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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 Student Leaders

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

Increase opportunities for positive social engagement by planning events with other student organizations that you have never worked with. For instance, if you are a sorority that always works with a fraternity, plan an event with the Nutrition Club or the swim team to benefit a cause you both can relate to.

Example: Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority & The Civic Engagement Team held an informational event at Lafayette Hall to inform residents about the ways to participate in community service on NYU’s campus. This event engaged a number of different student groups, and provided club members and opportunity to explore new interpersonal relationships and forge new connections.

Encourage interactions from students who are quiet or shy. For a variety of reasons, some students are too shy or embarrassed to speak up during class or club meetings. As a student leader, consider reaching out to quiet or shy students in smaller group settings, or in 1:1 conversations. In the context of student organizations or clubs, consider offering these members distinct responsibility within the organization; meaningful student participation in extracurricular activities promotes a “sense of belonging” and feelings of community.

Organize a group of students to volunteer. You can volunteer through NYU Service or visit the NYU Center for Student Activities, Leadership and Service on the 7th floor of the Kimmel Center for University Life to find out more information on getting involved in long-term service projects as well as one-day projects.

Host events that empower your peers 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.21 The Health Promotion Office sponsors educational opportunities, through workshops and tablings, for students facilitated by student leaders on the full range of topics addressed by the Health Promotion Office, including interpersonal relationship issues.

Encourage friends, peers, and club members to announce alcohol-free events through the club’s listserv, Facebook group, Twitter, or at the weekly meeting. For instance, if a club member is also involved with an on-campus singing group, encourage that particular member to announce his/her upcoming performances. If a club member is on a sports team, ask him/her to announce upcoming games and fundraisers.

Enroll in Safe Zone Training. Creating a university environment that is sensitive, safe, respectful and inclusive supports and encourages positive interpersonal interactions. Sign up for Action Zone training.

Help a student in need of support. Approximately a third of NYU students experience significant relationship difficulties. Over 75% of students, nationally, said they would turn to friends if they were struggling,23 and over half of NYU students expressed interest in receiving information about how to help others in distress.22 Consider establishing a “buddy system” within your organization to provide ongoing support. For guidance about how to have a “courageous conversation” with someone who needs support, visit the NYU Student Health Center Counseling Services page or call the Wellness Exchange Hotline 212-443-9999 to seek advice. Assisting a friend or loved one in distress can be emotionally taxing on the person trying to help; make sure to model positive mental health actions and contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999 if you want to talk.

Responding to a student in need

Be alert to signs of personal or psychological difficulties. If you notice any of the following signs, you can ask to meet privately with the student:

o Mood: extreme sadness, anger or anxiety, or mood swings

o Performance: concentration difficulties, deteriorating performance, unexplained absences or lateness

o Social behavior: extreme withdrawal, dependency, irritability, hostility

Speech or writings: student alludes to problems, feeling worthless, excessive guilt, thoughts of death or suicide, or thoughts of hurting others or threats to others

For suggestions about how to effectively approach a student, visit the Wellness Exchange website or call 212-443-9999 to seek advice on how to address the situation.

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. 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.
  22. American College Health Association. (2011). American College Health Association - National College Health Assessment 2011 NYU Data. Hanover, MD: Author.

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