Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership

First Committee Member

Vicki Rosser

Second Committee Member

Doris Watson

Third Committee Member

Lori Olafson

Fourth Committee Member

Jesse Brinson

Number of Pages



The first year of college is one that is crucial for all students entering higher education due to the major transition issues that must be successfully navigated in order to persist to the sophomore year. Parental support has been shown to have a positive effect during this transition by providing positive coping mechanisms and allowing children to develop higher level of autonomy. The level of parental support is at a high level for members of the Millennial Generation, which is characterized by a close parent-child relationship, as well as a high level of parental involvement in the education process. While this transition is difficult for all first year students, first generation college students struggle more than their non-first generation counterparts due to a lack social and cultural capital that is traditionally passed down from parent to child. The purpose of this study was to explore the attachment between first year, first generation college students who are members of the Millennial Generation and their parents or parental surrogates. In-depth and focus group interviews were conducted with six students and family members purposefully selected from the first year, first generation, full time student population at State College.

The findings gave a glimpse into the life of a family with a first generation college student during the first year. The families participating had a strong attachment relationship between the child and parent which remained unchanged or improved from high school through the first year of college, which was due in part to daily in person communication. The parents have a close attachment relationship with their children, yet do not act as traditional Millennial parents due to their lack of social and cultural capital in the collegiate world. These parents provide emotional support while allowing the child to take control of his or her own education. Child support sources during the first year of college included parents, other family members (some of which who had attended or were currently attending college), friends/classmates, and college faculty and staff. When the child had a question or problem that needed to be solved, regardless of who they contacted first, they all reported discussing the problem or question with their parents before making a final decision. The shared family experience during the first year of college was stressful, and the child participants struggled with the transition from high school to college. Parents were proud of their children for attending college while being painfully aware of the current state of the economy and the positive impact a college degree would make in the lives of their children. Implications of these findings for theory include a need for attachment theory to be further defined and explained through adolescence and adulthood, which includes college. The effects of the relationship on the child have been studied, but the actual relationship itself and what occurs in it can be further defined. Implication for practice include the need for colleges to view parents as partners in the education of students, providing education and support for all parents, especially for those who are first generation. Future research in this area could include replicating this study at other institutions to obtain a deeper understanding of the parent-child relationship.


College students--Family relationships; First Generation College Students; First Year College Students; Higher Education; Parents of College Students; Relationship Between Parents and Children


Educational Leadership | Family, Life Course, and Society | Higher Education Administration

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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