There is much debate in academic advising practitioner literature and in the popular media over the influence exerted by involved parents on students and colleges. There is a broad consensus that parental involvement has increased to levels not previously witnessed on college campuses (Cutright, 2008; Shoup, Gonyea, & Kuh, 2009; Wartman & Savage, 2008). It can be argued, therefore, that the past ten years have seen a change in the relationship between students, their parents, and the students' academic advisors. Although there has been much discussion among academic advising professionals concerning the influence parents have on both student development and on their own role as guides and mentors of new students there is a paucity of research studies on the topic. Current research on parental involvement and student success remains in its infancy.
This study contributes to the nascent research field by investigating academic advising professionals’ experiences and perceptions of parental involvement. Some level of parental involvement has been shown to positively influence student success in college (NSSE 2007; Shoup, Gonyea, & Kuh, 2009; Taub 2008). Studies have also indicated the positive influence of academic advising on student adjustment to college and student success (Gordon & Habley 2000; Hunter & White, 2004; Light, 2001; Yarrish, 2008). It is, therefore, important that the influential and complex environment of students, parents, and advisors be studied more specifically.
This study utilizes qualitative case study methods to examine the perceptions on involved parenting held by advising professionals at an integrated advising unit at a large, Midwestern, flagship type public university. The case study’s participants provide individual and collective narrative lenses to answer this study’s research questions through surveys and face-to-face semi-structured interviews. Information pertaining to unit policy, procedures, and communication resources was also collected.
A number of issues emerged through the data analysis clearly reflecting the experiences and perceptions of this case study’s advising professionals: (a) the advising professionals generally found parental involvement to be helpful; (b) that most parental involvement revolved around legitimate issues improving the advisors’ knowledge of specific student problems capital; (c) there appears to be some generational differences in how advisors approach interaction with parents based on their own age and life experiences; (d) that the negative narratives perpetuated by the media, aspects of the literature, and shared conversations amongst advisors continue to dominate advisors’ responses to parental engagement; (e) there is an emotional aspect to parental engagement; (f) that there is a need for specific training for advisors to engage parents; and, (g) that good practices are emerging regarding how advisors can effectively work with parents to assist students and parents through the transition stage from home and high school to the college environment.
The case study’s results and analysis offer a series of conclusions and recommendation both for practice and for research. The study makes a contribution to a field where there is a presently a dearth of research-based studies.