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School success of girls from poor communities: what is the role of family socialization?

This article presents results of a qualitative study that sought to understand the processes of gender socialization within eight families from poor communities in the city of Sao Paulo. We focus on some aspects that seem relevant to understand the academic success of girls. Throughout 2011, semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight mothers, two fathers and ten children, as well as conversations and observations in schools, involving 26 children and young people. We obtained evidence that gender socialization within families of urban poor communities encourage the girls, not the boys, to develop the behaviors mostly desired by schools, such as discipline, organization and obedience (or less visible forms of disruption). At the same time, this type of socialization makes school attendance have different meanings for girls and boys, since the girls are held responsible for housework and have far fewer opportunities for sociability. These restrictions seem to make them appreciate extracurricular activities under schooled forms and develop aspirations associated with schooling and skilled occupations. The very existence of such ambitious projects, whether realistic or not, may be driving girls' greater commitment to education, and may be feeding back their academic success, which seems to arise from the very gender subordination.

School achievement; Gender; Family socialization; Poor urban communities; Girls


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