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Tied Together Wirelessly: How Maintaining Communication with Parents Affects College Adjustment and Integration

  • Author(s): Weintraub, DAYNA Staci
  • Advisor(s): Sax, Linda J.
  • et al.
Abstract

Identifying the most effective ways of supporting college students’ adjustment and integration, while simultaneously managing parents’ desires for engagement, is a central challenge facing university administrators. As a result of exponentially rising college costs that require parents to assume a greater share of their children’s education expenses, coupled with rapid technological advancements, parents and students interact much more frequently than in the past.

Whether college is a time to separate from family in order to establish one’s independent identity, or a time where maintaining contact with parents helps students journey, remains unanswered. Our understanding of the link between ongoing parental communication and students’ progress in college is currently dominated by the unverified media narrative claiming that students’ frequent contact with parents ultimately leads to the development of overly dependent and less self-reliant young adults. Moreover, it is vital to note that different gender, racial, and socioeconomic groups may not communicate with their parents in the same ways and thus may experience dissimilar familial bonds and effects.

Drawing from student development theory, college impact models, and extant literature, this study presents a longitudinal analysis of how maintaining parental communication during college predicts adjustment and integration, and addresses whether these effects are dependent upon students’ gender, race, or class. Using survey data obtained at three time-points, quantitative analytic techniques examine these questions.

The conclusions from this study suggest that students are gravitating towards more asynchronous modes of communication with their parents. Further, this study found that students’ interactions with their parents do have some positive relationships with their adjustment and integration, even after controlling for other pre-college traits and college experiences. More importantly, peers and faculty were shown to be much stronger predictors of adjustment and integration relative to the role played by parents. In light of these findings, the study offers implications for college and university administrators, parental figures, and future research.

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