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Interpersonal Relationships

The development and maintenance of healthy interpersonal relationships should be an integral part of every NYU student’s experience. Whether building relationships with professors, friends, co-workers, romantic partners, roommates, or nurturing existing relationships at home, NYU students find themselves involved with other people in every facet of their lives. Positive, functional interpersonal relationships have been shown to enhance students’ academic motivation, engagement, and achievement.NYU plays a fundamental role in helping students hone their interpersonal communication and interaction skills in order to set the standard for happy, healthy relationships in their future.

Key Facts

  • Nearly one-third of NYU students experienced difficulties with relationships, family problems, and/or problems with intimate relationships.2
  • Interpersonal relationships have a direct influence on a student’s academic performance.1 Relationship problems account for poorer academic performance in 11% of NYU students.2
  • There is a significant and positive association between relationship quality and adjustment among first-year college students who are in their emerging adulthood years.3
  • Higher levels of social and communication skills among students are positively associated with self-esteem and satisfaction with college, and negatively associated with loneliness.4
  • Negative social interactions are found to be significantly associated with symptoms of adverse physical health.5
  • Fewer and lower-quality social ties have been associated with impaired immune function.6
  • Family cohesion, or a sense of emotional connection with family members, may directly cultivate qualities of trust, initiative, effectiveness, competence, and fidelity among college students.7
  • Students’ academic and personal adjustment to college may be negatively impacted if they experience excessive guilt, resentment, and anger in their relationships with their parents.8
  • 92% of college-aged young adults reported being the victim of online aggression (such as threats, insults, or humiliation) within the past year.9

Suggestions for Parents & Families

This page is intended to be a resource containing suggestions for what you can do to help your student build and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships.

Encourage your student to get involved with student groups. On college campuses (especially ones as large as NYU), there are countless options of clubs, organizations, and activities for students to join. These can include volunteering, athletics, academics, music, and leadership opportunities. There is a group—and usually a position within each group—to fit every personality type and student. Getting involved on campus provides experience in an area of interest and can help your student find their niche in the University. Joining a group is also an excellent way to meet other students with similar interests, and these interests can serve as icebreakers when making new friends.

Familiarize yourself with developmental theories for college students. Think back to when your student was young. Did you read books and articles to help you understand the development of your infant, toddler, child, pre-teen, or teenager? Well, your student has not stopped developing. As a family member, a basic understanding of student development theory may help you to prepare for the changes that your student will undergo throughout the next few years. For suggested reading materials, visit the NYU Parent Resources' First Year Parents page.

Encourage your student to resolve their own conflicts. Although conflict is inevitable, NYU offers a set of comprehensive resources to help students address disputes and other relationship problems. Students who are prepared “to prevent, manage, or resolve interpersonal conflicts without harming themselves or others”21 will be able to successfully navigate the entire spectrum of interpersonal relationships. Whenever possible, students should be encouraged to handle conflict on their own or with the help of University resources. Here are five tips they can utilize in conflict situations:

o Know the difference between your principles and your preferences.

o Review your expectations. Are you being realistic? Is the person capable of changing in the way you desire? Can you adapt to the situation or is it totally unacceptable?

o Listen! Hear the other person’s feelings as well as arguments. Don’t interrupt.

o Accept the right of the other person to a satisfactory solution to the problem. Recognize that this person has legitimate rights that must be respected.

o State your opinions and feelings frankly but calmly. Be assertive, not aggressive.

Encourage your student to seek help in resolving conflicts when needed. Sometimes, a conflict is too difficult for the parties involved to solve themselves. Emotions and irrationality can run high, especially in a roommate situation or a conflict among students living on the same residence hall floor. If your student is experiencing a roommate or hallmate-related issue, encourage your student to speak to the RA or Residence Hall Director. Additionally, Counseling and Wellness Services, the dean of your student’s school, and Student Affairs professionals are available to help students resolve conflicts or relationship problems. The University also has a Student Grievance Procedure for any NYU student who seeks to resolve any grievance involving an alleged violation directly affecting that student, by any member of the University community while acting in an official capacity (e.g. faculty member, administrator, staff member), of any of the written policies of the University or the school in which the student is enrolled.

Stay involved and stay connected.  Play an active role with your student by talking to them about their academic and social lives. Phone calls, text messages, and e-mails can be valuable communication channels to remain engaged, especially during the first few weeks and months of college life when students are most vulnerable and are at greatest risk of making high-risk decisions.

