Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 29, Issue 6, pp 485–498 | Cite as

Urban Adolescents’ Understandings of the Relationship Between Background and Success

  • Anne E. NoonanEmail author
  • Renée Spencer
  • Deborah Belle
  • Amber Hewitt


This qualitative study examined urban adolescents’ beliefs about how their backgrounds—“where they come from”—might influence their chances for success in the world of work. Participants were 27 adolescents participating in a school-to-work program or otherwise employed. To elicit their more experience-near ideas about the relationship between background and success, we attempted to thwart the adolescents’ tendency to voice the dominant ideology of individualism and achievement by asking not if but how background might matter. Four ways of viewing the relationship between background and success emerged from our inductive analysis. Results are discussed in terms of the adolescents’ abilities to hold multidimensional beliefs about success and economic status.


Social class School-to-work Economic inequality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne E. Noonan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Renée Spencer
    • 2
  • Deborah Belle
    • 3
  • Amber Hewitt
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySalem State UniversitySalemUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  4. 4.Counseling PsychologyLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA

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