Date of Award

8-15-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Laura Knight, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Pearl S. Berman, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Donald U. Robertson, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study used survey data to describe demographic characteristics, stress, role conflict, coping, and resource use of undergraduate students who are parents (student parents) and compared student parents to non-parent students. Participants included 28 student parents and 28 non-parent students at a mid-sized university. Results showed that student parents were predominantly Caucasian females, who were full-time students, cohabitating with a partner, and identified themselves developmentally as adults. They also reported low incomes, high rates of employment, and elevated levels of psychological distress. Few resources were available for parenting needs and of those available, use was low. Despite these stressors, role conflict and parenting stress were low, which may be explained by positive coping and high levels of social support and role enrichment. Age was an important distinction for student parents such that younger students reported having younger children and higher levels of parenting stress and school-family conflict. Marital status was also important; cohabitating student parents reported higher incomes and trends suggested they may also experience fewer depression symptoms and are more likely to be satisfied in romantic relationships. Relationships between role conflict, stress, and coping were also revealed for student parents. Specifically, higher levels of parenting stress were positively related to general psychological distress, depression, and school-family conflict. Additionally, higher levels of school-family conflict were predictive of depression, while work-family conflict was positively related to anxiety. Furthermore, problem-focused coping was predictive of lower levels of depression and general psychological distress. In contrast, emotion-focused coping was predictive of higher levels of depression and psychological distress. Student parents, however, reported using problem-focused coping least often and emotion-focused coping most often. When compared to non-parents, student parents were generally older and more likely to be cohabitating, identify as an adult, be a part-time student, have a higher GPA, and be employed more than 20 hours per week than non-parents. Student parents also reported lower levels of psychological dysfunction and dysfunctional coping. This suggests that while student parents may have increased responsibilities than their non-parent peers, the parents who remain in college are generally functioning very well when compared to their non-parent peers.

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