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Parent-Child Communication during Transition to University Life

by Margaret Thorwart


Heading off to college is often the first time young adults experience time away from their parents. There are growing amounts of studies suggesting that attending a university for the first time entails a transition in young adults’ lives filled with a great deal of stress. In regards to young adults’ adjustment to university life a study found that as many as 40% of students encounter serious difficulties and fail to complete their degree (Wintre & Yaffe, 2000). Before this transition to university life, children are accustomed to communicating with parents on a daily basis due to the fact they live in the same house and see their parents frequently. Once at college, the communication between young adult and parent drastically changes. Family communication norms are perceived differently as a child matures and the child’s perception of communication changes as well (Ritchie & Fitzpatrick, 1990). The transition to college proves to be difficult for most young adults and is a test on whether parent-child communication will continue or diminish. Every young adult transitions differently to college; indeed, sometimes communication between student and parent can become in-existent, overbearing, or counterproductive.

About the Author

Margaret Thorwart is a senior Speech Communication, Public Relations major with minors in Athletic Coaching and Entrepreneurship. Her passion within communication focuses on outcomes based on family and interpersonal relationships as well as health choices made by students. This study’s focus on family communication and first year college students’ adjustment to university life began with her experience transitioning to university life. Thorwart understood the transition to college is a difficult and challenging one for many students and she struggled to adjust her freshman year. Luckily, Thorwart had very supportive parents who helped her through this transition. If it was not for them, she might have dropped out after her first semester. In the future, Thorwart hopes to return to a university to impact the lives of young adults and her hope is that this research helps the university to retain freshman students as well as benefit both the student’s transition to college and their family. Thorwart was also a member of Millersville University’s varsity field hockey team for four years. She and her team won the 2014 National Championship and two PSAC championship titles, 2013 and 2016. Thorwart received the Elite 89 award at the 2014 championships for having the highest GPA at the tournament and received MVP of the 2016 PSAC tournament. Thorwart was a Choices Peer Educator on campus for three years, a member of the Millersville chapter of PRSSA for four years, and a peer tutor on campus for a year.

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