n South African Journal of Psychology - The role of family structure and parenting in first year university adjustment - research

Volume 49 Number 3
  • ISSN : 0081-2463
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The first year of university creates new experiences and challenges for first years and lays the foundation for the subsequent years of study. This first year has implications for academic development, mental health, and well-being of students and subsequently student retention. The majority of South African university students stay within their familial home unlike their international counterparts. The family may therefore play a contributory role in adjustment to university but this role is somewhat unclear. The current study therefore aimed to establish the associations between university adjustments of first year students, family structure, and parenting. The study employed a cross-sectional design, with a sample of 556 first year undergraduate students at a South African university. The data were collected using an electronic selfadministered questionnaire on a secure online platform using the Perceived Parental Autonomy Support Scale and the College Adaptation Questionnaire. Data analysis included hierarchical regression analyses and one-way analyses of variance to determine and compare the relationships between the variables. The results suggest that students from two-parent families were more adjusted than those from one-parent families. Autonomy-supportive parenting predicted positive university adjustment for the total sample, but only maternal autonomy-supportive parenting predicted good adjustment for students in two-parent families. This study highlights the potential role parents and families may play in the adjustment of first year students to university. This is particularly relevant in South Africa where many students are first-generation students, are challenged in transitioning to university, and this may have subsequent mental health–related challenges.

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