Louise Webber



Previous research suggests that through engagement with Higher Education (HE), mature women students experience identity change and transformation which could lead to conflict and strain on marital relationships. The aims of this thesis are to explore the effects of identity transformation on mature women and the family unit as a whole, through a consideration of the impact of HE on family life. Qualitative methods were adopted using a narrative inquiry methodology of focused interviews, mind mapping and a student led mosaic approach to gather the data. Women with families were selected from one Foundation Degree in Early Years in a College Higher Education (CHE) environment. The views of their husbands were also gathered through interviews. This thesis argues that HE study had transformative effects on the whole family, not just the identity of the women students. Previously to HE, the women’s identity was firmly placed in the home as mothers. HE could be seen to change and reconstruct their position as a mother. These transformations and positional changes concerned family routines, relationships and parenting approaches. The women participants believed that their husbands benefitted from the secondary effects of transformation as a result of their wives’ HE studies and identity change. My thesis contributes to knowledge on this topic through the development of a model of family capital which consists of emotional, economic, cultural and social capital. Time is recognised as an important aspect of capital production and identity transformation. Husbands were viewed as reliable providers of family capital; however children who are normally viewed as consumers of family capital also became providers of capital. Through accessing capital support and having their studies valued by their family, women were able to justify their time spent on HE and minimise their feelings of guilt. This thesis is of relevance for women students and HE tutors. Using the findings of this study, HE staff can highlight the transformative effect of HE study on women students. Through raising an awareness of the importance of family capital and support networks, then HE success is more likely to be achieved.

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