10 Oct 2014

Open University research reveals migrant mothers are keen to join community life in UK

Mothers taking part in research

Mothers taking part in research

Migrant mothers in London have a keen desire to integrate into British community life, according to new research by The Open University.

The study saw the group of mothers take part in role-playing theatre workshops over a six-month period in Hackney, in which they explored real-life situations of life in modern Britain. The role-playing scenarios included teenage dramas in the home; negotiations with officials; dealing with school and hospital situations, all of which were designed to be typical of situations the women could face in their adopted country. The group comprised mothers now living in the UK but originally from a wide spectrum of countries including Poland, Turkey, Somalia and Lithuania.

Dr Umut Erel, lead researcher on the study Migrant Mothers Caring for Future Citizens, said the scenarios were designed to allow the mothers to “rehearse real life situations” in a way that allows them to learn from each other, building on their experiences.

She said the role-play meant the mothers could tackle issues typical of modern parenting in the UK. Across 14 workshops, the mothers drew lessons from one another and gained confidence to embark on making a bigger contribution to building community relations in their locality.

“Mothers in this study showed that a commitment to the language and culture of the home country need not stand in the way of active engagement with life in Britain,” she said.

“They all saw their future and that of their children as being part of the UK. Being interested in and engaging in their home countries and beyond, was not seen as turning their backs on the UK, but rather as an active engagement with the world.”

Dr Erel, lecturer in Sociology at The Open University, has carried out extensive research on migrant mothers now living in the UK says she has found that far from being closed communities only interested in their home countries, the mothers played an important role in enabling families to find their way around a new country. The help and support provided permitted the newcomers to succeed in education and work, the study showed.

The study, co-authored by Professor Tracey Reynolds of London South Bank University, is linked to a wider networking project, pressing for policy changes to recognise the role and contribution of migrant mothers to the economy and to challenge stereotypes and negative assumptions about migrants. The project aims to build on the research through seminars and knowledge transfer both nationally and internationally. The study saw 20 mothers take part in role-playing theatre workshops over a six-month period in Hackney.

Photographs of the workshop are available on request from the Open University Media Relations Office.

Notes to Editors:
Migrant Mothers Caring for future Citizens, was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and conducted by Dr Umut Erel, of The Open University with co-investigator Professor Tracey Reynolds of London South Bank University.

For more information about the project click here:
For more on Dr Erel’s research click here:

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