2011. Vol.2, No.4, 275-282
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/psych.2011.24044
Adjustment of College Freshmen as Predicted by Both Perceived
Parenting Style and the Five Factor Model of Personality
Personality and Adjustment
Jennifer Schnuck, Paul J. Handal
Psychology Department, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, USA.
Received March 6th, 2011; revised April 10th, 2011; accepted May 12th, 2011.
The adjustment that freshmen make to college is important, and is related to student retention. The present study
explored the relationships among freshmen students’ personality traits, their perceptions of the parenting styles
employed by their mothers and fathers, their positive and negative adjustment, and their adaptation to college.
Freshmen participants (74 men, 116 women) were from a Midwestern, religiously affiliated university. Results
revealed that the relationships between parenting styles and adjustment to college, although statistically signifi-
cant, were quite weak. In contrast, analyses revealed that strong relationships exist between personality traits and
the adjustment that freshmen students make to college. These relationships were found to be different with re-
gard to gender. The results have important implications for the adjustment that freshmen students make to col-
Keywords: Personality Traits, Parenting Styles, Adjustment to College
The transition that students make from high school to college
is important and relevant in regard to student retention. Ac-
cording to the National Center for Education Statistics (2003),
55% of students who begin their education at a 4-year institu-
tion complete their bachelor’s degree within 6 years at the in-
stitution in which they first enrolled. When individuals who
transfer schools at some point during their undergraduate work
are included, this rate increases to 63%. However, this still
leaves a significant number of individuals who do not complete
their bachelor’s degree. Studies have suggested that when stu-
dents withdraw from universities it is often for personal reasons,
including adjustment to college (Toews & Yazedjian, 2007).
Of concern to college administrators is how to retain the stu-
dents who enroll at their institution, and what factors might
determine if students complete their degree. Parenting style and
the personality traits of students are two factors that have been
investigated with regard to the overall adjustment of college
students. The present study explored the relationships among
freshmen students’ personality traits, their perceptions of the
parenting styles employed by their mothers and fathers, their
positive and negative adjustment, and their adaptation to col-
Previous studies have been devoted to exploring different
parenting styles and the related outcomes for children, as spe-
cific parenting styles have been associated with children’s lev-
els of well-being (Lamborn, Mounts, Steinberg, & Dornbusch,
1991). Diana Baumrind spearheaded research on control within
different parenting styles, and is responsible for the most
widely-used and accepted conceptualization of parenting styles
(Hickman, Bartholomae, & McKenry, 2000). She outlined three
dimensions of control in parenting: authoritarian, authoritative,
and permissive (Baumrind, 1968). Authoritarian parents at-
tempt to shape and control their children’s behaviors and atti-
tudes to fit with a set standard of appropriate conduct. These
parents value obedience and believe their children should value
authority and obey without question. Baumrind (1968) concep-
tualized permissive parents as exerting insufficient control over
their children. These parents allow their children to regulate
their own activities. Authoritative parents attempt to direct their
children’s behaviors, but in a more evaluative way than au-
thoritarian parents. They encourage discussion, and explana-
tions for rules and reasoning are discussed with the children.
Authoritative parents value both autonomy and conformity, and
strive for a healthy balance. An authoritative parenting style has
consistently been identified as having the best influence on
children across many dimensions. For example, authoritative
parenting is related to children’s achievement, social develop-
ment, mental health and self-esteem (Lamborn et al., 1991) as
well as higher life-satisfaction and lower scores on a depression
scale (Milevsky, Schlechter, & Netter, 2007). Simons and
Conger (2007) investigated parenting styles between mothers
and fathers in two-parent families and found that having two
authoritative parents was associated with the best outcome for
adolescents (lowest levels of depression and greatest commit-
ment to school), though even having just one authoritative par-
ent seemed to buffer the adolescent against negative conse-
While most studies have examined the effects of parenting
style on high school adolescents and younger children, some
studies have investigated the presence of a relationship between
perceived parenting style and adjustment to college. Students
who perceived their parents to use a predominantly authorita-
tive parenting style were found to have greater academic ad-
justment in a college setting (Hickman, Bartholomae, & Mc-
Kenry, 2000) and reported higher physical well-being and
higher psychological well-being (Slicker & Thornberry, 2002)
when compared to students with more permissive or authoritar-
ian parenting styles.
