Parental Autonomy Support and Emerging Adult Anxiety and Depression: Determining Direction of Effects
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Current research suggests a correlation between parental autonomy support and positive child mental health, but few empirical studies have examined the causal relationship between these constructs over time and, specifically, with emerging adult children. The purpose of this study was to use an existing longitudinal data set to explore the direction of effects between parental autonomy support and emerging adult depression and anxiety over time. The sample included emerging adults (N = 999) who were part of a randomized, multiwave, longitudinal intervention study, Project Alliance I data (Project Alliance 1 [PAL1]; DA07031). A cross-lagged model was used to examine the relationship between parental autonomy support and emerging adult depression and anxiety symptoms across two waves. Multiple group analyses were conducted to examine if different models provided a better fit for different groups: 1) ethnicity, 2) gender, 3) living situation, and 4) family financial support status. Study results showed that parental autonomy support and emerging adult depression and anxiety symptoms were not significantly related over time for the full sample. The moderating effect of family financial support status was partially supported, with emerging adults who received family financial support exhibiting more stable depression and father autonomy support over time. Implications for future research are discussed.