ERG SES E 07, Education Practices
All parents and families are engaged in their child's education in one form or another (Edwards, 2011). Increasingly, university students identify their parents as the most influential people in their lives (Levine & Cureton, 1998; Levine & Dean, 2012). For the modern university student, their parents areincreasingly involved and vocal about their son's and daughter's experiences on campus. There are varying explainations as to why parents are more engaged with their university student's life than previously including ease of communication (Hofer & Moore, 2010), generational differences (howe & Strauss, 2003) and parental fear (Nelson, 2010)
In Ireland, there is anecdotal evidence that parents are increasingly contacting university staff seeking information about their student’s grades, attendance and other issues. While university staff are often highly aware of the transition that their new students go through upon entering higher education, universities do not generally recognise, or address, the needs of parents and families of these students. The old adage of ‘they’re adults now’ does not fully recognise, or appreciate, the critical factor parents play in the lives of their university-going children (Doyle & Levine, 2009).
Important questions thus arrise as to the status of university students: Are they children? Adolescents? Adults? Perhaps they are all, and none, of these at the same time. The way that parents of university students perceive their own children can give insights into why many parents contact the univesity on their son's or daughter's behalf. Conversely, parental views of adulthood can give insights into their lack of support during the critical first year student transition.
Arnett’s theory of emerging adulthood leads us to recognise that the transition from childhood to adult is no longer as clear cut as it was in the past. As adolescents pass through the ‘emerging adulthood’ stage (Arnett, 2000, 2004, 2015), parents continue to play a supporting role during the time of change and growth. Sax and Weintraub (2014) suggest that ‘emerging adulthood’ likely explains why students and their parents are closer than previous generations and emerging adults are uncertain as to how much contact with parents is appropriate (Arnett, 2006). There also appears to be some confusion, on the part of parents, on how much (if any) contact between parents and the university is appropriate
Why parental perspectives? The vast body of literature about student success focuses solely on the student as the unit of analysis (Perna & Thomas, 2008). Additionally, and arguably, students themselves do not necessarily understand the process through which they are going, the environment they are entering or the skills and knowledge they must acquire to have a successful first year (Harvey, Drew, & Smith, 2006). This study includes an understudied area of first year student success: the family context.
By conducting surveys and interviews with parents of first-year university students, it is hoped that additional insights into the student transition process, and success, in first year will be learned and provide suggestions to institutions of higher education on ways to enhance and improve the first year student experience.
This paper proposal is part of a larger doctoral study of parents' perceptions of the first year student experience.
Arnett, J. J. (2000). Emerging adulthood: A theory of development from the late teens through the twenties. American Psychologist, 55(5), 469-480. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.5.469 Arnett, J. J. (2015). Emerging adulthood: The winding road from the late teens through the twenties (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Christie, H., Tett, L., Cree, V. E., Hounsell, J., & McCune, V. (2008). 'A real rollercoaster of confidence and emotions': Learning to be a university student. Studies in Higher Education, 33(5), 567-581 Côté, J. E. (2014). The dangerous myth of emerging adulthood: An evidence-based critique of a flawed developmental theory. Applied Developmental Science, 18(4), 177-188. Daniel, B. V., Evans, S. G., & Scott, B. R. (2001). Understanding family involvement in the college experience today. In B. V. Daniel & B. R. Scott (Eds.), Consumers, adversaries, and partners: Working with the families of undergraduates (pp. 3-13). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Harvey, L., Drew, S., & Smith, M. (2006). The first-year experience: A review of literature of the Higher Education Academy. Heslington, UK: The Higher Education Academy. Hofer, B. K., & Moore, A. S. (2010). The iConnected parent: Staying close to your kids in college (and beyond) while letting them grow up. New York: Free Press. Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2003). Millennials go to college: Strategies for a new generation on campus. Great Falls, VA: American Association of Collegiate Registrars. Hughes, G., & Smail, O. (2014). Which aspects of university life are most and least helpful in the transition to HE? A qualitative snapshot of student perceptions. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 1-15. Levine, A., & Dean, D. R. (2012). Generation on a tightrope: A portrait of today's college student. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Perna, L. W., & Thomas, S. L. (2008). Theroretical perspectives on student success: Understanding the contributions of the disciplines. ASHE Higher Education Report, 34(1), 1-87. Settersten Jr., R. A. (2015). The new landscape of early adulthood: Implications for broad-access higher education. In M. W. Kirst & M. L. Stevens (Eds.), Remaking college: The changing ecology of higher education (pp. 113-133). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
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