A Qualitative Exploration of College Students' Experiences Seeking and Receiving Support From Their Parents During College




Sorrels, Darby

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College can be a stressful period of time for emerging adults, and these years may also be marked by changes in the parent-child relationship (Youniss & Smollar, 1985). In order to cope with stress, college students frequently turn to their parents for support (Youniss & Smollar, 1989), but it is unclear how students seek support from parents and how satisfied they are with the support they receive. In light of this, the current study examines parent-child communication during the college years, particularly as it relates to supportive communication during stressful times. This study used face-to-face interviews with 20 emerging adult college students to gain insights into this experience. Analysis revealed that college students learn to communicate with their parents in new ways while navigating issues of autonomy and that they primarily lean on their parents for emotional and informational support. In line with Expectancy Violation Theory (Burgoon, 1993), college students experienced positive and negative violations in relation to support they expected versus the support they received from their parents during this time of life. These findings contribute to our knowledge of parent-child communication during a distinctly stressful and transitional period of time.