Family Achievement Guilt and Mental Well-being of College Students

Rebecca Covarrubias, Andrea Romero, Michael Trivelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Previous research has demonstrated that first-generation college students (i.e., students whose parents did not attend college) feel guilty about their educational achievements when their family members do not have similar access to higher education. We advance existing research by investigating how college students’ mental health is associated with family achievement guilt, which is feelings of discomfort with one’s college success, particularly in the context of family members (i.e., parents and siblings). We hypothesize that family achievement guilt will be associated with more depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem, and that high levels of guilt will impact first-generation college students’ mental well-being significantly more than non-first-generation college students. College students (N = 255; M Age = 19.96, SD = 1.77, 40 % Mexican descent) completed online surveys with measures of family achievement guilt, depressive symptoms, and self-esteem. Analyses revealed that, as hypothesized, more family achievement guilt was significantly associated with more depressive symptoms (p < .001) and lower self-esteem (p < .05) for all students. As predicted, first-generation college students reported significantly more depressive symptoms at higher levels of family achievement guilt compared to non-first-generation college students (p < .001). These findings demonstrate how the family context is important to consider in the adjustment and success of first-generation college students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2031-2037
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 8 2015


  • Depression
  • Family achievement guilt
  • First-generation college student
  • Mental well-being
  • Self-esteem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Family Achievement Guilt and Mental Well-being of College Students'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this