Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 1029–1041 | Cite as

Identity Synthesis as a Pathway Linking Parenting and Emerging Adults’ Internalizing Problems

  • Xiaoli Zong
  • Charissa S. L. CheahEmail author
  • Jing Yu
  • Hui Jun Lim
  • Kathy T. T. Vu
  • Nneka Opara
Original Paper



The present study examined identity synthesis as a linking pathway in the association between perceived parenting (autonomy support, dependency-oriented psychological control, and achievement-oriented psychological control) and emerging adults’ internalizing problems across three groups (European Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans).


The sample comprised 471 European American, 241 African American, and 355 Asian American emerging adults (total N = 1067; 69% female; Mage = 20.47; SD = 1.79). The mediating role of identity synthesis was tested and compared across ethnic groups via multiple-group path analyses using bootstrapping technique.


Findings revealed both similarities and differences across ethnic groups. Specifically, identity synthesis mediated the association between parental autonomy support and internalizing problems in all three ethnic groups. However, identity synthesis only mediated the association between parental dependency-oriented psychological control and internalizing problems for European American emerging adults, and the association between parental achievement-oriented psychological control and internalizing problems for African American and Asian American emerging adults.


These findings illustrated the significant roles of parenting and identity development in emerging adults’ psychological adjustment across ethnic groups. Moreover, although parenting indirectly impacted emerging adults’ mental health in all groups, the specific patterns varied across different ethnic groups depending on the particular form of parenting, thus revealing both culturally-shared and -unique pathways from parents’ socialization practices to their offspring’s mental health outcomes.


Emerging adulthood Parental autonomy support Parental psychological control Identity Internalizing problems 


Author Contributions

X.Z. analyzed the data and wrote the paper. C.S.L.C. collaborated with the design, writing, and editing of the final manuscript. J.Y. assisted with data analyses and collaborated in the writing and editing of the final manuscript. H.J.L. contributed to data collection and wrote part of the paper. K.T.T.V. wrote part of the paper and editted the final manuscript. N.O. wrote part of the paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in our study involving human participants were in accordance with the APA ethical standards and approved by the Institutional Review Boards of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaoli Zong
    • 1
  • Charissa S. L. Cheah
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jing Yu
    • 1
  • Hui Jun Lim
    • 1
  • Kathy T. T. Vu
    • 1
  • Nneka Opara
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MarylandBaltimoreUSA

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