Positive Attitudes and (Some) Negative Behaviors

Natasha K. Warikoo

in Balancing Acts

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780520262102
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520947795 | DOI:
Positive Attitudes and (Some) Negative Behaviors

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This chapter explores aspects of peer culture that are thought to conflict with academic achievement: attitudes and beliefs (about racism and discrimination, peer culture attitudes, and perceptions of opportunities) and behavioral scripts with respect to conflict. In terms of attitudes and beliefs, there is little evidence for oppositional peer cultures and no evidence that perceptions of discrimination lead to low aspirations. The few students who express oppositional attitudes cannot account for the overall low achievement rates, where only a minority of students leave qualified to start a university education. In terms of behavior, teens place much importance on defending self-pride and showing toughness when it comes to conflict with peers, which sometimes end in physical fighting. Engaging in peer conflicts serves two purposes: preventing real, physical violence, because in schools, appearing weak led to being bullied; and also, because it brought peer status by demonstrating self-pride and toughness. These conflicts do not signal defiance of school authorities or opposition to school norms, nor do they stem from a lack of interest in academic excellence. Rather, they are described by teens as inevitable and sometimes necessary responses to situations at school. As with consumption, gender is found to matter. For young men, masculinity is tied to toughness, defending self-pride, and being seen as hip. Pressures of masculinity lead boys to place more importance on maintaining self-pride among peers. This connection makes boys even more invested in peer status than their girl counterparts, for whom femininity is less likely to come into conflict with adult school culture.

Keywords: peer culture; academic achievement; oppositional attitude; peer conflict; peer status

Chapter.  7514 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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