Reconciling working-class identity and educational success: A study of successful teenage boys, locality and schooling

  • Nicola Ingram

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis focuses on the ways in which working-class boys reconcile their identity with educational success. It presents the findings of an indepth qualitative study of successful teenage boys from one locality in Belfast. The boys attend either the local grammar or local secondary school, which are located in close proximity to one another. The thesis focuses on the connections and disconnections between the influences of home/neighbourhood and of the two different schools in shaping identity. The methodological approach employed is integral to gaining this understanding and makes use of arts-based and visual methods for working sensitively with young men and eliciting indepth responses. Working-class boys are often presented in homogeneous terms and this study explores the heterogeneity in ways of being a working-class boy. Using a Bourdieuian theoretical framework the thesis seeks to understand the complexities of being educationally successful and working-class. The thesis works with the idea that habitus forms within a multiplicity of fields and explores the ramifications of the alignment or misalignment of the differing schemes of perception that these fields promote and produce. The thesis shows that for some boys this involves difficulty in reconciling conflicting schemes of perception from different fields. In order to explain the processes involved in the internalization of plural schemes of perception the thesis has developed a four-way typology that considers differences in the impact of this conflict. The four types are reconciled habitus, destabilized habitus, abandoned habitus and re-confirmed habitus. Each habitus type relates to the impact of the ‘dialectical confrontation’ between two fields and the ways in which the boys negotiate this. In doing so, this study contributes to an understanding of the psychosocial implications of educational success for working-class boys.
Date of AwardJul 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorPaul Connolly (Supervisor) & Andy Biggart (Supervisor)

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