Spoilt for choice, spoilt by choice: Long-term consequences of limitations imposed by social background

Vicky Duckworth, Matthew Cochrane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – This article is concerned with exploring the choices learners have in steering their way through the educational system in the United Kingdom. Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on data from two studies, one conducted in a state secondary school and the other in a Further Education College, both based in the North-West of England. Both used interviews (either individual or focus-group) to collect data, which were then analysed using a grounded approach. Findings – In linking the two studies we seek to highlight how the impact of symbolic violence and the relations between groups and classes at school continue into the ‘choices’ the learners make during adulthood and also into the learner’s working life, and that these ‘choices’ are often a large-scale consequence of many ‘micro-choices’ arising from day-to-day situations. The acts of symbolic violence described in the college group are not of themselves very different from those described by the school group, though the consequences for the school group cannot yet be known. Research limitations/implications – The participants in the two groups are unconnected in that they attend different institutions and are at very different stages of their education. However we contend that there is a connection in terms of the participants’ experience of symbolic violence. Originality/value – The paper draws attention to the existence of symbolic violence in everyday school life, and highlights how these instances can have significant impact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-591
JournalEducation and Training
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • symbolic violence
  • capital
  • habitus
  • choice


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