The transmission of cultural resources as a basis for young people's school choices

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This paper analyzes the role of the family in the construction of adolescents choices and life projects examining, in particular, the characteristics of those cultural resources that parents are able to offer and transmit to children, in terms of educational level, support, attention, care, opportunities. The study based on qualitative and quantitative data collected during a larger study carried out in Italian upper secondary schools considers material and symbolic resources as either possibilities or constraints for young people, for whom the intergenerational relationship can be viewed as an opportunity for the transition to adulthood. The aim of the present article is to offer a critical review of Pierre Bourdieu s concept of cultural capital, reconstructing the main processes of intergenerational transmission of cultural resources. In particular, through an analysis of a set of qualitative data from the nationwide PRIN study, two ideal types of processes of intergenerational transmission are identified, transversal to all social groups, which are not free from the risk of dispersal of cultural resources and are linked to a different understanding of education. On the one hand, we have education as capital, that is to say a conception of education as a family patrimony that gives access to rewards and can be accumulated or lost. Education here is understood to be a duty/obligation for children in line with a certain dependence on and continuity with family history and is the result of a more directive educational style. On the other hand, we have education as an entitlement to be fully enjoyed, a real opportunity to develop one s abilities, a space to learn and test out useful skills to navigate complex decision-making processes, and which is the result of an educational style that promotes responsibility-taking.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-72
Number of pages24
JournalItalian Journal of Sociology of Education
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • adolescenti
  • famiglia
  • risorse culturali
  • scelta scolastica


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