Research Update: Making space for graduate student parents

Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 30, No. 4, 435-457 (2009)
Making Space for Graduate Student Parents

Practice and Politics

 

Kristen W. Springer

Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, kspringer@sociology.rutgers.edu

Brenda K. Parker

University of Illinois at Chicago

Catherine Leviten-Reid

University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

 

Work—family issues of graduate students are nearly invisible, despite record numbers of men and women in graduate school during their peak childbearing years. Furthermore, very little is known about what, if any, services are available for graduate student parents. In this article we describe the theoretical and practical tensions between society’s view of idealized mothering and academia’s vision of graduate students as idealized workers. We then present results of a survey about parental supports for graduate students administered to graduate directors of sociology PhD programs. The results demonstrate that few official policies exist, most situations are accommodated individually, and graduate directors are often unaware of university services for graduate student parents. The article concludes with a detailed presentation of potential departmental and university initiatives designed to support graduate student parents. These initiatives can be readily incorporated by graduate departments and universities to help curb the leaking pipeline of women in academia.

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