New Scholarship

Relationship between Parental Attachment and Moral Judgment Competence of Today’s College Students

Deidra Graves Stephens, Ph.D. - Director, Texas MBA+ Leadership Program, The University of Texas at Austin

Mary Ellen Madigan, Ph.D. - Director, Admissions & Financial Aid, Penn State Erie, The Behrend College


The purpose of this study was to determine the correlation between parental attachment and the moral judgment competence of college students in the context of their Millennial generation characteristics. Participants (N=1,272) from two campuses of a major university system in the northeastern United States completed surveys that measured each of these variables. Overall, no significant relationship was found between perceived parental attachment and moral judgment competence, although the research did find significant differences by demographic characteristics.

In the new millennium, parents have shown increasing levels of involvement in their children’s collegiate life. Observers have speculated this is based partly on the tenacious parenting style of the baby boomer generation (Levin Coburn, 2006). In addition, the explosion of technology has enabled closer communication between college students and their parents (Rainey, 2006). An overwhelming majority of students have indicated closer bonds with their parents than any previous generation (Atkinson, 2004; Wills, 2005). These trends have caused observers to give parents the label “helicopter parents,” a term that illustrates the “hovering” tendencies they demonstrate (Levin Coburn, 2006).