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Extended mothering: maternal influences in daughters’ higher education

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:01 authored by Linda Cooper
As part of the process of widening participation in higher education there has been an accelerated growth in women’s access to undergraduate study. The main aim of this research is to understand generational differences in women’s opportunities to attend university in England. The mother-daughter relationship is used to explore the role played by mothers in their daughters’ education beyond compulsory schooling, at a time when transition from secondary education to university has become commonplace. An investigation is made into the strategies mothers are employing to improve their daughters’ higher education choices and prospects. Using a qualitative methodology, paired mothers and their adult daughters have shared their views through in-depth interviews that discuss education, class, feminism and mothering. The mothers’ home and school backgrounds are examined in relation to their daughters’ upbringings, to consider differences in social mobility between the generations. A Bourdieusian framework is used to provide a theoretical underpinning, including how middle class values are being reproduced through mothers’ transmission of their economic, social and cultural capital. Research findings reveal that mothers are providing their daughters with extended advantage to access a university education, often in contrast to their own backgrounds. Mothers are simultaneously maintaining their daughters’ lifestyle during the study years, supporting their daughters during a period of extended adolescence. This enhanced mothering practice is promoting a transformation in familial outcomes and challenges the historical norm of fathers’ class background determining women’s imagined futures. Overall the research found that despite significant social change the daughters’ generation is failing to engage with feminist issues. The daughters’ decisions to maintain stereotypical female roles challenge the continuing progress of equal opportunities for women.



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