Parental Involvement During the College Transition: A Review and Suggestion for its Conceptual Definition

Abstract

The transition to college is a salient ecological shift in emerging adults’ lives that has important implications for renegotiating parental involvement as youth gain independence while navigating the world of higher education. However, the construct of parental involvement itself lacks clear characterization in literatures spanning higher education and developmental psychology, which is of significant concern given the universality of parental programming across college campuses nationwide. Therefore, the current article aimed to review and integrate theoretical and empirical literatures across higher education and developmental psychology to suggest a definition of parental involvement that is appropriate for the developmental period of emerging adulthood and the context of the college transition. We define parental involvement as a multidimensional construct composed of parental support giving, parent-student contact, and parental academic engagement, and provide a unified theoretical perspective on how changes in parental involvement are inherently linked to emerging adults’ development of self-sufficiency via integration into the autonomy-supportive context of college. We conclude with a brief review of research linking parental involvement and student outcomes, with a focus on identifying key limitations to formulate practical suggestions for future work, notably the need to consistently adhere to a clear and appropriate definition of parental involvement.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Dr. Shawn Whiteman, Dr. Sharon Christ, and Dr. Hellen Patrick for their feedback on the original version of this article, which was completed as part of the first author’s dissertation. Funding for the first author’s dissertation research was provided in part by the National Council for Family Relations via the Ruth Hathaway Jewson Dissertation Award, the Purdue Center for Families via the Van Scoyoc Fellowship, and the Purdue Graduate School via the Bilsland Dissertation Fellowship.

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KL conceived of the article, conducted most of its literature review, and wrote the majority of the article. AD contributed to the conceptualization of the article, aided in identifying research for the literature review, and provided feedback on the writing of the article from its conception to completion. Both authors worked together to achieve a cohesive manuscript, and approve of the final product.

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Lowe, K., Dotterer, A.M. Parental Involvement During the College Transition: A Review and Suggestion for its Conceptual Definition. Adolescent Res Rev 3, 29–42 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40894-017-0058-z

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Keywords

  • Parental involvement
  • Emerging adulthood
  • College transition
  • Higher education
  • College student outcomes