Affording Emerging Adulthood: Parental Financial Assistance of their College-Aged Children

Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Brigham Young University
Larry J. Nelson
Jason S. Carroll


The purpose of this study was to examine parents’ attitudes about and patterns of providing financial assistance to their children during college, and how varying levels of parental financial support were related to children’s beliefs (e.g., perceptions of adulthood), behaviors (e.g., work hours, drinking, and drug use), and identity development. The sample consisted of 402 undergraduate students (62% women) recruited from four college sites across the United States (M age = 19.89), and one of their parents (310 mothers and 92 fathers). Using cluster analysis, results suggested four distinct approaches to parental financial involvement and found that emerging adults’ beliefs, behaviors, and identity development differed as a function of parents’ cluster membership. Discussion focuses on implications for emerging adult children whose parents endorse varying levels of financial involvement.