Habitus and social class: a case study on socialisation into sports and exercise

Mirjam Stuij*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


According to Bourdieu, habitus is an important, and class-specific, foundation for behaviour. However, he hardly explained how the habitus is acquired. Based on Bernstein's elaboration on the various contexts in which group-specific behavioural principles are acquired, this article demonstrates how young children of two divergent social classes obtain their habitus underlying their sports and exercise behaviour. Although children in both groups acquire a habitus in which sports and exercise play a role, there are striking differences which arise largely out of differences in the impact of socialising agents. Within the higher social class, there is a clearly defined group, namely the nuclear family, which explicitly controls and regulates the children's exercise behaviour. These children learn specific skills at specific places. In the lower social class, the habitus is influenced by the extended family, the physical education teacher and peers, resulting in a broad range of less strictly ordered activities, undertaken at different places. These findings offer a valuable contribution to insight into class-specific socialisation processes, resulting in the acquisition of a specific habitus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)780-798
Number of pages19
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2015

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