Handbook of Research on Coping Mechanisms for First-Year Students Transitioning to Higher Education (The Challenges Behind Living a Double Life Among First-Generation University Students: The Clash Between Interdependent and Independent Identities)

Cornell & Searight / IGI Global / February 2023

Female Student Walking on Campus

First-generation (F.G.) university students whose parents did not attend college comprise 30-50% of those pursuing higher education in the United States. Research suggests that compared with those whose parents attended college, F.G. students are less likely to graduate. American universities reflect upper middle class values, implying that academic success requires students' independence from family. Previous research suggests that F.G., compared with non-F.G. students, place a greater value on interdependence relative to independence. The current study was a multi-method investigation involving quantitative and qualitative assessment approaches. Specifically, on standardized measures, F.G. students scored significantly higher on the Communal Orientation Scale, reflecting norms of social reciprocity and attentiveness to others. Results of qualitative interviews indicated that F.G. students are often self-conscious about their family status more likely to experience university culture as ambiguous and frequently overwhelming and lack a knowledgeable support system.