While parenting styles have been demonstrated to be related
to the well-being of their offspring, some studies have investi-
gated the effect that parenting styles have on the personality
traits of their children (Baldwin, McIntyre, & Hardaway, 2007;
Heaven & Ciarrochi, 2008). The studies suggested that an au-
thoritative parenting style may be related to positive personality
traits, including optimism and conscientiousness. Despite these
findings, little research has investigated the relationship be-
tween perceived parenting style and personality as measured by
the five factor model of personality.
The Big Five trait model of personality seems to be the most
commonly used and agreed-upon conceptualization of person-
ality (Bardi & Ryff, 2007). A plethora of research has been
conducted on the five factor personality model and various
constructs, including subjective well-being (Costa & McCrae,
1980; DeNeve & Cooper, 1998). Extraversion and Neuroticism
have been consistently linked to adjustment and well-being
(Bardi & Ryff, 2007), with Extraversion related to positive
affect and Neuroticism linked to negative affect (Costa &
McCrae, 1980). Studies have also examined the relationship
between personality and the academic achievement of college
students, with findings that Conscientiousness is correlated
with achievement in college as measured by GPA (r = .26
to .42; e.g., Wagerman & Funder, 2007; Zyphur, Bradley,
Landis, & Thoresen, 2008).
A previous study in Canada investigated the possibility that
both personality and reported parenting styles are related to
adjustment to college in a sample of largely non-traditional
freshmen living at home (Wintre & Sugar, 2000). The authors
reported correlations separately for men and women as well as
for maternal and paternal parenting styles. They reported low
but significant correlations between parenting styles and as-
pects of college adjustment. With regard to the Big Five per-
sonality factors, each of the five factors was correlated with
multiple types of adjustment (ranging from r = 0.68 to r =
0.59), with Openness to Experience correlating with the fewest
adjustment variables (Wintre & Sugar, 2000).
Recent findings revealed that there is a significant, albeit,
low relationship between parenting style and college adjust-
ment, and what appears to be preliminary findings regarding
some correlations between aspects of parenting style and per-
sonality traits. In light of these findings, the present study was
designed to more systematically investigate each relationship
between and among parenting style, personality traits, and posi-
tive and negative adjustment to college. More specifically, there
were three foci of the present study: to investigate the relation-
ship between parenting styles and adjustment to college, to
investigate the relationship between personality traits and ad-
justment, and to investigate the possibility that personality traits
mediate the relationship between parenting style and adjust-
ment to college.
The purpose of this study was to determine if several factors
are related to college adjustment. First, is perceived parenting
style related to the adjustment of college freshmen? Second, are
personality traits related to the adjustment of college students?
Third, is perceived parenting style related to the personality
traits of college freshmen as measured by the NEO-FFI? And
finally, if a relationship does indeed exist between parenting
style and adjustment, is the relationship mediated by personal-
It was hypothesized that parenting style would be related to
level of adjustment; more specifically that an authoritative par-
enting style would be positively associated with the best overall
adjustment to college. It was predicted that personality would
also be associated with adjustment to college, with Extraversion
and Openness to Experience positively associated with social
adjustment, Conscientiousness positively associated with aca-
demic adjustment, and Neuroticism associated with poor social
and personal-emotional adjustment.
It was also hypothesized that parenting style would be re-
lated to students’ personality traits; more specifically that au-
thoritarian parenting would be positively correlated with Neu-
roticism, and authoritative parenting would be positively re-
lated to Extraversion. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that
personality traits would mediate the relationships between
parenting style and adjustment to college. More specifically, it
was hypothesized that relationships between parenting styles
and adjustment to college, if mediated by personality traits,
would no longer be significant when personality was ac-
counted for in the model.
