Peer relations and school resistance: Does oppositional culture apply to race or to gender?

Garvey F. Lundy, Glenn Firebaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Oppositional culture theory argues that members of involuntary minority groups tend to underachieve in high school for fear that they be accused of "acting white." The underlying assumption, then, is that academic success harms peer relationships for involuntary minorities more than it does for other groups. Prior tests based on survey data fail to support the theory. Using the first follow-up (high school sophomores) of the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), we examined race/ethnic and gender differences with respect to the two main components of oppositional culture theory: peer relations and school resistance. Like prior survey analyses, we found no support for the thesis that oppositional culture accounts for race/ethnic differences in school achievement. However, oppositional culture does appear to play a key role in explaining why male students tend to receive lower grades despite standardized test scores that equal or exceed the scores of female students. Based on a battery of measures in the NELS, we find that anti-studious attitudes and behaviors are more prevalent among males than females, and conclude that future researchers should be more sensitive to this gender aspect of school culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-245
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Negro Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Anthropology


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