British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 8 Issue 4 (November 1990), Pages 305-422

Adolescent representations of socio‐economic status (pages 351-371)

The development of beliefs about the nature, causes and fairness of occupational prestige and income differentials, in subjects aged 10 to 16 years, was studied in relation to age and social class. Slight but stable age and class differences were found in perceptions of socio‐economic inequality and the kind of explanations postulated for inequality. Open‐ended questions produced a wide variety of explanations for prestige and income differentials but the reasons most commonly employed by all age and class groups were the ‘importance’ or ‘social contribution’ of the job, the ‘effort exerted’ doing the job and the ‘education’ or ‘training’ needed. Strong and stable class effects and some age effects were found in the use of references to ‘education’ or ‘training’. Judgements of the fairness of inequality were subject to class effects but largely unaffected by age. The results are discussed in relation to cognitive developmental theory and the role of social influence and socially transmitted information in the construction of socio‐economic beliefs.

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