Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the experiences of single college women who had an unplanned pregnancy while attending a small private four-year university in the upper midwest. The conceptual framework used to provide direction for this study was social constructivism. A phenomenological approach was used to seek the reality constructed by the participants and develop subjective meaning from their experiences. The participants were all students who attended the same university and all had delivered their baby prior to the first interview. The audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and then analyzed for codes, categories, and themes. The following three themes emerged from the data analysis: 1. An unplanned pregnancy triggers a broad range of emotions. 2. An unplanned pregnancy necessitates access to a variety of support systems. 3. An unplanned pregnancy involves numerous transitions.

The conclusions of the study were related to the emotions, support systems, and transitions of the single college women who participated in this research. An unplanned pregnancy was an intensely emotional experience for these women and was exacerbated by the demands of college life. The emotions ranged from intense fear to excited anticipation as the women considered decisions that had to be made and the consequences of their choices. The physical and emotional changes necessitated a strong support network from a variety of different areas. Support from family, friends, and the father of the child had the most significant impact. Assistance from the community, social services, church, and university also affected the women's ability to juggle multiple roles and still attain their goals. Finally, an unplanned pregnancy and the transition to motherhood was a life-changing experience for these women which accelerated their journey to adulthood.