Gender and parenthood in postsecondary education: The social organization of everyday life among undergraduate students with children

Date of Completion

January 2006


Education, Sociology of|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




This dissertation examines how the social and material relations of higher education coordinate and constrain the lives of undergraduates who are college students and parents. Drawing on the methodological strategies of institutional ethnography, I interrogate how the bureaucratic power structure of postsecondary institutions intersects with the experiences and obligations of students who are also parents. Through in-depth interviews with student-parents, I explore how institutional policies, procedures, and norms shape the strategies student-parents employ in negotiating school and parenting responsibilities. I have also conducted interviews with professional members of postsecondary institutions (e.g. faculty, administrative staff, institutional administrators), as well as document analyses of institutionally sanctioned texts (e.g. housing contracts, health services handbooks, examination procedures), to examine how institutional policies, procedures, and norms are formally communicated and enforced in the everyday lives of student-parents. The principal objectives of the dissertation research include bringing visibility to the strategies student-parents develop in their efforts to negotiate the competing demands of postsecondary schooling and parenting; enhancing social scientific understanding of an often marginalized and largely unrecognized population of college and university students; discovering how the social locations of race, class, and gender shape student-parent experience; and developing program and policy recommendations that address the unique needs of student-parents within institutions of higher education. ^