Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Dennis Gregory

Committee Member

J. Worth Pickering

Committee Member

Edward E. Raspiller


This study examined whether the phenomenon of parental over-involvement occurred in the Virginia Community College System. Concern has been expressed in the popular and academic literature in recent years over the increased level of parental involvement at four year institutions whose student bodies consist almost exclusively of traditional-aged students. With a mix of traditional-aged and non-traditional students at community colleges, this study investigated whether or not community college employees expressed similar concerns as their counterparts at senior institutions.

The study was designed using a mixed methods approach and utilized a triangulation of results in order to answer four research questions. 1) How do student services staff and administrators in Virginia community colleges define parental over-involvement? 2) To what extent does parental over-involvement exist in Virginia community colleges? 3) How do Virginia community colleges respond to over-involved parents? And 4) how do student services staff and administrators in Virginia community colleges describe an ideal collaboration with parents?

Results of the study led to the development of an operational definition of "helicopter parent" that has been absent in the literature. In addition, the study showed that over-involved, or helicopter, parents were an increasing presence at Virginia's community colleges. College student services employees who participated in the study indicated that their colleges had done very little to respond to this growing segment of involved parents and they were still learning how to work collaboratively with parents in order to ensure the best environment for student academic success and personal development. Student services employees expressed an interest in receiving systematic training and administrative support with respect to developing positive ways to work with students and their over-involved parents. The investigator developed a "Collaborative Student Support Model for Student Services Employees, Students, & Parents" as a suggestion on how to partner with parents to help support student academic success and psychosocial development.