Date of Award

Summer 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Thomas V. O’Brien

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Holly Foster

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Lilian Hill

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Masha Krsmanovic

Committee Member 4 School



The purpose of this study was to understand the experiences of college students who have experienced parental incarceration and explore how they make meaning of their associated invisible identity in the campus environment at four-year institutions in the U.S. Traditionally socio-historical events and messages about system-impacted individuals, their families, and children have contributed to the invisibility of this population in educational settings. This study employed a narrative inquiry approach. Also, it applied Bronfenbrenner’s (1977, 1979, 1993) ecological model to explore the college experiences of ACIPs while not excluding wider societal and environmental factors that could shape their associated invisible identity and development. Nine themes were identified and outlined in response to Bronfenbrenner’s (1977, 1979, 1993) proposed four interrelated components: process-person-context-time (PPCT) model. Findings suggest that participants’ associated invisible identity was not more salient than other parts of their identity. However, participants revealed that interactions in the classroom, with faculty and administrators, and with family did contribute to their self-understanding of their identity at their respective institutions. Additionally, this study provides insight on the disclosure process. All participants expressed selective personal choice in how they dealt with the disclosure. Generally, participants felt disclosing their associated invisible identity was unique to the setting.