Publication Date

Fall 2021

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Lauren McClain (Director), John Musalia, and Douglas Smith

Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The present study investigated how female/male nontraditional and traditional college students’ educational success could be influenced by both the social capital their family and friends provide and the responsibilities those close to them require. However, gender socialization may influence how certain networks, such as family and peers can help or hinder college students. Previous research found family and peers could help college students’ educational success (Betts et al., 2013; Seon, 2019), however, they can also be detrimental (Dill & Hayley, 1998). This study examined whether (1) gender and traditional/nontraditional student status are associated with educational success; and (2) whether support from and responsibility to family and friends explains those relationships. I hypothesized that nontraditional female college students’ levels of educational success (i.e., cumulative GPA and perceived confidence in college graduation) will be lower than nontraditional male students, and traditional college students despite gender. To test this hypothesis, I surveyed a stratified random sample of undergraduates at Western Kentucky University (N=12,361), with a sample size of 594. The strata were college women who are less than 25 years old, college men who are less than 25, college men who are 25 years or older, and college women who are 25 years or older. When controlling for family and traditional female students’ cumulative GPA 0.20 was significantly higher than nontraditional female students. The difference could be due to the increase in family responsibilities exacerbated by the pandemic. The variable for perceived confidence in college graduation was highly skewed which could mean that even during a pandemic WKU ensured that students felt like they were supported even if they were struggling. In this study, college students had a higher cumulative GPA (0.20) if they had general support from peers. Based on the current findings, WKU could focus on strategies that support single parents, as well as peer support groups for students.


Adult and Continuing Education | Educational Sociology | Sociology