Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Mary Z. Anderson

Second Advisor

Dr. Patrick H. Munley

Third Advisor

Dr. Christopher Dunbar


Parentification and adultification, academic engagement and achievement, student-teacher relationships, high-poverty high schools, school climate and school reform, Barrett-Lennard Relationship Inventory


Parentification is the highest form of Adultification; a phenomenon that occurs when some children precociously perform extensive labor in their families, often as a function of poverty, and when their roles, responsibilities, and behaviors are “out of synch” with contemporary social and institutional notions of what children are expected to do (Burton, 2007). Based on the hypothesis that a significant number of children growing up in economically disadvantaged family backgrounds have higher chances of taking on adult roles at a young age and become adultified to a level of being parentified; this study sought to investigate whether and how school-based socio-emotional experiences of adultified learners affect their academic engagement and achievement and performance.

This study, utilizing a sample of 214 First Year College students and 157 of their former high school English and Math teachers, examined the influence of relationship focused variables (teacher attitudinal qualities and teacher support) as predictors of school membership, student academic engagement, and academic achievement. Parentification was hypothesized to significantly negatively influence relational experiences and academic achievement variables. Findings supported the hypothesized importance of positive teacher attitudinal qualities and highlighted in-class teacher support for stronger school membership, student academic engagement, and academic achievement. A significant negative correlation was also found between Parentification and Academic Achievement.

Also, Parentified learners reported experiencing significantly less support from their teachers for their autonomy, and significantly less membership in their school community when compared to non-adultified learners. Contrary to expectation, Parentification failed to explain a significant amount of variance in Teacher Attitudinal Qualities of Empathy, Congruence, and Level or Unconditionality of Regard. Post Hoc analyses revealed a significant negative association between school poverty and ongoing student academic engagement; with learners in high poverty schools reporting higher levels of ongoing engagement when compared to their counterparts in medium and low poverty schools. Unanticipated findings and subject-specific nuances in contributions made by English and Math teacher attitudinal qualities are explained. This study has pre-and in-service teacher training implications as it presents factors that affect academic engagement and achievement of adolescents, with particular attention paid to parentified adolescents and learners in high poverty schools.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access