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Youth Culture and the Social Construction of Gender

Youth Culture and the Social Construction of Gender

This research explores in greater depth some of the socio-cultural aspects arising from a four-year project on the gender gap in education, funded by the then Department for Education and Skills.


One piece of work has been concerned with aspirations and social inequality, investigating access to educational opportunities in a multiply deprived area of inner London. Based on a study exploring the experiences of a group of carers and their children's access to secondary school education, it demonstrates the importance of a geographical focus in inequality and the need for a more nuanced approach in exploring factors which might influence educational opportunities in socially excluded areas.

A second area of research has examined aspirations among over 70 students in a relatively deprived area of north-east England. This work points to the tensions between local realities and policies to encourage more students into further and higher education in order to meet the needs of the so-called knowledge economy. The influence of home background and the local knowledge acquired by students from formal sources (schools, colleges, careers advisors) and informal sources (family and peers), interact more widely with local and regional cultures and labour markets to influence student decision-making in particular places. These influences are mediated, furthermore, by gender, class and ethnicity. As a result, the research suggests that postulated links between attainment, higher education and secure, well-paid employment, are more complicated than policy documents suggest – even before the current downturn in the UK economy.

Thirdly, within the last decade or so there has been a growing interest within Geography and Education in children's geographies, youth cultures and the social construction of gender. In particular there has been a focus on critical analyses of masculinities and, within the education literature, the characteristics of hegemonic masculinity and their impact upon educational achievement. Building on this literature, and taking as its starting point the relational and multiple nature of gender, a further piece of work draws on empirical research undertaken with 14- and 15-year-old school students, discussing commonalities and differences in gender constructions of place and identity in four contrasting locations. It examines the dilemmas and conflicting pressures on young people as they negotiate the critical pathways of education and leisure to establish socially accepted identities within their lived communities.


  • Warrington, M. 2005 Mirage in the Desert? Access to educational opportunities in an area of social exclusion Antipode, 37.4: 796-816
  • Warrington, M. 2008 Decisions and Transitions: meeting the needs of the 'knowledge economy' Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 26.5: 924-937
  • Warrington, M. and Younger, M. 2011 "Life is a tightrope": reflections on peer group inclusion and exclusion amongst adolescent girls and boys, Gender and Education, 23.2: 153-168.
  • Warrington, M. 2012 'You expect school to be the happiest time of their lives, but it's not': new policy spaces and the unattainable pursuit of equity', in R. Brooks, A. Fuller and J. Waters (eds.) Changing Spaces of Education: New Perspectives on the Nature of Learning, Abingdon: Routledge.