School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)


Margaret Gopaul


The Troubles, Catholic, corporal punishment, sectarian, identity, maintained school, normalized violence




Immigrant parents from Northern Ireland (NI) interact with American schools differently than most other immigrant cultures. The current generation of NI immigrant parents grew up amidst a sectarian conflict known as the Troubles. This cohort also attended Catholic maintained schools in NI, where corporal punishment was a daily experience. These life experiences can potentially shape an individual’s worldview and view of education. This qualitative study aimed to understand the lived experience of attending maintained schools in NI during the Troubles and how this phenomenon may have shaped NI parents’ view of education. A phenomenological approach using a qualitative survey and 11 interviews was conducted. Colaizzi’s steps for analysis were employed to examine the data. This study found that the sectarian violence of the Troubles was relatively predictable. Strong Catholic identity and the presence of buffering adults helped to shield and inoculated the children against the trauma. This study also found numerous positive likely engendered by the Troubles experience. Corporal punishment in Northern Irish maintained schools was arbitrary, inequitable, inescapable, and often brutal. Students were victims of or witnesses to the violence almost daily, which engendered degrees of learned helplessness, emotional resignation, and nurtured adverse mental health effects. This study brings valuable awareness on many levels that can promote further research into the culture of generation poverty, the “good enough syndrome,” and ways to address school failures. Further study of the parallels may yield valuable data to find ways to serve students better.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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