The participants consisted of 190 freshmen students (74 men,
116 women) in their first semester of college. Participants iden-
tified as being either 18 (77%) or 19-years-old (23%). Twenty
percent of the participants reported that they were first-genera-
tion college students. The majority of participants were Cauca-
sian (82.5%) with married (73.2%) and well-educated parents
(66.6% of participants’ mothers and 70.1% of fathers were
college graduates). Five (2.6%) students identified as African
American, 9.5% identified as Asian American, 3.7% were His-
panic, .5% was Native American, and 1.1% of students indi-
cated being of an ethnicity that was not listed among the re-
sponse choices. In addition, the majority of the sample reported
living in a dormitory (84.2%), with 11.6% living in a house,
and 3.7% living in an apartment. Most of the students resided
with at least one other roommate who they either knew (21.6%)
or did not know before beginning college (62.6%), while 15.3%
reported living with their parents or another family member,
and only one student (0.5%) reported living alone.
The Parental Authority Questionnaire (PAQ) was used to
measure students’ perceptions of the parenting styles used by
both their mothers and fathers. The PAQ consists of 30 items
per parent, and yields measures of authoritarian, authoritative,
and permissive parenting styles. Each item is associated with 1
of the 3 styles of parenting, and is rated on a 5-point scale by
participants, where 1 equals “strongly disagree” and 5 equals
strongly agree.” According to the developer of the PAQ (Buri,
1991), the test-retest reliability for the 3 different parenting
style prototypes for both mothers and fathers ranges from .77
to .92. The Cronbach alphas for internal consistency for each of
the 6 scales range from .74 to .87 (Buri, 1991). The scales were
also demonstrated to have good discriminant-related validity,
criterion-related validity, and do not seem to be vulnerable to
social desirability response bias (Buri, 1991).
To assess for the students’ adjustment to college, the Student
Adaptation to College Questionnaire (SACQ; Baker & Siryk,
1999) was administered. The SACQ is a self-report measure
consisting of 67 items that are ranked by participants on a
9-point scale. The measure is used by colleges throughout the
country to increase student retention rate; and it was standard-
ized on over 1,300 college freshmen and stratified by semester
of attendance (Baker & Siryk, 1999). The SACQ yields a full
scale score, and also assesses 4 different areas of adjustment
including: academic adjustment, personal-emotional adjustment,
social adjustment, and attachment to the institution. The reli-
ability of the SACQ is quite good, with coefficient alpha values
ranging from .77 to .86 for the personal-emotional adjustment
scale up to .92 to .95 for the full scale (Dahmus & Bernardin,
1992). The criterion-related or construct validity has also been
demonstrated to be quite good, with the academic adjustment
scale related to student grade point average (r = .17 to .53), the
personal-emotional adjustment scale negatively correlated with
seeking psychological services (r = .23 to .34), and attach-
ment to institution negatively correlated with attrition (r = .27
to .41; Baker & Siryk, 1999).
To further assess for psychological adjustment, the Langner
Symptom Survey (LSS; Langner, 1962) was administered as
well. The LSS is a 22-item, epidemiological screening measure
to assess for the presence of psychological and psychosomatic
symptoms (Langner, 1962). The items chosen were selected
because they clearly distinguish between out-patient psychiatric
patients and non-ill individuals. The LSS items are scored with
either a 0 (symptom is not present) or a 1 (symptom is en-
dorsed), and therefore scores can range from 0 to 22. For each
item, the response choices are: Yes, No, Don’t Know, and Not
Applicable. According to Langner (1962), a score of 4 or higher
may be used as a cutting point to classify those individuals who
are impaired versus not, as it accurately did for 84.4% of those
considered “incapacitated” in the original study. However, the
scale may also be used as a rough indication of where people lie
on a continuum of impairment (Langner, 1962), and for the
purpose of this study it was treated as a dimensional measure.
