AWE Literature Overview

Family Influence on Engineering Students -- Abstract

Families of engineering students provide exceptional levels of support to their children. For women in engineering, this support is crucial from the pre-college level onward. In particular, female engineers’ parents tend to raise their daughters with fewer gender stereotypes and place greater weight on education and learning. Characteristics of these families include:

  • Girls in engineering perceive that they receive more parental support than their peers in any other discipline (Adelman, 1998; Hansen, 1995; Burgard, 1999; Ciccocioppo, 2002; Houser, 1985).

  • Parents’ expectations for their daughters’ values, grades, and work ethics are higher when their daughters choose engineering. (Eccles-Parsons, 1985; Mau, 2003; Wise, 1985; Stallings, 1985).

  • Women engineers’ parents, particularly their mothers, are more highly educated than male engineers’ parents or parents of women professionals in other fields (Felder, 1995; Graham, 1997; McNeal Jr., 1999; Armstrong, 1985; Hansen, 1995; Ware, 1985; Jagacinski, 1987; Burgard, 1999).

  • Girls from egalitarian families are more likely to maintain their science and math achievement as they age than girls whose families adhere more closely to traditional gender roles (Updegraff, 1996).

Using this information, WIE programs can design activities to support and inform family roles in encouraging educational achievement in their daughters, providing academic motivation, and promoting egalitarian roles and opportunities. Likewise, WIE programs can design and offer outreach activities to attract and support first-generation college students, students from high risk family situations, and students from families with fewer resources.

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