Get to know your student’s friends. Getting to know your student’s friends is an important way to connect. Peers have great influence on many college students – and your student is likely no exception. The process can be easier than it may seem at first glance.  Ask about who they spend time with and visit if possible. Getting to know the important people in your student’s life will help you both feel more connected. The effort is well worth the reward.22

interpersonal relationships indicators

a) Traumatic or difficult to handle intimate relationships

  • Data Source: ACHA #33E
  • Survey Question: Within the last 12 months, has any of the following been traumatic or very difficult for you to handle: intimate relationships
  • Definition: proportion responding yes

b) Received information on relationship difficulties

  • Data Source: ACHA #2B2
  • Survey Question: Have you received information on the following topics from your college or university: “relationship difficulties"?
  • Definition: students interested in receiving relationship difficulties information; proportion who reported having actually received relationship difficulties information

  1. Martin, A., & Dowson, M. (2009). Interpersonal relationships, motivation, engagement, and achievement: Yields for theory, current issues, and practice. Review of Educational Research, 79, 327–365.
  2. American College Health Association. (2010). American College Health Association - National College Assessment 2010 NYU Data. Hanover, MD: Author.
  3. Swenson, L.M., Nordstrom, A., & Hiester, M. (2008). The role of peer relationships in adjustment to college. Journal of College Student Development, 49(6), 551-568
  4. Riggio, R.E., Watring, K.P., & Throckmorton, B. (1993). Social skills, social support, and psychosocial adjustment. Personality and Individual Differences, 15(3), 275-280.
  5. Edwards, K. J., Hershberger, P. J., Russell, R. K., & Markert, R. J. (Sept 2001). Stress, negative social exchange, and health symptoms in university students. Journal of American College Health, 50(2), 75.
  6. Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., McGuire, L., Robles, T.F., & Glaser, R. (2002). Emotions, morbidity, and mortality: New perspectives from psychoneuroimmunology. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 83–107.
  7. Adams, G.R., Berzonsky, M.D., & Keating, L. (2006). Psychosocial resources in first-year university students: The role of identity processes and social relationships. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(1), 81–91.
  8. Lopez, F. G. (1991). Patterns of family conflict and their relation to college student adjustment. Journal of Counseling and Development, 69(3), 257-260.
  9. Bennett, D. C., B.A., Guran, E. L., B.A., Ramos, M. C., PhD., & Margolin, G. (2011). College students' electronic victimization in friendships and dating relationships: Anticipated distress and associations with risky behaviors. Violence and Victims, 26(4), 410-429.
  10. Campbell, K. M., Turner-McGrievy, G., Havas, S., Buller, D. & Nebeling, L. (2008). Mediation of adult fruit and vegetable consumption in the national 5 a day for better health community studies. Annual of Behavioral Medicine, 35, 49-60.
  11. Lacy, W.B. (1978). Interpersonal relationships as mediators of structural effects: College student socialization in a traditional and an experimental university environment. Sociology of Education, 51(3), 201-211.
  12. Brustein, W.I. (2007). The global campus: Challenges and opportunities for higher education in North America. Journal of Studies in International Education, 11, 382-391.
  13. Rose-Redwood, C. (2010). The Challenge of fostering cross-cultural interactions: A case study of international graduate students' perceptions of diversity initiatives. College Student Journal, 44(2), 389-399. 
  14. Karahan, T. (2009). The effects of a communication and conflict resolution skill training program on sociotropy levels of university students. Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri, 9(2), 87-797.
  15. Forke, C.M., Myers, R.K., Catallozzi, M., & Schwarz, D.F. (2008). Relationship violence among female and male college undergraduate students. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, 162(7).
  16. The Joint Committee on National Health Education Standards. (2007). National Health Education Standards: Achieving Excellence (2nd Edition). Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society.
  17. Dusselier, L., Dunn, B., Wang, Y., Shelley, M.C., & Whalen, D.F. (2005). Personal, health, academic, and environmental predictors of stress for residence hall students. Journal of American College Health, 54(1), 15-24.
  18. American College Health Association. (2011). American College Health Association - National College Health Assessment 2011 NYU Data. Hanover, MD: Author.
  19. Kemerer, F. R., Baldridge, J. V., & Green, K. S. (1982). Strategies for Effective Enrollment Management. Washington, DC: American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
  20. Umberson, D., & Montez, J.K. (2010). Social relationships and health: A flashpoint for health policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51, S54.
  21. The Joint Committee on National Health Education Standards. (2007). National Health Education Standards: Achieving Excellence (2nd Edition). Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society.

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