The scores from the SACQ and LSS were used to assess the
overall adjustment of college students.
An additional measure of psychological adjustment was used
to investigate the subjective well-being of each participant. The
Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, Emmons, Larsen,
& Griffin, 1985), a brief, widely used self-report measure of
satisfaction with life, was administered in order to assess for
this area of adjustment and functioning. The SWLS consists of
5 items scored on a Likert scale, with response choices ranging
from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Higher scores
on the SWLS are indicative of higher subjective well being, as
well as a greater degree of happiness and satisfaction with life.
In a study conducted by Diener et al., (1985), a mean SWLS
score for college students was reported to be 23.5, with a stan-
dard deviation of 6.4 and a coefficient alpha of .87.
The NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI; Costa & McCrae,
1992) was used to measure the personality of each student as
measured by the five factor model of personality. The NEO-FFI
is a 60-item short-form of the NEO Personality Inventory
(NEO-PI-R; Costa & McCrae, 1992), and consists of the Big
Five trait dimensions of personality: Neuroticism, Extraversion,
Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness.
Each domain is measured by 12 items which are answered on a
5-point scale (Costa & McCrae, 1992). The NEO-FFI is one of
the most widely-used instruments to assess for personality
(Bardi & Ryff, 2007) and has demonstrated excellent psycho-
metric properties, including: correlations from .77 to .92 with
the NEO-PI-R domain scales, internal consistency coefficients
ranging from .73 to .86 for the 5 domains, and evidenced con-
vergent and discriminant validity (Costa & McCrae, 1992).
A demographic questionnaire was also administered. The
form includes items pertaining to the students’ gender, age,
year in school, ethnicity, parental marital status, and number of
siblings. Additional questions also addressed if the students
were first generation college students, where they lived (home,
dorm, apartment, other), if they lived alone or with roommates,
and if they lived at home with their parents, if this was their
Design and Procedure
College freshmen were recruited to participate in the study
through Sona, a website designed to recruit participants and
facilitate experiments. Participants consented and completed
the surveys online through Sona during the second half of the
fall semester. Extra credit was granted for their participation.
Sample Characteristics
In order to determine if gender differences existed among
perceived parenting styles, a Multivariate Analysis of Variance
(MANOVA) was conducted. A significant MANOVA F was
obtained, F(6, 171) = 2.75, p < .05, indicating a gender differ-
ence with regard to perceived parenting styles. In order to de-
termine which parenting variables differed by gender, univari-
ate F statistics were calculated. Tests of between-subjects ef-
fects indicated that significant gender differences were present
with regard to mother permissiveness [F(1, 176) = 9.17, p < .01]
and father permissiveness [F(1, 176) = 6.53, p < .05]. In both
cases, men reported that their parents were more permissive
than women did.
In order to determine if gender differences existed among
personality variables, a second MANOVA was conducted. The
MANOVA was found to be non-significant, indicating that
there were no gender differences with regard to personality
traits, F(5, 184) = 1.76, p = .12.
A third MANOVA was conducted in order to determine if
gender differences existed among the adjustment variables,
including the SACQ scales, the LSS, and the SWLS. A signifi-
cant MANOVA was obtained, F(7, 161) = 7.00, p < .001, indi-
cating that men and women responded differently on measures
of adjustment. In order to determine on which variables men
and women responded differently, univarite F statistics were
calculated. Women and men were found to differ on the LSS
[F(1, 167) = 5.06, p < .05] and the Institutional Attachment
[F(1, 167) = 11.14, p < .01] and Personal-Emotional subscales
[F(1, 167) = 4.13, p < .05] of the SACQ. Women were more
likely to endorse symptoms on the LSS than were men, indi-
cating the participating men reported being better adjusted than
the women with regard to broad psychological symptoms.
