Historically, a college or university’s main constituencies of interest were students, faculty, staff, and alumni (Bok, 2013; Donovan & McKelfresh, 2008; Wartman & Savage, 2008). In recent years, parents and families have claimed their own place in the university ecosystem: “the student-parent-institution dynamic has evolved from the doctrine of in loco parentis, with parents expecting the university to take care of their children, to this new situation where parents have a direct relationship with the university” (Sax & Wartman, 2010, p. 220). Colleges have responded to families’ desire for engagement by creating parent and family relations offices that provide programs and services for families (Savage & Petree, 2017). However, little empirical research exists to measure the relationship between parents and families and their student’s college, or the ways in which parent and family engagement could impact behaviors of interest to the school.
The purpose of this study was to examine the ways in which parents and families interact with their students’ college following institutionally-sponsored engagement opportunities, and the resulting behavioral outcomes or attitudes that follow. This study used two-step cluster analysis to classify undergraduate parents and families (N = 1,001) at Wilson University (a pseudonym), the Southern, mid-sized university that was the focus of this study. Clustering of families was based on three types of school-sponsored engagement: attendance at Orientation (one-time engagement), readership of a monthly e-newsletter (semi-regular engagement), and readership of the Family 411 (pseudonym) daily blog (continuous engagement). Specific outcomes that were measured were parent and family intervention with administrators on the student’s behalf, sense of satisfaction with the institution, and charitable giving. This study draws upon Uses and gratifications theory and Organization-Public Relations (OPR) in examining family behaviors.
Findings from the study show that there were statistically significant differences in intervention, satisfaction, and charitable giving among six clusters of Wilson University families. Post hoc pairwise comparisons revealed that those differences tended to be concentrated among clusters who had sizeable differences in their consumption of the Family 411 blog, or who did or did not attend Orientation. Overall, the families who were most engaged via Orientation attendance, blog reading, and e-newsletter reading intervened less, were more satisfied with the school, and made more charitable contributions. Further research is needed to determine how demographic differences between clusters may have contributed to those family behaviors.
This study contributes to the literature by being the first known empirical study that investigates how a daily blog relates to the behavior of college parents and families, and begins to fill a gap in the knowledge of how to use blogs as a family engagement tool. Implications for practice include encouraging family relations offices to consider adding blogs to their family engagement offerings to create continuous engagement and using cluster analysis to understand the unique needs and behaviors of segments of their parent and family population.
|Advisor:||Gonzalez, Laura M.|
|Commitee:||Boyce, Ayesha S., Johnson, R. Bradley, Rue, Penny|
|School:||The University of North Carolina at Greensboro|
|Department:||School of Education: Teacher Education and Higher Education|
|School Location:||United States -- North Carolina|
|Source:||DAI-A 81/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Higher education, Individual & family studies|
|Keywords:||Blog, Charitable giving, College/university, Engagement, Intervention, Parents/families|
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