A qualitative exploration of daughters' reports of supportive and unsupportive responses from their mothers during the transition from college to career




Damron, Jane Haas

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The transition from college to career has been established as a stressful period of time for emerging adults, as well as a critical turning point for mothers and daughters. Effective support from mothers helps daughters cope with stressful events, but shifting roles and/or expectations during periods of transition can present communication challenges. As such, the current dissertation investigated mother-daughter communication during daughters’ transition from college to career. Framed by the lens of Goldsmith’s (2001, 2004) normative model of social support, this study used face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with 35 emerging adult women to gain new insights into daughters’ experiences transitioning and their evaluations of supportive/effective and unsupportive/ineffective messages from their mothers during this period of time.

The investigation uncovered a variety of stressors experienced by participants before graduation (unknowns, decision-making, finances, and outside expectations) as well as after (change in pace and social isolation). In regards to communication with mothers, daughters reported a lack of satisfaction when mothers were overinvolved (challenging daughters’ autonomy, being too forceful with ideas, asking too many questions) or under-attentive (not listening well, asking too few questions). According to daughters, this led to increased stress and tightened control of information on their part. Conversely, daughters appreciated when mothers believed in them and were positively engaged (encouraging daughters’ autonomy, filling a cheerleading role, listening well, asking helpful questions). According to participants, this led to decreased stress, increased confidence, and a feeling of being anchored during the transition.

These findings contribute to an understanding of the stressors of the transition from college to career, as well as what types of communication daughters find more or less helpful. In accordance with Goldsmith’s (2001, 2004) normative model of social support, daughters were most satisfied with behaviors and messages that attended to their task, identity, and relational goals.


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