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Influences of family life circumstances and school environments on subject-specific and social skills

The schooling of the next generation is a matter of course, but always a subject open to debate. It is a matter of course because there is practically no way to get around it. But it remains a subject of debate because schools are not capable of meeting all of the demands set for them. One characteristic of the German school system in this context is the especially close link it shows between social origin and success in school.

Since PISA 2000 at the latest, education researchers have been engaged in increasingly complex modeling activities to investigate the connection between students’ origins and their success in school. Alongside quantifying the influences of characteristics related to students’ origins (socioeconomic status, parental education levels, immigration status), empirical education researchers are striving to achieve an appropriate inclusion of milieu-specific process elements with which family life practices can be integrated into empirical research programs.

In Bourdieu’s theory of the various types of capital, a family’s cultural and social capital takes on a prominent role in this regard. In particular, the great importance of the cultural capital in a person’s family of origin has repeatedly been pointed out in terms of acquisition of subject-specific skills. Modeling of the influence of social capital has not yet yielded any finding of corresponding empirical evidence. The question of how family capital and social skills are connected also remains unanswered.

The goal is to study the connection between family origin, family capital (cultural and social) and student success (subject-specific and social skills) in two different school environments (academic secondary school (Gymnasium) and lower general secondary school (Hauptschule)).

The key questions for this dissertation project are:

  • Do both cultural and social family practices contribute to the development of social skills?
  • What role does the school context (Gymnasium and Hauptschule) play with regard to the influence of family capital on academic success?