Women also reported being less well-adjusted than men on the
personal-emotional scale of the SACQ. Finally, female partici-
pants reported a greater attachment to the institution than did
men. The means and standard deviations obtained for both men
and women on the different measures and their subscales are
presented in Table 1.
Based on the finding of significant sex differences in adjust-
ment, parenting style, and satisfaction with college measures,
subsequent analyses were computed separately for men and
women. The mean scores for the different scales of the SACQ
and NEO-FFI were found to be comparable to those reported in
the SACQ (Baker & Siryk, 1999) and NEO-PI-R manuals
(Costa & McCrae, 1992), respectively. In addition, the PAQ
mean scores were akin to those reported by Buri (1991), and the
SWLS mean scores were similar to those reported by Diener
et al. (1985).
In order to investigate the relationships among personality
traits and adjustment, perceived parenting styles and adjustment,
and perceived parenting styles and personality traits, correla-
tions between variables were calculated. The correlations for
parenting style and personality with adjustment variables are
presented for both women (Table 2) and men (Table 3).
Correlations between perceived parenting style and adjust-
ment revealed some significant associations, ranging between r
= .20 and .31 for women and r = .21 and .34 for men. For both
men and women, paternal permissiveness was negatively cor-
related with adjustment variables, and paternal authoritative-
ness was positively correlated with adjustment. Paternal per-
missiveness was associated with poorer adjustment for women
on the LSS (r = .20), SWLS (r = .31), Social Adjustment sub-
scale (r = .26), and the SACQ Full Scale (r = .22). For men,
paternal permissiveness was similarly associated with the So-
cial Adjustment subscale (r = .25) and the SACQ Full Scale (r
= .32), but also with the Academic Adjustment (r = .21) and
Institutional Attachment (r = .34) subscales.
For women, authoritarian maternal parenting was associated
with 5 of the 7 adjustment variables (r = .22 to .28) revealing
that maternal authoritarian parenting was associated with
poorer adjustment. For men, however, maternal authoritarian
parenting was not significantly correlated with any adjustment
variables. Instead, for men, perceived maternal authoritative
parenting was associated with positive adjustment (r = .28
Table 1.
Means and standard deviations.
Men Women
Maternal Authoritarian 29.74 4.37 28.62 5.04
Maternal Authoritative 33.69 4.45 34.35 4.49
Maternal Permissive 26.57 4.64 24.74 4.22
Paternal Authoritarian 32.33 5.15 31.00 6.28
Paternal Authoritative 33.97 5.34 33.51 7.09
Paternal Permissive 25.96 5.56 24.10 5.25
Neuroticism 54.86 9.53 54.06 10.07
Extraversion 56.70 9.41 57.96 9.74
Openness to Experience 47.27 9.67 49.79 9.64
Agreeableness 43.65 10.99 47.95 11.70
Conscientiousness 39.74 8.28 41.59 9.95
LSS 3.12 2.77 4.27 3.41
SWLS 25.07 5.25 25.29 5.91
SACQ Academic 135.64 22.58 141.09 26.17
SACQ Social 121.90 22.37 128.14 28.20
SACQ Personal-Emotional 86.42 18.41 79.85 22.09
SACQ Institutional Attachment 96.43 19.60 106.81 20.04
SACQ Full Scale 399.29 57.04 409.47 68.00
Note: scores in bold reflect significant differences at p < .05 level.
Table 2.
Parenting style and personality c o rrelations with adjustment variables for women.
