Student News

Sarah Fish to graduate with highest honors

Sarah Fish, a senior student in Child Development and Family Studies (CDFS), will graduate with highest honors from the School on May 11. Fish, a Teaching Fellow from Lexington, N.C., garnered highest honors due to her outstanding academic record as well as the successful defense of her undergraduate thesis titled “Predicting Positive Outcomes: Prenatal Attitudes and Knowledge as Indicators of Cognitive Readiness to Parent in Pregnant Adolescents.”

A qualitative study, her thesis addressed the question of the types of attitudes and knowledge levels adolescent mothers possess prenatally regarding their pregnancy and impending motherhood. Fish’s interest in the subject is grounded in the fact that existing literature tends to focus on the experiences of children of teen mothers rather than the teen pregnancy experience itself. Clear patterns emerged from semi-structured interviews with four pre-partum adolescent girls.   

The study found that those participants who enjoy positive familial, particularly maternal, support perceived their own pregnancy more positively and conveyed more confidence in their mothering abilities. Those participants who said familial support was low expressed negative attitudes or a flat affect regarding their pregnancy.  Additionally, Fish found that a participant’s socioeconomic situation and ethnicity appeared to influence her attitude about pregnancy. The one Latino participant expressed a significantly more positive outlook than the three African-American participants.

Fish credits the success of her study to the support of her thesis committee, comprised of her thesis advisor Kate Gallagher, assistant professor; Sharon Palsha, CDFS program coordinator; and Gerald Unks, director of the School’s Honors Program and professor of social foundations of education.

Upon graduation, Fish will move to Cambridge, Mass., where she will pursue an M.Ed. in Human Development and Psychology at Harvard University. After completing the one-year program, she plans to return to North Carolina to teach. In the future, Fish hopes to work in an advocacy capacity for early childhood intervention or in the field of early intervention research.