Devoted readers will recall that my last blog post was prompted by a paper by Sax & Weintraub on patterns of communication between first-year college students and their parents. After I'd written it I realized one thing was nagging me about the results, and so I contacted my friend and colleague Linda Sax, who was one of the authors. I was struck that the article did not discuss if there had been different patterns of communication with mothers and/or fathers for male and female students, and so I asked.
Linda told me that this was actually the second paper they had written from this set of data, and that indeed the first paper (which she kindly sent me) had published results showing that yes, indeed, there were differences.
As one might expect, communication while students were in school was most frequent between mothers and daughters, and then between mothers and sons. For fathers, the pattern was reversed: men were slightly more likely to communicate with fathers than mothers. Many students were satisfied with the amount of contact they had, although 46% of women and 33% of men wanted more contact with their fathers.
The desire to want more communication with fathers is associated with declines in emotional wellbeing from entering college until the spring of freshman year. While it is difficult to use this data to definitely say that lower levels of communication with fathers leads to lower levels of emotional wellbeing, this is certainly a good possibility.
In the other paper I wrote about by Sax & Weintraub we saw similar results with lower levels of communication with fathers associated with lower levels of academic adjustment.
Again, as parents we need to remember that our job is not done once that last box is moved from the car to the dorm room. Keeping lines of communication open is key in helping students be successful in that crucial first year of college.