Date of Thesis

2013

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Chris Boyatzis

Abstract

The present study investigated the relationships between parental psychological control and college students’ relational aggression and friendship quality. Based on previous research, it was expected that parents’ use of psychological control would be associated with students’ increased use of relational aggression with peers and lower friendship quality. Students completed a series of survey measures assessing their mothers’ and fathers’ use of psychological control, behavioral control, and warmth/acceptance. Students also completed a series of survey measures assessing their friendship quality, social skills, relational aggression, self-esteem, and social desirability. The study’s findings revealed that parental psychological control was associated with and predicted students’ increased use of relational aggression with peers. Parental psychological control was also associated with students’ lower friendship quality. However, parents’ use of psychological control did not predict students’ friendship quality after accounting for the influence of students’ personal and peer relationship variables. This finding suggests that characteristics of peer relationships may play a larger role than parenting behaviors in shaping college students’ friendships. The study also found that students who displayed higher levels of relational aggression had lower quality friendships. Other findings revealed that the relationship between parental psychological control and students’ friendship quality can be partially explained by students’ use of relational aggression with peers. Students’ friendship quality can also help to explain the influence of parental psychological control on students’ relational aggression. In addition, the study found that combinations of parenting behaviors were more informative predictors of students’ relational aggression and friendship quality than psychological control alone. Finally, this study revealed the importance of assessing participants’ social desirability when measuring sensitive personal qualities such as relational aggression, friendship quality, and self-esteem. Overall, this study contributes to the field of research on parental psychological control by revealing its effects on college students’ relational aggression and friendship quality.

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