Though popular depictions of college are usually conspicuously devoid of parents, a recent Orient survey shows that over a quarter of Bowdoin students polled communicate with their parents on a daily basis.
Thirty-two percent of Bowdoin students, or 560 people, responded to a survey conducted by the Orient about communication between parents and students while at college. The survey was advertised through e-mails and the student digest. It did not require username authentication to complete.
For the purpose of the survey, the term "parents" referred to biological or adoptive parents, as well as legal guardians.
Of the students who responded, 62.5 percent were female, while 37.5 percent were male.
Call it a day
Of the 560 students polled, 143—or 26 percent—reported communicating with their parents on a daily basis.
The most popular methods for daily communication were via telephone and texting. Sixty students reported communicating daily with their parents via telephone, while 26 students reported communicating daily via texting. Twenty-three students reported daily communication using both methods.
In addition, 24 students reported using e-mail on a daily basis to communicate with parents, while six reported using instant messenger, two reported Skype, and two reported that they used another form of communication.
Students reported several reasons for their communicating with parents with such consistency.
One female from the Class of 2012 wrote, "While I 'talk' to my parents every day, it is usually just to check in and reassure my mom that she does still have a daughter. Otherwise, we rarely talk about real issues."
Another female from the Class of 2012 wrote that she got into the habit of calling every night during high school.
"I went to boarding school for four years, so I think that has a big influence on how often I call my parents," she wrote. "Usually I don't have any important news to tell them, I just call to say 'hi'. I'm not homesick at all, but I think the longest I have ever gone without calling them is two days."
A male student from the Class of 2011, who reported texting with parents daily and e-mailing and calling several times per week, wrote that while he doesn't feel obligated to contact his parents, he enjoys their company and advice.
"I am very lucky to have parents to whom I can talk to on a regular basis for advice or other input on something that I am doing here, or to just share an interesting or funny piece of information or story," he wrote. "I do not feel...like my frequent contact with them lessens my experience at college where I am supposed to be more 'independent.'"
Other students reported that communicating with their parents was crucial to their well-being.
A Class of 2013 female who reported communicating with her parents via telephone and texting on daily basis said that "the adjustment to Bowdoin has been really hard for me, and the only way I am making it through is because of them." Some students, however, reported that they avoid communicating too frequently with their parents.
"If I call more than once in one day, I can tell they get annoyed—or if I call to ask questions about decisions I could easily have made myself," said one female student from the Class of 2010.
What's the frequency?
Eighty-six percent of students reported communicating with parents via telephone at least weekly, while 58 percent reported communicating via e-mail at least weekly. Texting was also popular—45 percent reported communicating via text at least weekly.
Though communicating via telephone, texting and e-mail were popular methods, students reported less frequent use of instant messenger services and Skype to communicate with parents. Only 17 percent of students reported any communication through instant messenger, while only 26 percent reported any communication through Skype.
Under "Other" methods used to communicate with parents, students listed postal mail letters and cards, Facebook, Blackberry messenger, forms of video chat other than Skype, and telepathy.
Life at Bowdoin, life at home, school work and roommates topped the list of conversation pieces between students and parents.
Of the 159 first-year students that responded, 72 percent reported talking to their parents "a lot" about life at Bowdoin, while 29 percent reported talking about it "a little." Sophomores, juniors and seniors all reported similar percentages of those talking "a lot" to their parents about life at Bowdoin, around 60 percent of those polled.
Though only 36 percent of first-year students polled reported that they discuss life at home "a lot," 57 percent of sophomores reported that it comes up "a lot." Forty-seven percent of juniors fell into the same category, as did 58 percent of seniors.
Students across class years reported discussing school work with parents uniformly. Only three percent of students polled reported never talking with parents about school work.
Talking to parents about roommates was also popular across class years, though first-year students held a monopoly on discussing roommates with parents, as 28 percent reported "a lot" of discussion. Of all students polled, 82 percent reported at least some discussion of the topic with their parents.
Relationships proved to be a thoroughly unpopular topic when talking to parents, with 44 percent of students reporting that they never discuss relationships with parents, and 44 percent reporting that they discuss them only "a little."
When it comes to favors, 57 percent of students polled reported that they never ask their parents for spending money. Twenty-six percent reported asking for money every couple of months. Seven respondents, or one percent, reported that they ask for money every week.
You talkin' to me?
For most families, the ratio of student contacting parent and parent contacting student strikes an even balance.
Fifty-two percent, or the majority of respondents, reported that half of the time they contact their parents, and half of the time their parents contact them.
In cases where the ratio of initiating contact is not 50-50, 45 percent of students polled reported a relationship skewed either towards themselves or their parents.
Of that group, 56 percent said that three-quarters of the time their parents contact them. Forty-four percent reported in the other direction—three-quarters of the time, they contact their parents.
Only three percent of all respondents reported that initiating communication is a one-way street. Eight students out of the total 560 reported that their parents initiate contact 100 percent of the time, while 11 students reported that they always initiate contact.
The silent minority
The majority of students responded that the longest they have gone without communicating with their parents does not exceed four weeks.
Thirty-five percent of students polled reported that the longest lapse they have had in communication with parents while at Bowdoin falls under one week's time. Forty-three percent reported between one and two weeks to be their longest streak, and 18 percent said that between two and four weeks was their record.
Far fewer students reported a lapse in communication longer than one month: Three percent said that they have gone between one and two months without communicating with their parents, and three students—under one percent—reported going longer than two months.
The majority of students reported that their parents begin to worry about them after not having heard for two weeks at the longest. Thirty-one percent of respondents said their parents begin worrying before an entire whole week has elapsed. Forty-six percent said that their parents begin to worry after a silence of between one and two weeks.
Sixteen percent said their parents' concern begins after a lapse in communication of between two and four weeks, while four percent said their parents begin to worry somewhere between one and two months of silence.
Three percent, or 19 students, said that their parents begin to worry after a lapse in communication of more than two months.
According to Director of Residential Life Mary Pat McMahon, if a worried parent calls, her office is usually able to quickly assure parents that everything is fine.
"We occasionally get calls from people who haven't heard from their son or daughter in a few days," said McMahon. "Generally, their proctor has seen that person in the past six hours."
Some respondents said the survey did not adequately take into account certain family dynamics.
"You should separate out 'parents,' because I know I'm not alone in having a very different relationship with my mom than my dad," wrote a female from the Class of 2011.
In addition, a female student from the Class of 2010 pointed out that some types of family members were excluded from the survey.
"This quiz isn't very compatible for people with parents and stepparents," she wrote.
Analysis of survey results are ongoing. To aid in future reports, we encourage parents to participate in a poll similar to the one taken by students. Please visit http://orient.bowdoin.edu/orient/survey.php for more information.
-Toph Tucker contributed to this report.