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School, work and unemployment: Social and cultural reproduction on the Isle of Sheppey

Wallace, Claire (1984) School, work and unemployment: Social and cultural reproduction on the Isle of Sheppey. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94714) (KAR id:94714)


The central argument of the thesis is that the transition from school to work may be conceptualised as part of a broader process of social and cultural reproduction. This incorporates both the reproduction of young people as workers and the reproduction of their gender roles. This is in turn related to their roles within the family and the movement through the life cycle. The thesis in general focusses on the inter-relations between styles of consumption, production and reproduction amongst young people and the ways in which unemployment affects these. The empirical data were collected during the course of five years of research in a small community in Kent where unemployment had been endemic for some twenty years. They were derived from a longitudinal sample survey conducted between 1979 and 1980 amongst young people aged 16 to 18. This was supplemented by participant observation, extended interviews and the use of Careers Office and School Records.

The first part of the thesis critically reviews distinct perspectives in social science research relating to the transition from school to work, unemployment, cultural reproduction and the construction of gender roles. Hypotheses derived from this review are then tested against empirical data described in the second half of the thesis. Three main themes are explored: Firstly, the changing relationship between school and the local community under different social and economic conditions is documented through the use of historical material. Secondly, responses to unemployment are examined, showing that these are related to the construction of gender identities and to relationships within the family. Thirdly, the thesis illustrates the disjunctions between young people's occupational aspirations or preferences and the realities of the situation which faced them in a declining labour market. These themes are related by an analysis of the processes of cultural reproduction through which identities were both transmitted and creatively constructed, serving to differentiate groups of school leavers. It is argued that the adjustment to working life is problematical and constitutes part of a longer term process of social reproduction of which entry into the labour market is only one stage. In fine, this thesis contributes both theoretically and empirically to the contemporary understanding of a crucial period of transition.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Pahl, Ray
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94714
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Education and employment, Isle of Sheppey
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2023 12:44 UTC
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2023 10:08 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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