How connected are college freshmen to their parents? Student study looks at electronic contact with Mom and Dad

EtheridgeHow often do college freshmen talk with their parents by cell phone, text message or email in the first semester of college? And what kinds of parenting styles affect how frequently students communicate with their parents and how autonomous they are in their first year of college?

A University of North Texas College of Education doctoral student will examine these questions this fall in a doctoral dissertation about "Parenting Style, Frequency of Electronic Communication with Parents, and the Development of Autonomy in First-Year, First-Semester College Students."

Lauri Etheridge, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in educational psychology with a concentration in human development and family studies, plans to survey UNT freshmen about their electronic connections to their parents starting in September. The survey will ask students to recount how often they called, texted or emailed their parents in a one-week period in their first semester of school. She felt inspired to pursue the research after teaching classes as part of her teaching fellowship program.

"I noticed how often before or after class they were talking to their parents," she said. "When I was in college for the first time, you had to stand in line for pay phones. I called my mother once a week. But they seem to be in constant contact."

The research will look at parenting styles to determine whether the high frequency of communication between a parent and student can be attributed to a supportive parent who is giving advice - or a parent who makes decisions for the child.

Ultimately, Etheridge hopes the research will help people who work with students to structure programs to be supportive of parents while encouraging students to be independent.

She expects to finish the research project in the early part of 2015 and plans to graduate with a doctoral degree in May.

By Ellen Rossetti, UNT University Relations, Communications & Marketing
For media inquiries, please contact Ellen Rossetti, News Promotion Specialist, at or

Give Now Strengthen the college. Our noteworthy accomplishments, scholarships and programs are supported by generous donations from friends like you. Please make your gift to the college today or contact Keturi Beatty (940-891-6860) to learn more about giving opportunities. Thank you!