Educational Administration, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 4-23-2015


Caldwell, P. A. (2015). Overlooked and overshadowed: Exploring the multiple dimensions of identity in traditionally-aged undergraduate student-parents. (Master's thesis). University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Educational Administration, Under the Supervision of Professor Stephanie Bondi. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Paula A. Caldwell


Student-parents are a rapidly growing student population, consisting of more than 20% of undergraduate college students today (National Center for Education Statistics, 2012). Research about student-parents has historically focused on graduate students and adult learners, yet these studies overlook traditionally-aged undergraduate student-parents who constitute over one-quarter of the student-parent population. Traditional four-year institutions continue to dismiss the needs and experiences of student-parents as these colleges are primarily designed to serve traditional undergraduate students with no major external responsibilities. As such, the traditionally-aged undergraduate student-parent population is left underserved and unsupported in their pursuit of education. This study contributes to the limited research on undergraduate student-parents by filling a gap and discussing the meaning-making and experiences of traditionally-aged undergraduate student-parents within a four-year institution.

The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to examine the meaning that four traditionally-aged undergraduate student-parents made of their student-parent identity while also considering the potential impact that attending a public research institution may have had on their identity development and academic success. Qualitative interviews were conducted utilizing a semi-structured, informal interview protocol with four undergraduate student-parents. The findings indicated that identifying as a parent significantly impacted the identity of traditionally-aged undergraduate student-parents. Additionally, findings indicated that traditionally-aged undergraduate student-parents found it challenging to navigate the four-year collegiate environment at Great Midwestern University, but utilized strategies and systems of support to find academic success. Practical recommendations for serving traditionally-aged undergraduate student-parents at a four-year research institution are provided and recommendations for future research are offered.

Adviser: Stephanie L. Bondi