Perceptions of college students towards college students who are mothers


This study is designed to measure just how a mother's decision to continue her education is viewed by her peers. I want to investigate the level of "good-mother" stereotypes in a collegiate setting. This study examined whether good mother stereotypes previously found in relation to perceptions of employed mothers (Gorman & Fritzsche, 2002) are also present in an academic environment. The presence of such stereotypes may pose barriers to mothers and decrease the level of social support afforded to them. In this study, 213 undergraduate students, who were either community college or university undergraduate students, were asked to read a short vignette about a fictitious stimulus mother, Jennifer. Each participant was given one vignette depicting Jennifer in one of six possible scenarios. Jennifer either permanently ended her schooling after the birth of her child, returned to school when her child was six months of age, or returned to school when her child was six years of age. In each of these three settings, Jennifer was described either as satisfied with her decision or dissatisfied with her decision. After reading the vignette, participants completed two measures. The Personal Attributes Questionnaire was used to measure participants' perceptions of Jennifer's masculinity and femininity, and the Interpersonal Adjectives Scale measured participants' perceptions of her dominance and nurturance. In this study I want to investigate the level of "good-mother" stereotypes that are present in a collegiate setting. I hypothesize that the participants in this study will view the mother who returns to school as less feminine and less nurturing than her counterpart who chooses to stay at home to raise her children. Additionally, if the stimulus mother is satisfied with her decision to return to school it is hypothesized the she will be viewed as less committed to motherhood than her dissatisfied counterpart. The results of this study do indeed show "good mother" stereotypes generalizing into the student body in a collegiate setting. These "good mother" stereotypes may inhibit a mother's ability to succeed academically. There are numerous psychological and financial benefits to be found in a mother attaining higher levels of education. Therefore, it would be in the best interest of our society as a whole to overcome these stereotypes, and in tum promote academic success for mothers.


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Thesis Completion





Mottarella, Karen


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program



Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences;College students -- Attitudes;Motherhood;Women college students -- Psychological aspects;Women college students -- Sociological aspects







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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