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First-Generation College Students, Emotional Support, and Systemic Inflammation Following the College Transition

      Abstract

      Purpose

      To examine whether emotional support moderates the association between college generation status and concurrent and prospective levels of systemic inflammation during the college transition among a sample of older U.S. adolescents.

      Methods

      At an undergraduate tertiary institution, 41 first-generation college students (first-gens) and 46 continuing-generation college students (continuing-gens) in their first semester of college reported on basic demographic information and perceived emotional support. They also had their blood drawn midway through both the first and second semester to measure C-reactive protein and interleukin-6. An inflammatory composite for each semester was created by averaging the standardized scores for log-transformed C-reactive protein and interleukin-6.

      Results

      Compared to continuing-gens, first-gens had greater systemic inflammation in the first semester regardless of their level of emotional support (B = 0.515, p = .003). However, emotional support moderated the association between college generation status and prospective systemic inflammation in the second semester (B = −0.525, p = .007) such that first-gens had greater systemic inflammation compared to continuing-gens, but only if they reported lower levels of emotional support (B = 0.826, p = .002). This moderation effect held after further adjusting for systemic inflammation in the first semester (B = −0.374, p = .022). Also discussed are results of secondary analyses examining sources of support.

      Discussion

      Compared to continuing-gens, first-gens had greater systemic inflammation in the first semester irrespective of emotional support, suggesting all first-gens may stand to benefit from college resources provided early in the college transition. Furthermore, first-gens who reported lower levels of emotional support may benefit from additional college resources provided beyond the first semester.

      Keywords

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