cultural deprivation


functionalist theory

Functionalists believe that education provides unity and togetherness and has a positive impact on society. They also believe that education prepares people for the work environment in later life and teaches important skills.


According to Bourdieu's theory of cultural reproduction, children from middle-class families are advantaged in gaining educational credentials due to their possession of cultural capital.

  • an example of this view is that working-class students may lack attitudes, values and knowledge to succeed because they haven't benefitted from the same informal education from their parents. An extreme view is that they may even lack the ability to read, write, speak and think in a way that helps them to achieve educational success, because of the way they were brought up due to their class.
  • the crucial factor isn't a lack of money and material resources, but lack of necessary cultural knowledge, aptitudes, values and attitudes.
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different values and attitudes depending on class

Cultural deprivation suggests that middle class and working class have vastly different values and attitudes toward progression in education and on into the workplace. one theory involves four different values and attitudes that they view differently:

  • Time Orientation
  • Attitude to gratification
  • Collectivism Vs Individualism
  • Attitudes to "luck" 
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Time Orientation

  • Middle Class are perceived as 'future orientated' and they think ahead and plan for the future, for example working hard to achieve academic success and get good grades to be able to get further in life job wise.
  • the working class are perceived as 'present orientated' and they live life at the moment rather than worrying about what the future brings, for example messing around in school and not being as bothered about deadlines because it isn't interesting to them now, and they worry ahead of time about needing to get a job in the future.
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Attitude to Gratification

  • Middle Class accept 'deferred gratification', which means that they put off pleasure and enjoyment now in order to work to achieve greater pleasure and enjoyment out of life in the future, for example saving money for a car, or putting a deposit on a house.
  • working class seek 'immediate gratification' by enjoying themselves now, at the moment, for example spending their wage as soon as they get it.
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Collectivism VS Individualism

  • Individualism: Middle-Class view that success achieved through individual action/work.
  • Collectivism: the working-class view that success is achieved through collective action/work.

An example of individualism is an individual revision and people being able to work harder and more efficiently on their own, whereas an example of collectivism is group work and joint efforts, which involve splitting the work between multiple people.

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Attitudes to luck

  • Middle class believe that your chances in life are down to your ability, skills, dedication and hard work and effort that you put in. they strongly believe that you make your own luck.
  • Working class believe that your life chances are largely based upon random luck, and they are strong believers in fatalism, that life chances are all down to fate.
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Sugarman (1970) - Working class subculture 

found that the working class subculture had 4 key features that act as a barrier to achievement;

Fatalism - a belief in fate

collectivism - value being part of a group more than succeeding alone.

immediate Gratification - seeking pleasure rather than making sacrifices 

present- time Orientation - seeing the present as more important than the future.

Keddie (1973) - the Myth of cultural deprivation 

she sees cultural deprivation as a 'myth' and sees it as the victim-blaming explantation. she dismisses the idea that failure at school can be blamed on a culturally deprived home background. she points out that a child isn't culturally deprived but is simply culturally different.

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Berstein (1975) - Speech codes.

differences between the working class and the middle-class language that influences achievement. there are two types of speech codes; 

restricted code - typically used by the working class 
- limited vocabulary. 

elaborated code - typically used by the middle - class 
- wider vocabulary

Douglas (1964) - parents' education working-class parents place less value on education.

as a result, they were less ambitous for their children. they gave less encouragement and visited schools less. 

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Centre of Longitudinal studies (2007) 

they found that by the age of 3, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are already up to a year behind those from a more privileged home and that the gap widens with age. 

Hubbs-Tait et al (2002) - language found

that where parents used language that challenges their children to evaluate their own understanding. cognitive performances improve because of this. 

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Troyan and Williams (1986) 

they argue that the problem isn't with the child's language but the school's attitude towards it. they think that teachers have a 'speech hierarchy'. 

Blackstone and Mortimore (1994)

argue that working-class parents attend fewer parents' evenings, not due to lack of interest but due to working longer/irregular hours or are put off by the school's middle-class atmosphere. 


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mortimore 1994 identifies key differences between working-class and middle-class families.

›Many of the solutions in this study can be difficult to achieve as they mainly revolve around ascribed status, however, it could be argued that › if working-class parents were to create a more educationally stimulating home environment, then their child may have more chance of succeeding. ›Howeverone criticism could be that where or to how many participants this investigation researched was not included, therefore it is difficult to identify if the research was representational enough to generalise this to all families. ›Goodman and Gregg used data from longitudinal studies to investigate the link between poverty and low attainment in children, some of these were: › ›Quality of mother- the amount of time child spent with parents ›How often parents read books to young children ›Parents attitudes and values placed on education ›Parental involvement in schooling 

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›Hence, a solution which could be suggested would be to spend more time with your children. ›anddemonstrate positive values and the importance of succeeding in education. ›Try to be available to help children with homework, attend parent meetings etc. ›Encourage and support your child. ›However,  it could be argued that Goodman and Gregg do not consider that working-class parents may be working very frequently, and taking on expressive roles therefore unable to spend vast quantities of time helping their children with schoolwork

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