Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Stacey Freedenthal, Ph.D.


Acculturation, Anxiety, Depression, First generation college, Mental health outcomes


The purpose of this study was to investigate whether there were differences in mental health outcomes between first generation college students and non-first generation college students. The sample (n = 6,449) consisted of undergraduate students, aged 18-22, in bachelor's degree programs, and was drawn from 15 colleges and universities throughout the United States. Acculturative stress was used as a theoretical framework for why first generation college students (pioneers) may screen higher in prevalence and severity of mental health outcomes. The particular mental health outcomes examined in this study were the prevalence and severity of depression and anxiety. The results revealed that pioneers did not screen higher in prevalence or severity of depression or anxiety than non-first generation students (legacy students). However, students who had at least one parent who attended college, but did not graduate (partial legacy students), screened higher for prevalence of anxiety, severity of anxiety, and prevalence of minor depression than legacy students. These results were also significant when partial legacy students were combined with pioneers. The findings suggest that there may be risk factors for depression and anxiety that are unique to partial legacy students. Implications of these findings are that colleges and universities should be aware that partial legacy students may be at risk for mental health problems-a group that has not been previously identified as at risk. Further implications point to the possibility that pioneers who attend college may represent a more resilient group of students. Limitations include the lack of stratification of generational status by year in school, the limitations of the outcome measures, the subjective measure of financial situation, and restricting the sample age range from 18-22. Future research could include measures of resiliency and acculturative stress when examining mental health outcomes by generational status.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

James L. Pease

File size

121 p.

File format





Mental Health, Educational Psychology