Little published research exists about individuals who decide to start their families while enrolled in graduate school. The purpose of this study was to explore with a qualitative methodology the experiences of first time parents in graduate study programs. Graduate student parents were defined as women or men either currently enrolled in a Master’s or doctoral level graduate program, or recent alumni who graduated within the past five years. Participants had to have had their first child while in graduate school, either through childbirth (self or spouse), surrogacy, or infant adoption, and that child must be listed as a dependent. All graduate programs were located in the greater Boston area. Through semi-structured interviews, twelve participants detailed their experiences as student parents with newborn children. Interview data were categorized and coded, which led to the identification of five meta-themes, each of which was then divided into several sub-themes.
Meta-themes included the decision-making process to have a child while a student, which was broken down to age, fertility risk factors, and the academic timeline. The theme of logistical challenges included compounding financial costs, childcare issues, and scheduling conflicts. Physical and psychosocial challenges was another meta-theme regarding the experience of extreme sleep deprivation, cognitive changes, challenges with breastfeeding or pumping, the guilt associated with trying to balance school and family, negative experiences with faculty or the administration, and the social isolation of not knowing other student parents in their programs. Additional meta-themes revolved around the availability of social supports, and adaptations and classroom accommodations they developed in order to complete their degrees. Lastly, student parents outlined suggestions for changes in institutional policies and procedures to ensure basic educational rights, and to prevent future marginalization and discrimination for this largely invisible population.
|Commitee:||Hannah, Margaret, Sonnekalb, Andrew|
|School:||William James College|
|School Location:||United States -- Massachusetts|
|Source:||DAI-A 80/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Education Policy, Individual & family studies, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Accommodations, Educational policy, Graduate student parents, Parent resources, Student support services, Title ix|
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