‘They’d already made their minds up’: understanding the impact of stigma on parental engagement

Wilson, Suzanne orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7021-8967 and Mcguire, Kim orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2713-8846 (2021) ‘They’d already made their minds up’: understanding the impact of stigma on parental engagement. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 42 (5-6). pp. 775-791. ISSN 0142-5692

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2021.1908115


International scholars have argued that parental engagement in education is influenced by social class inequalities (Bourdieu, 1974; Reay, 1998). Goffman’s definition of stigma has been applied to interpret working-class mothers’ experiences of stigma when attempting to engage in their children’s education. However, this paper also draws on recent extensions of ‘stigma’ – by considering how and by whom the concept is developed in practice. Selective case studies have been used to illustrate how some working-class mothers feel judged negatively by teachers and the school system, based on their marginalised (and sometimes multiple) social identities. Perceptions of stigma were recalled by parents, who felt this negatively impacted upon their engagement in their children’s education. They expressed feelings of powerlessness and in some cases internalisation of stigmatised traits. Recommendations to inform engagement strategies for schools to enable a more inclusive educational experience are made and areas for future research identified.

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