Towards understanding the lives and educational experiences of children and their drug using caregivers: connecting home and school

Nicholson, Joyce (2022) Towards understanding the lives and educational experiences of children and their drug using caregivers: connecting home and school. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Over the last two decades concern has grown about the effects of parental substance use on children. A significant body of evidence has detailed a range of harms to children, including negative impacts on academic outcomes, school attendance and school engagement. There have been limited attempts to focus on the day-to-day lives and experiences of school of both young people and their parents/carers who use drugs. Similarly, there has been a dearth of research on the experiences of teachers in identifying and responding to children affected by parental substance use. Experiences of education can be transformational. School can act as a normalising, highly structured and supportive space, but it can also be a ‘nightmare’. Using a feminist approach, enhanced by childhood studies, Tronto’s ethics of care, and Nussbaum’s (2001) theorisation of compassion, this study examines day-to-day life and the connection with home and school for children and young people and their mothers/caregivers who use drugs, and the recognition and responses of teachers and schools.

The study adopted a qualitative approach. Fourteen semi-structured home-based interviews with six families were conducted with children and their mothers/ caregivers. Three discussion groups were held with ten schoolteachers. This study employed a range of projective techniques in the interviews using visually creative methods, including ecomaps. The data was analysed using thematic analysis. Findings indicate the complexity of family situations experienced by children and young people affected by parental substance use and intersecting challenges including domestic abuse. The data indicates that school is a complex environment for children and young people and their mothers and caregivers. Attempts to manage stigma, to stay under the radar, highlight relationships within and outside school. Teachers’ recognition of, and responses to, children and young people are detailed and shifts in responsibility for wellbeing and the burden of care on teachers’ wellbeing are explored. Relational care and compassionate responses, to both children and their mothers/ caregivers in school, were revealed in the data. Overall, I conclude that school is, simultaneously, both a safe haven and a nightmare for children and young people and, in the concluding chapter of the thesis, I suggest a range of recommendations for the development of policy and practice and offer potential avenues for further research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Hedge, Prof. Nicki and Enslin, Prof. Penny
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82926
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2022 12:55
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2022 12:56
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82926

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