Variable LSS SWLS Acad Soc Atta P-E FS
Parenting Style
M Authoritarian .27** .16 .28** .22* .23* .19 .28**
M Authoritative .10 .22* .08 .04 .07 .10 .08
M Permissive .17 .04 .16 .04 .10 .21* .17
P Authoritarian .16 .12 .12 .10 .08 .10 .04
P Authoritative .19* .18 .10 .20* .13 .11 .17
P Permissive .20* .31** .26** .14 .20 .13 .22*
Neuroticism .66** .59** .40** .33** .34** .65** .56**
Extraversion .34** .51** .03 .39** .42** .14 .26**
Openness .01 .05 .14 .05 .04 .08 .11
Agreeableness .43** .40** .17 .34** .37** .28** .34**
Conscientiousness .31** .27* .51** .09 .15 .21* .33**
Note: *correlation is significant at the p < .05 level; **correlation is significant at the p < .01 level. Acad = Academic Adjustment, Soc = Social Adjustment, Atta = At-
tachment to the Institution, P-E = Personal-Emotional Adjustment, FS = SACQ Full Scale, M = Maternal, P = Paternal.
Table 3.
Parenting style and personality c o rrelations with adjustment variables for men.
Variable LSS SWLS Acad Soc Atta P-E FS
Parenting Style
M Authoritarian .10 .22 .16 .06 .14 .07 .16
M Authoritative .16 .28* .17 .34** .34** .17 .31**
M Permissive .08 .03 .11 .07 .01 .04 .05
P Authoritarian .02 .24* .05 .12 .16 .02 .08
P Authoritative .01 .24* .23 .35* .31* .03 .26*
P Permissive .05 .02 .21** .25* .34** .18 .32**
Neuroticism .72** .47** .48** .24** .29** .74** .59**
Extraversion .09 .16 .20 .38** .39** .33** .41**
Openness .13 .17 .14 .23 .10 .07 .19
Agreeableness .29** .39** .43** .17 .28* .30* .40**
Conscientiousness .16 .29* .60** .05 .19 .30** .41**
Note: *correlation is significant at the p < .05 level; **correlation is significant at the p < .01 level. Acad = Academic Adjustment, Soc = Social Adjustment, Atta = At-
tachment to the Institution, P-E = Personal-Emotional Adjustment, FS = SACQ Full Scale, M = Maternal, P = Paternal.
to .34) for 4 of the 7 adjustment variables. For women, maternal
authoritative parenting was only correlated with the SWLS. In
addition, maternal permissive parenting was only associated
with one adjustment variable (Personal-Emotional Adjustment,
r = .21) for women and none for men, and paternal authoritar-
ian parenting was only associated with one adjustment variable
for men (SWLS, r = .24) and none for women. Though only
associated with one variable, it is notable that paternal authori-
tarian parenting was positively correlated with the SWLS for
Although significant relationships were found between per-
ceived parenting style and adjustment, the magnitude of the
relationships was typically low (r = .20 to .34). Personality
variables were found to be more related to adjustment variables
than the parenting style variables were. For both men and
women, Neuroticism was related to all adjustment variables
(ranging from .24 to .74), with each association indicating
poor adjustment. Neuroticism was most strongly associated
with poor adjustment on the LSS and the Personal-Emotional
Adjustment subscale for women (r = .66 and .65, respectively)
and men (r = .72 and .74, respectively).
Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness were all
associated with positive adjustment for both men and women,
though some variation was noted regarding which adjustment
variables were significantly associated with personality traits
when comparing men and women. For example, for women,
Extraversion was associated with positive adjustment (r = .26
to .51) as measured by the LSS, SWLS, Social Adjustment
subscale, Institutional Attachment subscale, and the SACQ Full
Scale. For men, Extraversion was related to all of the SACQ
subscales except for Academic Adjustment (r = .33 to .41) but
not associated with the LSS or the SWLS. Agreeableness was
found to be related to every adjustment variable for women (r
= .28 to .43) except for Academic Adjustment, and every
variable for men (r = .28 to .43) except Social Adjustment.
Conscientiousness was strongly correlated with the Academic
Adjustment subscale for both women (r = .51) and men (r
= .60), and was related to the remaining adjustment variables (r
= .27 to .41) with the exceptions of the Social Adjustment and
Institutional Attachment subscales for both men and women.
Openness to Experience was not associated with any of the
adjustment variables for either men or women.
