The maternal gift: mothers' investment in their daughters' higher education

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


This article explores the degree to which mothers participate in decisions surrounding their daughters’ university choices in the English higher education sector, based on a gendered PhD study involving mother and adult daughter pairings in southern England. Examples are given of how extended middle-class mothering practices are enabling their daughters to gain greater access to higher education. Mothers cite the burden of the debt as a key factor for their continued inclusion during the time of their daughters’ undergraduate study. Bourdieusian concepts, including gift exchange, are used to consider the explicit provision of the investment of mothers’ capital beyond compulsory education that I term ‘the maternal gift’. The maternal gift of mothers’ involvement and investment maintains social divisions for those less able to provide on such a high economic level and creates the possibility of socially divisive outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)328-339
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2015


  • Higher education
  • Mothers
  • Capital
  • Bordieu and class

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