Changes in the job market/status frustration
Some commentators, notably Mac an Ghaill, suggest that working-class boys are experiencing a ‘crisis of masculinity’.They are socialised into seeing their future male identity and role in terms of having a job and being a ‘breadwinner’. However, the decline of manufacturing industry and the rise in long-term unemployment make it increasingly unlikely that males will occupy these roles. New jobs in the service sector are often part-time, desk-based, and suited to the skills and lifestyles of women. In some families, females may be the primary breadwinners. Consequently, traditional masculine roles are under threat. Working-class boys’ perception of this may influence their motivation and ambition. They may feel that qualifications are a waste of time because there are only limited opportunities in the job market.
Social Control Differences
According to Mitsos and Browne, teachers are not as critical with boys as with girls. They may have lower expectations of boys, expecting work to be late, rushed and untidy, and expecting boys to be disruptive. Some research suggests that boys are less positively influenced than girls, or even turned off, by primary-school environments, which are female-dominated and may have an emphasis on neatness and tidiness.
There are signs that boys’ overconfidence may blind them to what is actually required when they fail exams and tend to put their failure down to bad luck rather than lack of effort. On the other hand, girls are more realistic, even self-doubting, and try that much harder in order to ensure success. However, according to Francis, boys are no longer likely to consider themselves more able than girls, as was the case in 1970s and 1980s. Also, Francis notes that boys are more likely to have career aspirations that are not unrealistic, but likely to require academic success, e.g professional footballer, whereas girls’ career ambitions more often require academic success e.g doctor, and hence a commitment to schoolwork.
‘Laddish’ behaviour & Peer Group Status
Early research into peer-group status highlighted the development of anti-school subcultures that tended to be developed by some working-class boys, particularly those placed in lower streams, bands and sets. Studied by Hargreaves and Willis, for example, showed how such boys were either fatalistic in accepting school failure as inevitable and so developed anti-educational coping strategies, or sought to compensate for status frustration by gaining credibility in the eyes of their peers. However, studies now indicate that ‘laddish’ behaviours have spread to most boys- both working class and middle class- and to some extent to girls.