Correlations were also calculated between parenting style
and personality. Analyses revealed a minimal number of sig-
nificant correlations. For men, Agreeableness was correlated
with maternal authoritative parenting (r =.39) and paternal
permissiveness (r = .34). For women, paternal authoritative
parenting and Neuroticism were correlated at r = .19, maternal
authoritative parenting was associated with Extraversion (r
= .27) and Conscientiousness (r = .21), and paternal permis-
siveness and Agreeableness were correlated at r = .22. Per-
ceived parenting style was not found to be associated with
many personality traits for freshmen students, and the magni-
tude of the significant relationships was typically in the low
range (r = .19 to .39).
Multiple Mediation Analyses
In order to test for the presence of mediators in the predictive
relationships between parenting style and adjustment variables,
a series of multiple mediation analyses (Preacher & Hayes,
2008) were run using the causal steps strategy as outlined by
Baron and Kenny (1986). Separate analyses were run for men
and women, yielding a total of 84 analyses. While most of the
models did not reach significance, there were two models that
yielded full mediators, one model that yielded a partial media-
tor, and several models that were trending toward mediation.
Almost all of the significant models pertained to women, with
only one model that was trending toward significance for male
students. Despite the significant findings, given the large num-
ber of models that were investigated for mediation, the signifi-
cant models found were likely due to chance. When a Bon-
ferroni correction is applied, then the findings are no longer
significant. These findings indicate that, overall, broad person-
ality traits did not mediate the relationships between perceived
parenting and adjustment for college students.
The purpose of the present study was to systematically in-
vestigate the relationships between parenting style, personality
traits, positive and negative psychological adjustment, and ad-
justment to college. Analyses revealed that relationships exist
between and among personality, perceived parenting style, and
the adjustment that freshmen students make to college. These
relationships were found to be different with regard to gender.
The first goal of the study was to determine if perceived
parenting style was related to adjustment as reported by college
freshmen in their first semester of school. Perceived parenting
style was found to be associated with different adjustment
variables, for example, permissive parenting was correlated
with negative adjustment and authoritative parenting was cor-
related with positive adjustment. Despite the statistically sig-
nificant relationships between parenting style and adjustment,
the magnitude of the relationships were generally found to be
low and not clinically meaningful. However, these results do
affirm the literature that authoritative parenting is beneficial.
A second goal of the study was to assess if personality traits
were related to adjustment variables. Numerous statistically
significant differences were found in relationships between
personality traits and aspects of adjustment for college students.
The magnitudes of the relationships were found to be robust
and clinically meaningful. For instance, poor academic per-
formance was found to be related to low levels of Conscien-
tiousness. It is believed that administrators can make fairly
good predictions about different aspects of adjustment to col-
lege based on students’ personality traits. The present study
also confirmed previous findings, such that Neuroticism is
linked to poorer adjustment and Extraversion is related to posi-
tive adjustment (Bardi & Ryff, 2007).
A third goal of the study was to determine if perceived par-
enting styles were related to the personality traits of college
freshmen. Overall, there were very few significant correlations
between perceived parenting style and personality traits for
either men or women, indicating that there is not likely a strong
relationship between freshmen students’ perceptions of the
parenting they received and their own personality traits. The
relationships that were found to be significant were different for
men and women and of a low magnitude.
The final goal of the present study was to determine if the
relationships that were found between perceived parenting style
and student adjustment were mediated by personality traits.
Analyses revealed that, for most of the proposed mediation
models, personality traits were not found to mediate the rela-
tionships between perceived parenting and adjustment. Overall,
it appears that the mechanism by which parenting is related to
adjustment and adaptation to college is largely not due to per-
sonality traits. There are several possible explanations for why
personality was not found to mediate the relationships between
parenting and measures of adjustment. It is possible that the
relationships between these constructs were not strong enough
to carry these models, given the stronger relationships between
personality and adjustment than between parenting and adjust-
ment, and the very minimal relationships found between par-
enting styles and personality. It is notable that for both men and
women, there were very few significant relationships between
perceived parenting and personality traits, which are criteria
that must be met in order to conduct mediational analyses.
