Grand­mother makes PhD his­tory

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE -

Age is noth­ing but a num­ber for Es­ther Tumama Cowley-Mal­colm.

The 60-year-old grand­mother, has be­come the first stu­dent to grad­u­ate with a PhD from Vic­to­ria Univer­sity of Wellington’s Pa­cific Stud­ies pro­gramme.

Orig­i­nally from Toko­roa, Dr Cowley-Mal­colm said she doesn’t take the achieve­ment lightly.

‘‘I feel hum­bled and priv­i­leged. It’s an hon­our and for me it feels ap­pro­pri­ate be­ing an older stu­dent. I guess that’s what el­ders do – lead. I feel like I’m lead­ing the way for oth­ers.’’

Dr Cowley-Mal­colm’s doctoral re­search is an in- depth ex­plo­ration of Samoan par­ents’ per­cep­tions of, and re­sponses to, ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour in young chil­dren and the use­ful­ness of an in­ter­ven­tion tool named Play Nicely.

The grand­mother of one says her doctoral study was a cul­mi­na­tion of the dif­fer­ent ar­eas she has worked in dur­ing her ca­reer.

She started as a nurse, then be­came a teacher, worked on pris­oner ed­u­ca­tion and was a re­searcher in a univer­sity-based Pa­cific lon­gi­tu­di­nal study.

‘‘Do­ing my PhD was an ex­ten- sion of my work ‘ of ser­vice’ to a com­mu­nity I was raised in. It was a way I could give back and make a con­tri­bu­tion.’’

Dr Cowley-Mal­colm’s re­search took her back to her home town of Toko­roa where she con­ducted on­go­ing in­ter­views with 18 Samoan par­ents of chil­dren aged 1 to 3.

As part of the study, par­ents were shown the CD ROM Play Nicely which is a con­flict res­o­lu­tion tool that guides par­ents and oth­ers work­ing with young chil­dren through strate­gies and tech­niques for man­ag­ing ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour.

Par­ents were in­ter­viewed be­fore and af­ter Play Nicely was used.

Dr Cowley- Mal­colm said the find­ings of her study sug­gest they re­sponded pos­i­tively to the tool and came away with a greater un­der­stand­ing of their chil­dren’s be­hav­iour and the im­pact their re­sponses had on their chil­dren.

With the help of her cousin and for­mer Bro’ Town an­i­ma­tor Ali Cowley, Dr Cowley-Mal­colm is now con­sid­er­ing adapt­ing Play Nicely to de­velop it into an in­ter­ac­tive app aimed at young, tech­savvy Pa­cific par­ents.

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