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cycle of deprivation


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A theory popularized in the 1970s to explain the persistence of poverty and other forms of socio-economic disadvantage through generations. The theory postulates that ‘family pathology’ is the principal mechanism for transmitting social deprivation intergenerationally, and that this explains the persistence of bad housing, low education attainment, and unemployment in poorer households and communities. In essence the argument is that deprivation and welfare dependency are, if not quite the fault of the poor, then certainly without serious structural origins—an interpretation that has much in common with the earlier culture of poverty (see fatalism) thesis, though placing less emphasis on individual and community pathologies. Extensive empirical research has largely undermined the credibility of the thesis (see M. Rutter and N. Madge, Cycles of Disadvantage, 1976).

Subjects: sociology.


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