Exploring the identity development of emerging adults with involved parents
Simmons, Cara Winston
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Higher education institutions play a pivotal role in student development. Increased parental involvement in the lives of college students demands that higher education professionals engage in important discussions about the role of parents at the post-secondary level (Carney-Hall, 2008; Hamilton, 2016; Wartman & Savage, 2008). A growing discussion on the student-parent relationship in college demonstrates a need for higher education professionals to consider what parental involvement and the role of higher education professionals encompasses on college campuses (Carney-Hall, 2008; Cullaty, 2011; Dunn, 2015; Samuolis, Layburn, & Schiaffino, 2001; Kenny & Donaldson, 1991; Merriman, 2007; Taub, 2008; Wartman & Savage, 2008). This study helps to expand and clarify the changing landscape of parental involvement on college campuses and how parental involvement impacts identity development for emerging adults with involved parents. This qualitative study was conducted at a large public research institution located in the southeastern United States. Research design was informed by phenomenology and utilized semi-structured interviews to collect data from 10 participants. Participants brought in self-selected artifacts which served as the starting topic of the interview. Emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2000; Arnett, 2015) served as the conceptual framework to situate this study. Four phenomena central to understanding parental involvement in higher education also provided context; the phenomena include educational policies that encourage parental involvement at the K-12 level, the media’s coverage that publicizes overbearing parents, access to technology and media, and rising post-secondary education costs (Carney-Hall, 2008; Wartman & Savage, 2008). Data were analyzed using qualitative methods, which revealed four themes that represented a developmental progression of identity development for participants. First, participants articulated that parental involvement provided them with a sense of security and stability, which led to the second theme, gaining independence. Third, participants also began to view themselves as adults, and finally, they learned to envision their own adulthood apart from their parents. Through the themes participants expressed that they want, expect, and appreciate frequent parental involvement, and that this involvement helps to facilitate their development, rather than impede it. Implications for practice and future research provide additional guidance to higher education professionals.