Parental Attachment of Students as They Move through Tinto’s Rites of Passage: Separation, Transition, and Incorporation

Henrietta W Pichon
Journal for the Study of Postsecondary and Tertiary Education  •  Volume 4  •  2019  •  pp. 019-032

This study explored the connection between Tinto’s notion of “rites of passage” and Kenny’s parental attachment. Specifically, this study sought to explain how students’ parental attachment (i.e., affective quality of parental relationships, parents’ ability to facilitate independence, and parents as source of support) influenced their rites of passage (i.e., separation, transition, incorporation) and how this may differ based on different demographic data. By understanding students’ connections to their parents, student affairs/life administrators will be better able to offer programming that helps students move through the rites of passage in order for the students to become more academically and socially integrated within the institution and ultimately persist.

There is little doubt that academic and social integration play a major role in college student persistence. Yet, there remains considerable interest in how students reach this integration. One factor that continues to be explored is parental influence. However, little is known about students’ connections to their parents and how this connection influences their ability to move through Tinto’s “rites of passage.”

This study employed survey design. For this study, 129 students were surveyed at two institutions in the South.

By further exploring these relationships, this study will add to the growing body of research on persistence, parental attachment, and historically underrepresented groups in higher education.

Findings from this study suggest that programming provided through student affairs/life offices should focus on the facilitation of independence, so students become more comfortable relying on themselves, new friends, and the institution to assist them as they overcome the new challenges that come with attending college. In doing so, the students can become more integrated into the university and ultimately persist.

These findings could be instrumental in shaping the freshmen experience of traditional age enrollees specifically through the admissions process, New Student Orientation programming, and Freshmen Seminar courses. Findings suggest that students may benefit from facilitating their own admission process; therefore, institutions should encourage this independence by sending literature to students, requiring students to take action or respond to requests, and facilitating student campus visits prior to orientation. During New Student Orientation, institutions could offer breakout sessions to parents and students to help with the separation, transition, and incorporation processes. Break-out sessions for parents will focus on what these different stages look like and what they can do to assist their students overcome them. Additionally, break-out sessions for students will focus on helping them identify stages, develop strategies for moving through them, and maintaining good relationships with their parents in the process. Finally, the Freshmen Seminar course should reinforce lessons taught at New Student Orientation regarding separation, transition, and incorporation by providing lessons that allow students to explore the different stages via case studies, identify strategies that one can employ to address issues that arise at the various stages, evaluate services of offices created to assist with stages, and other lessons.

Although this study has limitations the findings are useful in identifying future research opportunities. A study is required with a larger sample, with a diverse population to allow for rigorous testing of all variables. I suggest a larger and more diverse sample at varying institutional types to fully capture differences among the different groups. Although there were a number of significant correlational findings, the relationships were weak. This suggests that these variables need to be further explored to determine the strength of parental attachment and separation, transition, and incorporation.

This study is important to society because it not only addresses where the issues occur as students move the rites of passage (i.e., separation, transition, incorporation) but also identifies strategies that institutions can employ to assist students as they move through those rites. By understanding how connected students are to their parents, institutions can better prepare their students to work more independently to achieve their educational goals. In doing so, the students will be better able to join the work force and contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Future research should further study parental attachment and persistence at varying institutional types and link student success services to addressing some of the issues related to separation, transition, and incorporation of these students.

persistence, parental attachment, rites of passage
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