An attitude problem or the problem with "attitude"? The impact of family beliefs on transition to higher education for young people from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Year: 2007

Author: Harris, Joanne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Despite two decades of Federal policy rhetoric and funding practice promoting equity in higher education, marked inequities persist. The causes of these inequities are multiple and complex, however family "attitudes" have often been blamed. This paper examines the problematic nature of the construct of "attitudes" in terms of the lack of definition of the term and in terms of the negative connotations associated with its use. It explores the impact of parental "attitudes" on young people's beliefs about the relevance and accessibility of university and asks whether it is possible to intervene in the construction of these beliefs. This exploration takes place within the context of a study of a school-university project - ACULink - which aims to improve rates of transition among young people from targeted schools in Sydney's outer west. The study employed in-depth interviews of nineteen school students and four university students. Data was analysed using Strauss and Corbin's (1990) three-stage approach to analysis. The central finding is that it appears to be possible to intervene in the construction of young people's beliefs and that participation in the ACULink program materially altered the young people's perceptions of university.