Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Measurement and Research

Major Professor

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John Ferron, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eunsook Kim, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Deirdre Cobb-Roberts, Ph.D.


college, parents, families, higher education, university


Throughout the history of higher education in the United States, parents and family members of college students have often found themselves as obsolete to the postsecondary experience. Minimal research has been dedicated to understanding the experience of parents and family members of college students until the millennial generation began their collegiate years (Harper et al., 2012; Wartman & Savage, 2008). In consideration of a new generation of college students (i.e., Gen Z) and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it is crucial to illuminate the complexities of parent and family engagement in higher education and the needs of parents and families. Most recently, Kiyama and Harper (2018) proposed a Model of Parent Characteristics, Engagement, and Support based on their research. Harper et al. (2020) continued to investigate this model through qualitative methodologies and identified several constructs to better understand this complex phenomenon. Currently, no quantitative tools exist to measure Kiyama and Harper’s (2018) model and accompanying construct. Thus, the goal of this study was to develop and initially validate the Parent and Family Engagement in Higher Education (PFEHE) measure as a quantitative research tool to complement Kiyama and Harper’s (2018) model. This dissertation is the beginning of the ongoing and iterative process researchers need to develop and gather validity evidence for any measure (Bandalos, 2018; Kline, 2016). Strength of evidence supporting validity, reliability, and fairness were evaluated for the PFEHE measure. Evidence to support validity was based on test content, response processes, and internal structure and was mixed. Higher education and measurement experts and current family members of undergraduate college students assisted the development process resulting in a 54-item PFEHE measure. A wide recruitment effort garnered participation of more than 1,000 participants who completed the 54-item measure. After a thorough data screening process, 650 responses were viable to use for a variety of analyses. Approximately half of these responses were used in a series of exploratory factor analyses. These analyses further refined the PFEHE measure to 21 items representative of three constructs: family aspirational characteristics, family/student involvement and engagement, and family/university involvement and engagement. The other half of responses were used for a confirmatory factor analysis with the three factors and 21 items. Results of this analysis were less than favorable as no model fit indices met the minimum standards (DiStefano & Hess, 2005; Kline, 2016; McCoach et al., 2013). Strength of evidence based on reliability was gathered by calculating Cronbach’s alpha separately for the two samples using the redefined 21-item measure. Reliability measures for each of the three scales across both samples ranged from .76 to .84, indicating moderately strong evidence. Finally, evidence to support fairness of the PFEHE measure was gathered initially from expert panel review. Additional evidence was gathered from cognitive interviews conducted with current parents and family members of undergraduate college students. Families were asked to recall the information needed to respond to each item and whether they would respond to each item honestly. Their responses guided the final wording for items and the inclusion of additional instructions for participants. Collectively, the strength of evidence supporting fairness was strong given the scope of this study. This study concludes with a discussion about the many opportunities the PFEHE measure could be used in future quantitative and qualitative research studies. The evidence reported in this study is promising for the PFEHE measure, and future research will aid in the evaluation of more evidence of validity, reliability, and fairness.