The double bind for non-traditional families in post-primary settings; to tell or not to tell their family identity

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Desmond, Ann-Marie
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University College Cork
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This thesis involved researching normative family discourses which are mediated through educational settings. The traditional family, consisting of father, mother and children all living together in one house is no longer reflective of the home situation of many Irish students (Lunn and Fahey, 2011). My study problematizes the dominant discourses which reflect how family differences are managed and recognised in schools. A framework using Foucauldian post structural critical analysis traces family stratification through the organisation of institutional and interpersonal relations at micro level in four post-primary schools. Standardising procedures such as the suppression of intimate relations between and among teacher and student, as well as the linear ordering of intergenerational relations, such as teacher/student and adult/child are critiqued. Normalising discourses operate in practices such as notes home which presume two parents together. Teacher assumptions about heterosexual two-parent families make it difficult for students to be open about a family setup that is constructed as different to the rest of the schools'. The management of family difference and deficit through pastoral care structures suggests a school-based politics of family adjustment. These practices beg the question whether families are better off not telling the school about their family identity. My thesis will be of interest to educational research and educational policy because it highlights how changing demographics such as family compositions are mis-conceptualised in schools, as well as revealing the changing forms of family governance through regimes such as pastoral care. This analysis allows for the existence of, and a valuing for, alternative modes of family existence, so that future curricular and legal discourses can be challenged in the interest of equity and social justice.
Home-school governance , Family recognition , Family-stratification , Normalization discourses , Pastoral care
Desmond, A.-M. 2014. The double bind for non-traditional families in post-primary settings; to tell or not to tell their family identity. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.