Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Thesis Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chairperson

Janet Chang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ekeoma Uzogara, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Committee Member

Vanessa K. Johnson, Ph.D.


First-generation college students’ relationships with college adaptation, acculturation, and family conflict have yet to be fully explored within the psychological literature. This study examined the ways in which the cultural and collegiate experiences of these students relate to conflict within their family. The current study included 77 first-generation college students and 361 continuing-generation college students, asking them to complete questionnaires on acculturation, adaptation, family conflict, distress disclosure, psychological distress, subjective social status, as well as demographic items. They also rated and described consider their own and their families’ independence (such as defining independence in their own words, or rating the importance of self-expression). Hierarchical regression results suggested that first-generation college students report more family conflict than continuing-generation college students, which was significantly predicted by the extent to which they and their family have differing perceptions of independence. Qualitative analyses revealed that both continuing and first-generation college students conceptualize independence in terms of self-expression more often than they imagine their families do. These differing conceptualizations of independence appear to notably relate to self-reported family conflict. These results demonstrate not only that first-generation college students experience more family conflict, but also cultural perspectives like conceptualizations of independence are factors that must be considered in understanding and designing programs for these students.