Attachment security, distress disclosure, and attitudes toward seeking psychological help among racially diverse college freshmen

Tanya Michelle Warren, Fordham University


When students enter their first year of college as emerging adults, they are faced with new responsibilities and stressors; however campus counseling centers continue to be underutilized, especially by minority group students. This research was conducted to examine factors related to seeking help when life stressors become overwhelming, to identify students who may need professional help, but may be uncomfortable or unwilling to access it. This exploratory, correlational study examined relationships between gender, race, attachment security to parents, comfort with disclosing distress, and attitudes toward seeking psychological help on a racially diverse freshmen sample. Participants were recruited from introductory psychology courses at a large minority-majority southwestern university, and anonymously completed surveys on an online database. Demographics of the sample were representative of overall university enrollment, with Caucasian, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian students forming the largest groups. Results indicated that gender (being female), comfort with distress disclosure, and levels of overall attachment security to mother and attachment-related communication with mother were significant predictors of help-seeking attitudes. While race was not significant to help seeking, differences in attachment security levels emerged, as Asian students demonstrated lower levels of security and communication with parents compared to Caucasian, Hispanic, and Native American students. The typical notion of a secure attachment and communication style with parental figures may be more applicable to racial and ethnic groups who are more acculturated to Western norms, but may not be as applicable to Eastern cultural groups. These findings fit within Bowlby's theory of attachment, which posited that the relational patterns established between a caregiver and her child set the stage for the child's view of self and others in relationships across the lifespan. Results also support the need for research into effective methods to provide outreach to college students who are less likely to seek help in times of stress (namely males, those who have less secure attachments to parents, and those with lower levels of communication with their mothers). The mixed results for race, and the particularities of the population sampled, raise questions about the effects of acculturation, enculturation, and cultural congruity.

Subject Area

School counseling|Counseling Psychology|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Warren, Tanya Michelle, "Attachment security, distress disclosure, and attitudes toward seeking psychological help among racially diverse college freshmen" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3373835.