Conforming, accommodating, or resisting? How parents in academia negotiate their professional identity

Marloes L. van Engen, Inge L. Bleijenbergh, Susanne E. Beijer

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study describes how parents in academia negotiate their professional identity in relation to dominant discourses of science as a calling. Based on in-depth interviews with men and women academics in a Dutch university, five discursive strategies are distilled that reconcile contradictory claims of academia and parenthood. Parents are conforming, suffering or fighting dominant discourses, are optimistic about or pragmatically arranging academia and parenthood. These discursive strategies illustrate agency of parents, simultaneously subscribing to dominant discourses and negotiating alternative stances. Furthermore, from focus groups with leaders we distilled how the material structure of different schools, reflected in the rules and procedures regulating standards to which institutions and individuals are held, sets limits to discursive strategies that academics adopt. We identify the constraints and room for agency and argue that agency can only lead to transformation when transcending individual awareness by moving towards collective action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1493-1505
Number of pages13
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2019


  • Parents in academia
  • discursive strategies
  • professional identity
  • hegemonic masculinity
  • material structure
  • agency

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