Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Tera R. Jordan

Second Advisor

Gayle J. Luze


Parenthood and graduate school require significant investments of time and energy. Those who engage in both roles simultaneously are at risk for increased stress, feelings of guilt, and marginalization, which may impact their ability to succeed as parents and scholars. Faculty behaviors and faculty-student relationships are known to predict student academic and emotional outcomes, yet the influence of faculty on graduate student parents has been unexamined in the literature. Guided by role conflict and role enhancement theories, the current study explores graduate student parents’ experiences, with special attention to the ways in which faculty affect those experiences. Sixteen participants who were parents to dependent children while enrolled in a graduate program were recruited from four departments within a large Midwestern university. Because the present study seeks to describe the essence of a specific type of experience shared by a group of people, a phenomenological approach was chosen. Consistent with this approach, interviews were conducted and I recorded observation notes. In order to achieve trustworthiness, reflective journaling was used to bracket my own experiences as a graduate student parent and I created an audit trail to document the research process. During phases of data analysis, I attended meetings with my dissertation chairs to discuss coding, notable themes, and emerging findings, which contributed to the study’s dependability. Eight themes emerged from the full dataset, including “Time as a Source of Conflict,” “Where is My Tribe?” “It’s Not Their Decision to Make,” “Not in the Same Boat,” “Am I ‘Just a Graduate Student?” “Face Value’ versus Sincere Support,” “Trust That They’re Doing the Best They Can,” and “Resources? What resources?” Nine less dominant themes were found specific to race, international students, children’s ages, participants’ gender, and marital status. Findings suggest graduate student parents experience varying degrees of role conflict and role enhancement simultaneously and that faculty and graduate programs contribute to such experiences. Participants recommended improvement of family-friendly structures on campus, paid maternity and paternity leave, a “stop the timeline to degree clock” policy, cessation of unsolicited advice and decreased opportunities, and continued flexibility and empathy from faculty members.


Copyright Owner

Amber Lee Kreischer



File Format


File Size

140 pages