Family Friendly Policies

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Learning Objectives

  • Learn about the different family friendly services and policies that your university may have for doctoral-level graduate students.


“If work is part of your identity, think very carefully before you give it up. Giving it up won't make you a better mother; it will make you less of the person you are; and that will make you less of a mother." — Jean Marzollo

You are Not Alone

Almost one quarter of female doctoral students have dependent children.1 If you are a graduate-student parent struggling to fulfill program expectations and family needs, you are not alone:

  • Most female PhD students wish faculty were more understanding and supportive of their outside commitments.2
  • Forty-two percent of female graduate students who decide to give up on their dream to become a research professor report that this career decision was related to parenting.2
  • On average, female graduate-student parents spend 16 more hours a week on household and family responsibilities (compared to male graduate-student parents).2

The Good News: Family Friendly Policies

Getting through graduate school can be tricky when you are a parent, but universities are beginning to recognize the importance of family friendly policies and services to help retain high quality students and promote student satisfaction. Many universities have the following family friendly services and policies for doctoral-level graduate students:3,4

  • Health insurance for dependents
  • Health insurance subsidies for dependents
  • Family housing
  • Affordable, flexible campus childcare
  • Services to help parents locate affordable childcare
  • Childcare subsidies (some have subsidies for outside campus childcare)
  • Parental and maternity leave policies
  • Family leave of absence policies (for example, to care for a sick parent)
  • Family friendly social functions
  • Student-parent centers
  • Eldercare classes
  • Lactation rooms on campus for nursing mothers

Family friendly policies for doctoral students vary by university. See your graduate student services office for more information.


  1. National Center for Educational Statistics. (2004). 2003-2004 National postsecondary student aid study (NPSAS:04) graduate students.
  2. Mason, M. A., & Goulden, M. (2006). UC doctoral student career life survey. Retrieved June 30, 2008, from
  3. Mason, M. A., Goulden, M., & Frasch, K. (2007). Graduate student parents: The underserved minority. Communicator, 40(4), 1-5. Retrieved June 30, 2008, from
  4. Treadwell, B. (2008). Family-friendly science departments: The key to success. Majority Report, 22, 1-2. Retrieved December 30, 2008, from

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