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Open Access The role of habitus and reflexivity in young people managing pathways out of crime

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This article draws on material from the ESRC funded 'Pathways into and out of crime' research programme (Grant number L330253001) to explore how a group of educationally disaffected young people negotiate and try to manage their desistance from offending. We argue that the ability to be reflexive represents a form of embodied cultural capital, whose acquisition is difficult for those young people at the bottom of the social structure. Realizing that a 'life path' embedded in criminal activities will not lead to wider legitimacy and inclusion is often the first step in creating the self-reflexive subject. Drawing on the work of Pierre Bourdieu we argue that these young people recognize the limited 'use value' of their previous educational experience and capital and actively engage in self-reflexivity to create transitions from school to work that act as a route into crime free futures. In this context their 'habitus' and accrued 'cultural capital' fails to provide them with the resources in which to manage such transitions although through this analysis it becomes clear that the social and ecological 'position' of these young people is both structuring and limiting to their opportunities and 'choices' to be socially mobile or even to move away from crime.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • The only journal of its kind, the International Journal on School Disaffection is an international, peer-reviewed journal that provides a forum for multi-disciplinary dialogue about influences and outcomes relating to school disengagement, low attainment, and early school leaving. The journal is open to a wide range of perspectives: sociological, historical, philosophical, psychological, criminological, and educational. Its priority is to support work that seeks to engage and re-engage children and young people and to develop critical and scholarly debate around school disaffection.
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