Perceived Parental Support and Identity Compatibility

In this line of work, we explore how family support shapes first-generation college students’ identity compatibility and subsequent performance.

As the first in their families to attend college, first-generation college students confront cultural discrepancies between their working-class home environment and the middle-class university environment (Stephens et al., 2012). Consequently, compared to continuing-generation college students (i.e., students with at least one college-graduated parent), first-generation college students experience more conflicts in managing their home and school identities (Lubrano, 2003) that might undermine their identification and performance in college. Importantly, managing these identities may be influenced by perceptions of family support: while some first-generation college students receive moral and academic support for attending college, others may receive only moral support but no academic support.

In one online study, first-generation college students reported perceiving less academic support than continuing-generation college students; there were no differences in perceptions of moral support. Moreover, perceiving moral but no academic support led to less identity compatibility, which led to lower grades for first-generation college students. For continuing-generation college students, parental support or identity compatibility had no effect on grades.

Currently, we are testing how identity incompatibility (or, the conflict between home and school contexts) impacts performance in an experimental design, and examine a mechanism to explain this process.