The Role of Roommate Relationships and Family of Origin Functioning in Students’ Mental Health and College Adjustment Outcomes

Sarah Elizabeth Erb

Major Professor: Jerome Short, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Robyn Mehlenbeck, Keith Renshaw, Jeffery Pollard

Psychological Clinic, #202
June 21, 2013, 09:30 AM to 06:30 AM


For college students in the emerging adulthood developmental stage, interpersonal relationships in general, and roommate relationships specifically, affect important mental health outcomes. However, previous roommate relationship studies often have small sample sizes, do not take into account roommates’ interdependence, or use outdated analyses. The current study tests an empirical conceptualization of the role of roommate relationships on college student mental health and adjustment to college by drawing upon family systems theory. Data was collected from 104 pairs of college student roommates and analyzed in an actor-partner interdependence model using structural equation modeling. Results support actor effect hypotheses that students’ perceptions of dysfunction in their roommate relationships are significantly associated with their adjustment to college and with their negative emotional symptoms. However, results do not support an association between family of origin dysfunction and roommate relationship dysfunction. Likewise, partner effects and mediational hypotheses were nonsignificant. Instead, this study suggests that family of origin dysfunction and roommate relationship dysfunction have an additive effect on adjustment to college and negative emotional symptoms. Results have important implications for future research, clinical applications, and student affairs practice.