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Oppositional Culture

Oppositional culture theory suggests that certain social groups achieve lower levels of academic achievement because of their collective opposition toward mainstream values and behaviors. Proponents of this theory perceive it as an important contribution to understanding one means by which social reproduction occurs (i.e., children of low-status parents being more likely to have a low social status as adults). Proponents also argue that this theory highlights the social psychological implications of social stigma, the negative ramifications of persisting racial and economic segregation, and the important role of peer environments in education. This article discusses the tenets of the original theory, how researchers subsequently tested the theory, and how the theory has evolved.

Original Theory

Oppositional culture theory is attributed to John Ogbu (1939–2003), an anthropologist who immigrated ...

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