College Family Coping and Disruptions During COVID-19: A Consideration of the ABC-X Model of Family Stress

Jodi Dworkin, Qiyue Cai, Samantha LeBouef, Elizabeth Hruska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


For many families, COVID-19 has disrupted students' higher education experience. To better understand how COVID-19 has not just impacted students but family systems, in the current study, the ABC-X model of family stress was applied to college families. The COVID-19 pandemic created stressors for college families (A), which impacted families depending on the resources available to them (B), and how the families understand and perceive these stressors has impacted students' college experience (C). For college students and their families, an outcome of working to respond to these stressors could be delaying graduation, or changing academic plans (X). During October and November 2020, 3,932 parents of college students across the United States, representing more than 75 institutions, completed a 15-minute online survey. Findings revealed that families and students were differentially impacted by COVID-19, in the family stressors they experienced, and also in their academic stressors. What is particularly important in these data is that families matter-when families were supported, students did better and when parents reported a greater negative impact of COVID-19 they also reported students were less likely to maintain their graduation plans and more likely to change their academic plans. Incorporating a family lens into future research on college students is critical for advancing the field and supporting student success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)502-522
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Comparative Family Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
1. Acknowledgement: Data collection was supported by the University of Minnesota, Department of Family Social Science, and by the national association of parent/family professionals, AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education.

Publisher Copyright:
© Journal of Comparative Family Studies.


  • ABC-X model of family stress
  • college students
  • COVID-19
  • parenting


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