Mom and dad may actually know best. A recent study found parental involvement supports university students’ development. Researchers presented their findings at the 2012 National Association of Student Personnel Administrators convention.
“The presentation gave highlights from a four-year longitudinal study that was commissioned by NASPA on the impact of parental involvement on student development during the college years,” Sheri King, assistant director of student affairs at the University of Georgia’s Griffin campus, said.
King explained during students’ first and fourth years, parents took a survey on parental involvement, and students took the Student Developmental Task and Lifestyle Assessment. The SDTLA is a well-known assessment tool that measures human development in three main categories: purpose, autonomy and mature interpersonal relationships.
According to King, parents can hinder their university students’ development by being too involved, but most parents do not fit this category.
“In my opinion, the term ‘helicopter parent’ is not representative of the majority of parents. It implies that all parents are overly-involved, overbearing, and not willing to let their students handle situations on their own,” King said. “Although there are parents who fit this description, it is really a small number of parents—yet these are the ones who gain attention by complaining to administrators.”
The presentation concluded that parental orientation, university websites, and other publications should be as comprehensive as possible to address the topic of parental involvement and student development.
“Parents have been a feature of the [university] experience forever, and […] we try to give parents information about the rhythm of the academic year,” Susan Grindrod, associate vice-president of housing and ancillary services at Western, said.
According to Grindrod, Western already offers a parent orientation through the Summer Academic Orientation program. The program talks to parents about the transition to university and how they can help their students. She added Western has been enhancing its parental part of the website over the last couple of years.
“It is always a balance in the transition. When [students] go away to university, [parents] lose that parental oversight and students and parents have to work that out,” Grindrod explained. “Some want more information, and some don’t.”
King cautioned people against making large generalizations from their presentation because they received a much smaller sample during the second round of surveys. As well, their research had a disproportionate amount of respondents from high socioeconomic backgrounds.
“There is a common goal shared by all—student, parent, and institution—and that goal is to see the student develop into a young adult able to succeed in a global society,” King said. “I truly believe that when parents are given parameters, they will work within those parameters towards the common goal.”