All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Robin Lanzi

Advisory Committee Members

Kevin Fontaine

Allison Litton

Ann Elizabeth Montgomery

Angela Stowe

Yusen Zhai

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2023

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of university students and continues to have a profound impact to this day. The transition from in-person traditional courses to online courses and campus closures, coupled with feelings of isolation, fear of contracting COVID-19, and uncertainty of the future has further intensified the mental health of college students. The effects of federal and state regulations, such as stay-at-home orders, influenced the mental health and general well-being of many Americans, specifically those who take on a dual role as a student and a parent. Unfortunately, literature pertaining to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of student-parents is extremely limited. It is of great importance to address this limitation.This mixed methods study explored the effects of self-reported stress, resiliency, and coping skills on student-parent mental health at two-time points during the pandemic. To address the specific aims of this study, quantitative and qualitative data from summer 2020 (n=393) and summer 2022 (n=169) were collected and analyzed. Findings from the quantitative data indicated that student-parents had higher rates of stress, moderately good coping scores, and moderately good resiliency scores. Thematic analysis of the qualitative data aligned with the findings of the quantitative data. Academic stress, COVID-19 transmission/exposure, financial stress, and changing life/family dynamics are some of the themes that emerged from the qualitative analysis and were cited as having a negative impact on student-parent mental health. A PROCESS iv regression analysis showed stress had a direct effect (p<.05) on the mental health of student-parents. Additionally, coping skills significantly mediated the effect (p<.05) of stress on student-parent mental health. Resilience was shown to be an insignificant mediator of stress (p=.8261). This study suggests the intersectionality of student and parental roles during the COVID-19 pandemic presented a complex landscape for mental health. The regression findings indicate a need to address student-parent stress rates to make a positive impact on mental health. Stressors faced by student-parents (academic stress, financial stress, changes in life/family dynamics, etc.) can be identified and managed before significant mental health impacts can occur. This paper recommends future research be two-fold: (1) research driven and (2) practice driven. Further research into the student-parent population must occur to understand stressors beyond those described in this study. Moreover, research comparing student-parents to their non-parent counterparts is needed to establish the generalizability of our study. This study also recommends university administration take a prominent role in the care of student-parents. University-sanctioned sectors should be developed to establish resources and programming specific to student-parents. As the aftermath of the pandemic is still felt today, the findings of this mixed methods study should serve as a catalyst for further research and administrative change to foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for student-parents, ultimately enhancing their mental health and well-being.

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