Individuation reflects both the level of independence and the degree to which NCAA student-athletes feel they have attained the standards required for adulthood. Independence is reflected by the level of emotional and functional maturity student-athletes feel in relation to their parents, such as how much they depend on a parent’s approval for, and assistance in, making decisions. Attainment of the standards for adulthood is reflected by the degree to which student-athletes feel they have achieved responsibility for themselves, notably in their financial matters and life decisions.

Just two in ten student-athletes across NCAA Divisions report being emotionally and functionally independent from their parents; therefore, it is clear many student-athletes do not yet feel self-sufficient. About four in ten student-athletes report having made some progress in attaining the standards necessary for adulthood. Specifically, only about 20% strongly agree they have achieved financial independence, and six in ten strongly agree they are accepting total responsibility for themselves. These results align with findings from The National 2012 Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults, conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Arnett who is a co-investigator on this project, in that 62% of 18-21 year-olds report they feel they have achieved adulthood in some ways but not in others.

Together, the individuation of student-athletes across NCAA Divisions reflects the typical pattern of learning how to stand on one’s own two feet during the college experience. Key NCAA stakeholders also acknowledge that the college transition is a critical time for student-athletes to develop independence, and unanimously agree that parents’ strategies for involvement are integral to facilitating positive individuation among student-athletes.

We are very much “go out there and play.” If there’s some hard knocks, we’re not always there to necessarily fix it for her. We’ll assist her, we’ll comfort her, we’ll whatever, but we don’t fix everything for her. We’ve always fostered a lot of independence in our daughter … We’ve just never been overbearing with our kids and making all the decisions for them. So if they come to talk to me, I’ll be brief with them and I’ll talk to them but I say, “what do you think? What are the options? How can you solve this?” So I think maybe that’s the key: assisting them in problem-solving but not necessarily problem-solving for them.

Quick Facts

  • Examples of individuation include how much student-athletes depend on parents’ approval for, and assistance in, making decisions.
  • About 50% of NCAA student-athletes feel emotionally and functionally independent from their parents.
  • Key NCAA stakeholders acknowledge the importance promoting student-athletes’ attempts to learn how to stand on their own two feet during the intercollegiate athletics experience.

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