The current study affirmed previous results that authoritative
parenting is related to positive adjustment. However, it is to be
noted that the magnitude of this relationship is low and, conse-
quently, would not likely be a good predictor of positive ad-
justment. In addition, the results of the current study confirmed
previous findings with respect to Neuroticism being linked to
negative adjustment and Extraversion to positive adjustment. In
terms of adjustment to college, the relationship between Neu-
roticism and poor college adjustment is strong and, conse-
quently, a good predictor. In contrast, the relationship between
Extraversion and positive adjustment to college was not found
to be particularly significant for men, and the magnitude of the
relationships for women was rather small. Therefore, Extraver-
sion may not be a good predictor of positive college adjust-
Given the correlations between perceived parenting and ad-
justment, personality traits and adjustment, and perceived par-
enting and personality, it appears that the strongest correlations
are between students’ self-reported personality traits and ad-
justment. College administrators might choose to screen in-
coming freshmen to identify those students who are at greatest
risk for poor adjustment to college. After identification the
students who may be at the greatest risk (those who have high
levels of Neuroticism and low levels of Extraversion, Agree-
ableness, and Conscientiousness), administrators may consider
providing preventative assistance to the identified students. For
example, it may be important to ensure that students who are
identified as “at risk” have meetings scheduled with school
advisors/counselors throughout the first semester of college.
Identified students may also benefit from attending seminars
that focus on appropriate ways to cope with difficult times in
their classes as well as tips for maintaining organization and
keeping up with classes. Such assistance could facilitate reten-
tion and prevent students from withdrawing from college.
Another implication of the present study is that, methodol-
ogically, it is important to separate men and women when in-
vestigating these constructs. Based on the findings of the cur-
rent and past (Wintre & Sugar, 2000) studies, differential rela-
tionships exist for men and women among the constructs of
parenting, personality, and adjustment. Given these findings,
it seems important to separate analyses by gender when inves-
tigating these constructs as combining them could lead to very
different interpretations of these relationships.
Strengths and Limitations
With regard to strengths and limitations, the most significant
limitation of the study is that it relied exclusively on student
self-report. Despite that limitation, the results of the study were
found to be congruent with those previously reported in the
literature, which might mitigate reliance student self-report. In
addition, the sample may be seen as both a strength and a limi-
tation. The sample is a limitation as the participants were from
a Midwest, religiously-affiliated university, and generally from
families of a high socioeconomic status, which may limit the
generalizability of the findings. Furthermore, because differ-
ences were found between men and women, and were therefore
analyzed separately, the size of the sample was relatively small.
However, once again, the results were congruent with what has
been reported in the literature thus far. The sample is a strength
in that it consisted of true freshmen attending a four-year ac-
credited university with most students living away from home
for the first time, which is rather representative of universities
across the country where students have the option of living in
university housing. Finally, a strength of the study is its utiliza-
tion of psychometrically-sound instruments in terms of their
reliability and validity.
Future Directions
Future studies could investigate the different styles employed
by parents in a two-parent home to determine if certain parent-
ing styles most often co-occur, and then how those parenting
combinations predict adjustment. While it has been reported
that most parents within a household utilize similar parenting
styles (Simons & Conger, 2007), it would be interesting to in-
vestigate the perceptions of college students in regard to the
similarity of their parents’ styles, and how these combinations
may relate to students’ personality traits and adjustment to col-
lege. Future studies could also investigate the possibility of
moderators among parenting style, personality, and adjustment.
It is possible that personality may impact the strengths of the
relationships between parenting and adjustment, instead of
acting as the mechanism by which parenting affects adjustment.
A similar study could also be conducted with a younger sample,
such as with high school freshmen who still reside with their
parents, to investigate the impact of living with parents versus
living away from home, as the majority of this sample did.
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