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National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

Publication Details

Risk and Protective Factors Explaining First-Year College Adjustment

Author(s): Kahn, M., Solomon, P., & Treglia, D.

Citation: Kahn, M., Solomon, P., & Treglia, D. (2019). Risk and Protective Factors Explaining First-Year College Adjustment. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 31(1), 29-50.



A correlational design was employed to determine how risk and protective factors relate to first-year college adjustment. In total, 348 students completed an online survey about their experience adjusting to college. Risk factors (i.e., psychiatric medication, fearful–avoidant attachment, and anxious–preoccupied attachment) negatively impacted college adjustment; while protective factors (i.e., resilience, academic self-efficacy, and optimism) enhanced college adjustment. The risk factors, protective factors, and control variables analyzed in this study accounted for 54% of the variance. Notably, risk factors lost their significance after adjusting for protective factors. A major clinical implication of these findings is that college mental health professionals must assess for protective factors and enhance these strengths in order to improve first-year college adjustment, which is likely to impact graduation rates.


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