Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors




Past research has emphasized the inter-role conflict and resulting stress and depression working mothers' experience. Similar conflicting responsibilities are faced by student mothers, or mothers attending post-secondary institutes of higher education. These women may be subject to feelings of personal vulnerability, depression, feelings of incompetence as parents, and dysfunctional interaction with their children. However, it is unclear how these factors are related among the student-mother population. Additionally, stress resulting from conflicting roles may be exacerbated by the cultural expectations placed on these women especially in the context of Utah culture. This study sought to understand how personal vulnerability is related to depression, perceived lack of parental competence, and parent-to-child dysfunctional interaction among student mothers. This study also explored the cultural expectations these women reported and the mechanisms they employed to cope with all the stressors they face.

Survey data were collected from forty student mothers to understand personal vulnerability correlates and follow-up interviews were conducted with a subsample of ten of these mothers to study their reported Utah culture expectations and mechanisms used to cope with their stressors. Personal vulnerability was shown to be highly correlated with depression, perceived lack of parental competence, and parent-to-child dysfunctional interaction. Many student-mothers identified similar cultural expectations including being stay-at-home moms, being perfect, and subsequently not measuring up. Most of these women reported exercise, time alone, and relying on the support of others as effective coping mechanisms in responding to stress.



Faculty Mentor

Lisa Boyce

Departmental Honors Advisor

Scott Bates