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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
interpersonal relationships indicators


  1. Increase the availability, accessibility, and diversity of information on healthy relationships and effective communication skills.
    NYU students include “relationship difficulties” as one of the top ten health topics about which they would like to receive information. In conjunction with other strategies, having information readily available10 will effectively help students recognize how healthy relationships contribute to their overall wellbeing and academic success.1 Because students may fear being judged for openly seeking help from health or counseling centers, ensuring that information is available in many different formats and through multiple venues is ideal for engaging a diverse student population.
  2. Strengthen the institutional culture to better foster positive interpersonal relationship development and interactions.
    Opportunities offered by staff and faculty for peer interaction and friendship building are critical to easing our students’ process of adapting to the university setting.11 Research supports the assertion that a college environment has the power to impact the values of its students, however subtly, through “its effect on the nature and content of student interaction with faculty and peers”.11 Because of the implicit potential of a university’s institutional culture to influence its students, an environment that supports and encourages positive interpersonal interactions can inspire healthy relationships throughout the university.
  3. Expand opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue that encourages the development of positive relationships between and among multiple identity groups.
    University life at NYU offers countless opportunities to connect with a wide variety of cultural groups, especially among the diverse student population. The necessity of graduating globally competent students is now seen as a priority, and this competency includes the ability to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries with the possession of an “awareness of and adaptability to diverse cultures, perceptions, and approaches.”12 Research emphasizes that stimulating cross-cultural interactions on a campus requires the efforts of all members of the university community – administrators, faculty, staff, and students.13 
  4. Expand resources that empower students to resolve conflicts or exit unhealthy relationships.
    Although conflict is inevitable, providing students with comprehensive resources to address disputes and other relationship problems can positively influence their ability to communicate and to deal with conflict effectively.14 Because interpersonal violence is prevalent among male and female college students, equipping students with the tools to avoid or leave unhealthy relationships is imperative.15 Students who are prepared “to prevent, manage, or resolve interpersonal conflicts without harming themselves or others”16 will be able to navigate successfully the entire spectrum of interpersonal relationships. 
  5. Empower students to access resources on behalf of a peer in need of support.
    Research indicates that a higher level of concern for a troubled friend or family member and greater perceived conflict with a faculty or staff member significantly increased students’ perceived frequency of stress.17 Over half of NYU students expressed interest in receiving information about how to help others in distress.18 Ensuring that NYU students are equipped with the knowledge and resources to assist a peer who is in need of support can enrich their current interpersonal relationships while easing their anxiety.
  6. Increase opportunities for positive social engagement, support, and formation of friendships.
    Successful engagement with a social group impacts students’ academic experience; in fact, those students who are strongly socially connected are more likely to remain in school and report satisfaction with their university.19 These strong social ties improve health outcomes among those with serious health problems and also have a preventive effect for healthy people.20

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.

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