The Education of Children from Military Families: Identity and Agency


Judith McCullouch


Michael Hall


Sophie Ellis


The paper addresses the identity characteristics of children in military families (service children) and the conceptualisation of their educational experience. Looking beyond the bare facts of academic attainment and participation in higher education, the paper explores the impact of identity and agency on educational progression and accordingly presents the consequences for educators in engaging with the complex and distinctive realities and identities of these children challenging stereotypes about both service children and their perceived disadvantage. Existing research in the form of quantitative data sets and academic literature was reviewed and empirical data collected from school-age and undergraduate service children through interviews and questionnaires. Emergent theme analysis was viewed through the social constructivist lenses of Bandura, Bourdieu, Bronfenbrenner and Wenger and related to agency, identity and capital. Service children are found to be under-represented in the higher education population. Contributory factors include the distinctive constraints they face, including frequent mobility and family separation resulting in a high risk of emotional, behavioural and attainment problems. These precipitate a loss of personal agency, leading over time to the erosion of ambition to remain in education. Hence, continuing education becomes less attainable or desirable. Recommendations from the research include specific service children professional development for schools, further and higher education institutions.

McCullouch, J., Hall, M. and Ellis, S. (2019) The Education of Children from Military Families: Identity and Agency. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 9(2). Available at: [Accessed 16 Jun, 2024].