The Mediating Role of Experiences of Need Satisfaction in Associations Between Parental Psychological Control and Internalizing Problems: A Study Among Italian College Students

Abstract

Abundant research has shown that parental psychological control is related to internalizing problems across different life periods, including middle childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Relatively few studies, however, have addressed the mediating mechanisms that account for this relation. On the basis of self-determination theory, the aim of this study was to examine the mediating role of adolescents’ need satisfaction in the association between perceived paternal and maternal psychological control and internalizing distress in Italian emerging adults. In a sample of 121 female college students, we found that satisfaction of basic psychological needs was a full mediator of the relationship between perceptions of psychological control and internalizing distress. We also found that psychological control was a better predictor of internalizing distress compared to low autonomy-support. These findings are discussed in light of self-determination theory. We also discuss how future research may further increase our understanding of the dynamics involved in psychologically controlling parenting and adjustment in adolescents and emerging adults.

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Author Contribution

SC assisted with generation of the initial draft of the manuscript, data analyses, and manuscript editing, BS assisted with manuscript preparation, manuscript editing, interpretation of data, study design and concept, MG assisted with manuscript preparation, manuscript editing, study concept, FC assisted with data analysis, data interpretation, and manuscript editing, RL assisted with data interpretation, and study supervision.

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Correspondence to Sebastiano Costa.

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Costa, S., Soenens, B., Gugliandolo, M.C. et al. The Mediating Role of Experiences of Need Satisfaction in Associations Between Parental Psychological Control and Internalizing Problems: A Study Among Italian College Students. J Child Fam Stud 24, 1106–1116 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-014-9919-2

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Keywords

  • Parenting
  • Adjustment
  • Psychological needs
  • Self-determination theory
  • Adolescence
  • Emerging adulthood