Generational Family Patterns, and Engineering Entry and Persistence: A Bowen Family Systems Approach
Effective Years: 2022-2028
This project will investigate the influence of family on student interest and persistence in engineering. The overarching goal of this project is to expand the investigator’s expertise to conduct fundamental research on the influence of family in engineering fields to better understand facilitators of student persistence. The research findings have the potential to inform a larger quantitative study through developing and testing a theory about impacts of family relationships on STEM student persistence and choice of major. Findings will contribute to STEM policymaking, and undergraduate recruitment and retention programming efforts. This work has the potential to enhance academic support services such as counseling and career centers so that may help identify students before they leave the degree field and increase the persistence of undergraduate students in STEM fields.
The investigator will utilize the Bowen family systems theory as a conceptual framework in the current project. Bowen family systems theory determines individual functionality as a product of family interactions and relationship patterns that are passed down through multiple generations. Such patterns and relationships can include cultural influences or family attitudes, both of which may influence STEM persistence. This project will investigate the following objectives: 1) Develop an exploratory interview-based inquiry that examines exemplar students and any multigenerational family influences to their persistence in STEM fields; 2) Explore how intergenerational career patterns impact student mental health; 3) Explore how intergenerational patterns impact student academic persistence; 4) Examine how student mental health and academic persistence influence each other; and 5) Evaluate the efforts through a critical lens of self-reflection. This project will utilize a mixed methods approach, collecting interview-based qualitative data from 15-20 exemplar engineering students. The study will propose a multifaceted definition for exemplar that is beyond grades and academic success. A genogram will be used to collect patterns of three generations for each student as well as leading semi-structured interviews, and a thematic analysis will be used to analyze the qualitative data. Built upon the findings, a survey will be developed on student mental health, family academic and career choices, using structural equation modeling (SEM) for data analysis. The project is supported by NSF's EHR Core Research Building Capacity in STEM Education Research (ECR: BCSER) program, which is designed to build investigators’ capacity to carry out high-quality STEM education research.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.