Traveller parenting values, attitudes and practices, including the importance of close-knit families and child-rearing, were discussed at a recent Parenting and Family Studies Alliance conference hosted at Athlone Institute of Technology. Led by postgraduate researcher Pauline Clarke Orohoe and Peer Community Health Worker with the Offaly Traveller Movement (OTM) Sarah McDonagh, the presentation drew attention to extended social networks and a respect for older generations - key characteristics of Traveller culture.
Pauline, who is a graduate of Athlone Institute of Technology’s BA (Hons) in Applied Social Studies (Social Care) programme, is currently undertaking an MA in Applied Social Studies (Social Care) with the view to determining how Traveller parenting values, attitudes and practices are socially constructed, as well as how Traveller parenting can be best supported from a Traveller perspective.
Her work, which uses Co. Offaly as a case study location, is being supported and informed by the OTM whose Peer Community Health Workers deliver outreach health promotion initiates to Travellers within their own community. Emphasising the value of their support, Pauline said: “The Peer Community Health Workers have been an incredible source of support and knowledge throughout this process. Each of the Traveller parents involved in this research has welcomed me into their homes and willingly shared their experiences of child-rearing, allowing me to gain an insight into Traveller family life, and the strengths and challenges of rearing children as a Traveller parent.”
In a statement from the OTM Peer Community Health Workers, Travellers commented on the importance of this research being “Traveller-led, from start to finish” and of researchers being understanding and mindful of Traveller culture: “It’s very important to acknowledge Traveller culture and the value that we place on parenting our children. Once upon a time, Traveller children had to fit in with the settled community, in schools and everywhere else. Now, Traveller children can be themselves and be proud of who they are. We hope that this research will highlight some of the positive aspects of parenting and how we impart our culture to our children.”
Research supervisor, Dr Ashling Jackson, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Social Sciences at Athlone Institute of Technology and Co-editor of the Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies. Dr Jackson has worked extensively with groups experiencing social disadvantage in community settings, including the Traveller community. “This research further solidifies the long-standing and extremely positive relationship that exists between the Offaly Traveller Movement and Athlone Institute of Technology. Travellers, through Offaly Traveller Movement, are the principal stakeholders in the research, from idea inception right through to research completion. It is anticipated that the findings will be used by social care workers and those working with Traveller parents and families to inform professional practice,” she said.
Earlier this year, Pauline was awarded an Irish Association of Social Care Educators (IASCE) National Postgraduate Bursary Award, in recognition of the contribution this research will make to the teaching and practice of social care work. Social care workers plan and provide professional care, protection, and advocacy in partnership with vulnerable individuals and groups who experience marginalisation, disadvantage or special needs. Principles of social justice and human rights are central tenents underpinning this work.
The Parenting and Family Studies Alliance is a collaboration between Athlone Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Tralee and Carlow Institute of Technology. It was set up to promote and facilitate critical inquiry into the changing nature of parenting and family life in modern society.
Athlone Institute of Technology is a modern and dynamic HEI distinguished by outstanding learner experience, international focus and applied research and innovation. Awarded Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year 2018, AIT is currently ranked 8th nationally of all HEIs in the league table comprising of Irish Universities and IoT’s. Athlone Institute of Technology boasts a wide array of courses in the Faculties of Engineering and Informatics, Business and Hospitality, and Science and Health. For the full list of courses on offer at Athlone Institute of Technology click here.