Toward Understanding Factors Salient to Doctoral Students’ Persistence: The Development and Preliminary Validation of the Doctoral Academic-Family Integration Inventory

Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 14  •  2019  •  pp. 237-258

Despite the literature documenting the importance of family in persistence, doctoral students’ Academic-Family integration has been relatively ignored. Thus, in this study, the construct of doctoral academic-family integration is defined, followed by the creation and validation an instrument.

The challenge of integrating the doctoral degree program and family is a central concern for doctoral students and higher education personnel. Setting up boundaries to achieve a satisfactory balance between academic and family life is an issue that affects a doctoral student’s decision to persist.

An expert panel and principal component analysis (PCA) was used to analyze data from a sample of doctoral students to examine the validity of the Doctoral Academic-Family Integration Inventory (DAFII). Cronbach alpha coefficients were calculated to examine reliability.

While higher education institutions have made strides in work-family integration theory, research, and policy for their faculty and staff, the academic-family (AF) topic has not emerged as readily in policies and initiatives for doctoral students (Lester, 2013). The topic of AF balance of doctoral students, both in distance and residential programs, is understudied despite the fact that family is a consistent factor identified in doctoral persistence and attrition.

An expert panel and PCA was used to analyze data, resulting in a 22 item valid Doctoral Academic-Family Integration Inventory with three components – Academic-Family Balance, Academic-Family Boundary Setting, and Academic-Family Interference. Cronbach alpha coefficients results demonstrate that the inventory has good reliability.

Having the DAFII will likely prove to be of substantial utility to faculty and administrators in doctoral programs. The scale may be used as a formative assessment for doctoral students entering a program to provide information about academic-family boundaries and to address weaknesses in academic-family balance that could result in attrition.

This research provides a psychometrically sound instrument that can be used to advance the research on academic-family integration, a term that has not been previously defined and a topic that has been sorely understudied despite the fact that family is central to doctoral persistence. Researchers now have an instrument to examine this construct. Given the limited research on academic-family integration, the DAFII also provides a tool to extend research on persistence.

Understanding academic-family integration is vital as many doctoral students begin developing patterns for integration in their program that they carry into the workforce.

Further validation of the instrument can be pursued with doctoral students as well as graduate students in STEM and non-STEM fields, given the limited population sample used in this study. Future research is needed to examine how academic-family integration may vary within same-sex relationships and based on the doctoral student’s gender identity.

doctoral student persistence, academic-family integration, academic-family boundaries, academic-family balance, retention, persistence
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