Nov 052003
Authors: Lauren Mattingly

Coming to college after high school can sometimes improve the

relationships students have with their parents, according to CSU

faculty members.

Once students leave for college, their relationships with their

parents typically improve, said Kevin Lyness, an assistant

professor in human development and family studies.

“There is significant evidence that shows students get along

better with their parents when they leave the home,” Lyness


Three contributing factors account for why these bonds grow

tighter. The biggest contributing factor is a student receiving his

or her freedom, Lyness said.

“The nature of the interaction between parents and their

children changes when the child leaves the home for college. Both

parties reach new stages in the life cycle,” said Jennifer Cross,

an assistant professor in the sociology department.

Some students at CSU believe that respect is the important part

to the student-parent relationship.

“There’s always been unconditional love, but now it’s built with

respect on both sides,” said Ashley Myers, a senior human

development major.

Not living together might reduce the number of fights parents

and students have.

“There is a huge misconception that high school students fight

with their parents a lot,” Lyness said. “The conflict is


Students can fight with parents over any number of different


“Fighting within households is a direct result of the differing

viewpoints parents and children have, such as appropriate evening

attire,” Lyness said. “Parents see the problem as a moral issue

whereas kids see the problem as a personal choice.”

He said once freed from parental supervision, students

discipline themselves and in the process develop social cognition


“Social cognition is how you see yourself in interactions as

other people would. It is like taking someone else’s perspective,”

Lyness said.

Some students might view their actions differently if they saw

themselves in the same light that their parents do.

Another factor that can help students and parents get along is

when students develop a new identity.

“College students are developing a personal sense of identity

and once they figure out who they are, they do not have to fight

with parents and differentiate themselves,” Lyness said.

Students may be surprised to discover their parents are doing

fine in the empty house.

“As far as the empty nest theory goes, it is a myth. The truth

being, we think our parents miss us more than they truly do,”

Lyness said.

Once the house is empty, some students’ parents divorce because

there is nothing holding the relationship together. The

relationship is either broken off or rekindled, Lyness said.

“I think it was odd not having a third person in the house; it

makes for a different routine and is a little more relaxed,” said

Nancy Reeves, a mother and an administrative assistant for


Students may find that when taking a short visit home there

might be tension from the changed roles.

“Parents act more as advisers than caregivers, which gives the

opportunity for (them) to relate to each other as equals,” Cross


Freshmen especially might feel challenged by the new burden of

responsibilities, according to the University Counseling


“If you are feeling homesick do not feel alone,” said Laura

Macagno-Shang, senior staff counselor. “I think homesickness is

very common. It’s very rare to find students that are not


Some students may have grown up with their parents making most

of their decisions, and this could be bad, Macagno-Shang said.

“It is important as a parent to teach their kids how to make

decisions, live with the bad ones and be confident that it is okay

to make mistakes,” she said.




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