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baby-4131223_640-(1).jpgMy doctoral cohort directly consists of three women. Indirectly, there are three spouses, four dogs, two rats, and five children ranging in ages from four months old to nine year old. As the newest parent to the bunch, I have spent much time reflecting on this emerging aspect of my identity, how it intersects with my identity as a doctoral student, and what the implications may be of my choice to start a family during graduate school. I clearly remember the responses I received when those outside of my graduate school network found out that I was expecting a child. The most common responses were “How are you going to do it? Your degree will probably be delayed now – are you sure you thought this through? How do you expect to parent as a student? Was this an accident?” Given these responses, as I prepared to tell those within the graduate school of the news, I braced for impact. This turned out to be unnecessary as those within my program were far more supportive than those outside of the program had initially been. All of this got me thinking, “Is this the norm? What research do we have on parenting during graduate school and as an early career psychologist?” As I embarked down the rabbit hole of research in this area, I was disappointed. Not only is there a dearth of research, but the research that does exist primarily focuses on barriers parents face and negative aspects of parenting. I found few studies highlighting the unique perspective and benefits that can be brought to the table by psychology student parents. Below I briefly outline what we know, as well as opportunities for future research. 

What we know

In 2021, a survey of internship applicants conducted by the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) found that approximately 13% reported living with one or more dependent children (Keilin, 2021). Research suggests that graduate student parents face many barriers including higher debt, insufficient medical benefits, family-friendly policies that students do not qualify for, and inflexibility in schedule options for coursework and clinical work (Doran et al., 2016; Pereira et al., 2023; Wladkowski & Mirick, 2019a). Additionally, women and non-binary parents may confront unique challenges compared to non-parenting students and parents who identify as men given that gender inequities are often still perpetuated within academic institutions (Wladkowski & Mirick, 2019b). Attrition from doctoral programs is also high for student parents who face these challenges with little support from their institutions (Gardner, 2009; Pereira et al., 2023).
Although much of the research on this topic has highlighted the immense challenges faced by student parents, qualitative work has shown that some student parents feel supported through their mentorship experiences, specifically with clinical supervisors (Pereira et al., 2023). Additionally, more supports are becoming available to student parents. In 2018, the American Psychological Association released a parental resource guide for students that includes online resources, questions to ask potential schools, internship sites and employers, as well as tips for addressing parental leave and parental discrimination (Mizock & Ameen, 2018). Wladkowski and Mirick (2019b) also published a list of recommendations for doctoral programs looking to better support parenting students. Their recommendations included 1) clear, universal policies related to parenting and pregnancy supports, 2) increased visibility and accessibility of available supports such as including information in doctoral handbooks about what accommodations (e.g., private lactation space) are available to students, 3) built in flexibility to program requirements (e.g., ability to change order of classes), 4) promotion of students building social support within their programs, 5) encouragement of students to use and access available resources, and 6) professional advocacy from faculty for institutional supports for parenting students.

What next?

It is clear that student parents face a plethora of challenges while trying to obtain their graduate education (Doran et al., 2016; Pereira et al., 2023). If institutions are truly interested in helping their pregnant and parenting students complete their programs, then development of formalized and accessible supports is necessary (Wladkowski & Mirick, 2019b). Research evaluating the effectiveness of these programs would allow for a better understanding of what is feasible and what works. Additionally, student parents bring a unique perspective to their clinical and research work. Gathering more information around the strengths student parents bring to their programs and work may help to reduce stigma and increase supports for parents. It is my belief that aspects of the parental identity can be valuable within the graduate school culture and should be more thoroughly examined.

About the author

Emmeline N. Taylor, MA, is a clinical psychology PhD candidate with an emphasis in trauma at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. She works in collaboration with the Lyda Hill Institute for Human Resilience as a graduate research assistant and student clinician in their outpatient PTSD clinic. Additionally, she is a neuropsychological and psychodiagnostic assessment trainee working with adult and child survivors of interpersonal violence. Emmeline’s research interests include intervention implementation, the role of emotion regulation in trauma recovery, and how complex systems strategies can help the field better understand the phenomena of resilience, co-occurring conditions and trauma recovery. She also works part time as a remote research assistant for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto’s Center for Innovation to Implementation. Please note that the opinions expressed in this piece are my own and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs nor the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 


Doran, J. M., Kraha, A., Marks, L. R., Ameen, E. J., & El-Ghoroury, N. H. (2016). Graduate debt in psychology: A quantitative analysis. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 10(1), 3–13. https://doi-org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1037/tep0000112

Gardner, S. K. (2009). Student and faculty attributions of attrition in high and low-completing doctoral programs in the United States. Higher Education, 58, 97–112. https://doi-org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1007/s10734-008-9184-7

Keilin, G. (2021). APPIC match: Survey of internship applicants: Part 1: Summary of survey results. https://appic.org/Internships/Match/Match-Statistics/Applicant-Survey-2021-Part-1

Mizock, L., Ameen, E. (2018). Parental leave resource and climate guide for students and psychologists. https://www.apa.org/education-career/development/early/parental-leave-guide.pdf

Pereira, L. M., Oberleitner, D. E., Cantone, J. A., Wilhelmi, B. L., Grassetti, S. N., Dicola, K., & Pereira, S. C. (2023). Attitudes about parenting and family planning among psychology trainees and mentors.Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 17(1), 71–80. https://doi-org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1037/tep0000398

Wladkowski, S., & Mirick, R. G. (2019a). Mentorship in doctoral education for pregnant and newly parenting doctoral students. Journal of Women and Gender in Higher Education, 12(3), 299–318. https://doi-org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1080/26379112.2019.1654394  

Wladkowski, S., & Mirick, R. G. (2019b). Supports and recommendations for pregnant and newly parenting doctoral students in health professions. Journal of Social Work Education, 56(2), 312–326. https://doi-org.libproxy.uccs.edu/10.1080/10437797.2019.1656580