Parental involvement as a place of empowerment: The identity construction of a multilingual mother in the school context

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With the raise of possibilities for mobility in the globalized world, it is not uncommon to find families migrating from their original country across geographical boarders due to diverse reason.
When these families arrive in this new context, they usually have to deal with difficulties related to cultural and linguistic differences. According to Block (2007), this can be considered a critical experience, especially for adults, who might experience more intensively the process of reconstruction and redefinition of themselves and their support systems. In this process, their identity in relation to social roles, such as parents, for example, is also put at stake. This means that their possible lack of language knowledge, cultural capital and their diverse mindset might represent an obstacle for them to be able to play an active role in their children’s educational life. Studies show, however, that parental involvement is crucial for children’s good performance in school, and, particularly in Austria, this is indispensable when it comes to migrant families. What is commonly an issue is that school and migrant parents have different expectations on what parental involvement should be, which can cause misunderstandings. In order to broad this discussion, we attempt to analyze how a mother, living in Austria, in a position of migrant reconstructs her multilingual identity as a parent, considering her experiences, feelings and her subject positions in front of her children’s school. This also helps us perceive what her expectations of parental involvement are. Understanding migrant parents’ construction of identities and expectations on parental involvement is an important first step towards a successful relationship between schools and migrant families. As a research method, we chose the diary studies, as this is
considered an important means to foster participants’ reflection about their own “selves” and their concepts, and to analyze how participants build their identities in the context of the country of residency. The analysis point to an understanding of parental involvement that might not be the same as what is considered by the school, according to our participant’s report. In relation to her
identity as a mother, the language knowledge seems to play a big role in her process of seeking for empowerment in her position as a parent. This study intends to contribute for the general society by calling the attention of the academic and school community to the importance of developing projects to involve migrant parents in their children’s school life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSprachliche Bildung in der Migrationsgesellschaft
EditorsKlaus-Börge Boeckmann, Barbara Schrammel-Leber
Place of PublicationGraz
PublisherLeykam Buchverlag
Number of pages195
ISBN (Print)9783701104598
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 602007 Applied linguistics


  • Parental involvement
  • diary studies
  • multilingual identity

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