 23(02), 703–721. doi:10.1017/S0954579411000034

    Obradović, J. (2012). How can the study of physiological reactivity contribute to our understanding of adversity and resilience processes in development? Development and Psychopathology, 24, 371-387. doi: 10.1017/S0954579412000053

    Pluess, M. (2015). Individual differences in environmental sensitivity. Child Development Perspectives, n/a-n/a. doi:10.1111/cdep.12120

    Roisman, G. I., Newman, D. A., Fraley, R. C., Haltigan, J. D., Groh, A. M., & Haydon, K. C. (2012). Distinguishing differential susceptibility from diathesis-stress: Recommendations for evaluating interaction effects. Development and Psychopathology, 24(2), 389-409. doi:10.1017/S0954579412000065

    Stanger, S., Abaied, J. L., & Wagner (2015). Predicting heavy alcohol use in college students: Interactions between socialization of coping, alcohol use onset, and physiological reactivity. Manuscript under review.

  • June 22, 2015 12:44 PM | Deleted user

    To tide you over while we work on new posts about our research, check out this infographic on parent-child relationships in emerging adulthood over at the Oxford University Press blog!

  • June 04, 2015 3:28 PM | Deleted user

    Welcome to the SSEA Parents and Family Topic Network Blog! 

    In the coming weeks, we will post some new and exciting research exploring the complex role that parents and family play in emerging adults’ development. We also hope this blog can serve as a forum for researchers interested in this topic to discuss issues relevant to our field and stay connected. 

    We encourage others to consider contributing posts on their own research – if you are interested, please contact Jamie Abaied at jabaied@uvm.edu.

    For members of SSEA who are not yet members of this topic network, please join and contribute to this growing area of emerging adult development! We are in need of additional voices and research ideas. We are hoping to gather socially at the upcoming SSEA conference in Miami to discuss ways in which we can grow the network and increase collaboration and facilitate research. We look forward to seeing many of you in Florida! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions, ideas, or comments.

    Laura Padilla-Walker, Chair

    Jamie Abaied, Emerging Scholar Co-Chair

© Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software