Date of Award

Fall 2021

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Heather Turner

Second Advisor

Michele Dillon

Third Advisor

Joan Glutting


Mental health has long been a fruitful area of sociological inquiry, and much remains to be illuminated about the ways in which the social context and intrapersonal factors intersect to impact individuals’ psychological wellbeing. Among college students particularly, stresses such as academic pressure and interpersonal conflicts contribute to the degradation of mental health. While sociological theories such as the stress process perspective have long been employed to study linkages between stress and mental wellbeing among this population, few studies have examined the specific characteristics of social relationships most beneficial to students in distress. Utilizing survey responses collected from both public and private Ivy League undergraduates throughout the northeastern U.S., I create a framework to identify and measure specific dimensions of social relationships; I first find that certain aspects of third party relationships, including emotional closeness and social status, remain more relevant for college student mental health outcomes than others. I then build upon my initial examination by incorporating perfectionism into the conceptual model; I ultimately conclude that perfectionism types differentially impact psychological wellbeing, and the influence of certain perfectionism dimensions varies based on cultural aspects of third party relationships. Finally, I examine the impact of socioeconomic status on students’ relationships, noting that familial SES can both amplify and protect against mental distress by shaping the influence of certain social relationships, particularly with respect to siblings. Ultimately, the framework I created and the conclusions gleaned through utilizing it begin to further nuance empirical understanding of the complexities of social and psychological determinants of mental health among college students.