Working-class children

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Under workers 'children in addition to the pure word meaning "are children of workers ' children or adolescents with membership of a social class understood that have lower income, prestige and educational opportunities. The term has a biographical meaning, as the environment of the first years of life is particularly formative . Pierre Bourdieu described this imprint with the concept of habitus , which is conditioned by belonging to a social class and at the same time reproduces class positions .


The expression working-class children arose with the beginning of industrialization , when people with a low level of education and low social status made their living with low-paid wage labor. As a rule, their children had no opportunities for social advancement because they were denied access to educational resources for primarily financial reasons, while the offspring were raised to the social level of their parents by entrepreneurs , senior civil servants and academics from the outset.

Today's understanding

In today's European society, the expression in its original meaning can only be used to a limited extent. On the one hand, there is a lack of a unified understanding of the “worker” concept outside of Marxist class theory , which in a broader sense also includes qualified and well-paid occupations, such as skilled workers . On the other hand, the characteristics of poverty , low social prestige and social disadvantage in times of enormous unemployment are more widely spread in society and also affect the unemployed, single parents, migrants , sick and disabled people. Despite this change, working-class children are sometimes still used synonymously in the press and in academic publications for children with a family background who have little financial , social and cultural capital and who mainly do physical work.


According to the Marxist view, working-class children face many educational barriers under capitalism , since the interest in the exploitation of capital determines the scope and limits of education.

In his " Critique of the Gotha Program " of the SPD ("Marginal glosses on the program of the German Workers' Party") , Karl Marx demanded : Determining the means for the elementary school through a general law is something completely different from appointing the state as a public educator. Rather, government and church are to be equally excluded from any influence on the school. He called for technical schools that offer theoretical and practical lessons: "Polytechnical education".

With regard to Russia, shortly after the turn of the century, a cultural and educational theoretical controversy took place between Bogdanov and Lenin , in which, among other things, it was a question of whether or not a structurally and content-wise new education system (workers' universities) should be established after the revolution whether largely bourgeois values ​​and orders should be adopted. Bogdanov's proletarian movement was defeated in this dispute.

After the October Revolution of 1917, the Council of People's Commissars issued a declaration on a uniform, barrier-free education system that was to extend from kindergarten to university. Initially, attempts were made to implement reform pedagogical approaches in schools that had sprung up everywhere. The first People's Commissar A. W. Lunatscharski (1875–1933) referred to the theoretician Pavel Blonski (1884–1941), who called for the inner development of children, with the establishment of labor schools . Lenin was skeptical of this, and especially under Stalin the reform pedagogical concepts were pushed back.

Marxists such as Otto Rühle and Wilhelm Reich , who were able to gain practical educational experience with working class children and youth workers in the Weimar Republic , criticized the KPD's attitude and behavior towards working class children as authoritarian. Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy acted as a pioneer in the attempts in voluntary labor and study camps to make working-class and middle-class young people understandable for one another in their worlds of experience and thought.

Working children in times of early industrialization

At the beginning of industrialization, Friedrich Engels described the situation of workers in England . He reports that around 1840 the average life expectancy in Liverpool for the lower classes was only 15 years. This was due to the high child mortality rate . In Manchester , over 57% of working class children died before the age of five, compared to only 20% in the upper classes. In industrial cities, the deaths of poor children from diseases such as smallpox , measles , whooping cough , scarlet fever , water in the brain and convulsions multiplied . In addition, the working class children are very neglected, since both parents work if they are still alive. Nowhere are so many children killed in accidents as in the big cities of England. Long working hours, a high level of sick leave and vices such as alcoholism led to the brutalization and breakdown of families. The adults, formed from early childhood through the work and discipline of the factory, with no schooling, were often unable to accurately assess their situation or to do anything about it.

In the absence of medical care, it was common for even small working-class children to receive brandy and laudanum ( opium ), sold as medicine, from their overburdened and often alcohol-dependent parents.

Child labor

Child Labor, Newberry, South Carolina, 1908

Working children were often forced to do child labor . They earned an urgently needed wage for their families and so often ensured their survival. With industrialization in Europe and the USA , child labor took on extremely hazardous proportions. Sometimes the children had to work up to 90 hours a week. In 1788 two-thirds of the workers in the new water-powered textile mills in England and Scotland were children. An English Working Hours Act of 1802 provided for a normal working day of 15 hours. It was not until 1833 that the working hours of children and young people were limited. In the early 19th century, a third of factory workers in the United States were between 7 and 12 years old.

In 1858, 12,500 children between the ages of 8 and 14 were still working in Prussian factories - despite the regulation of March 9, 1839 , which banned factory work for children under 9 years of age. First warnings about their poor health came from the Prussian army , which was confronted by its recruits. As a result of child labor, the trade supervisory authority was established in Prussia , and the ban on child labor was extended up to the age of 12. However, a twelve-hour working day was still permitted for twelve to fourteen year olds.

Historically, child labor should be prevented through occupational safety and the general compulsory education . In addition to damage to health, one consequence of child labor was the lack of education .

Education for working class children during industrialization

A family in Germany around 1900 who works, lives, cooks and sleeps in one room

With the Prussian general country school regulations passed in the 18th century , a preliminary stage to compulsory schooling was introduced. After the grammar schools and the secondary schools , elementary schools also emerged across the board in the 19th century . The educational program through this school was intended for working class children. Up until the Weimar Republic , school fees also had to be paid for elementary school . Working-class children - like farmers' children - were taken out of school at an early age in order to help provide for family support.

School attendance in Prussia rose from 50% around 1800 to 100% around 1900. At the same time, school attendance changed from very irregular to regular. However, there was a dramatic gap between town and country. Around 1900, school attendance in the lower classes was seven years. Around 1800, around 25% of the Prussian population was able to decipher texts, around 1830 it was around 30%, after which the rate rose 10% per decade to almost 100% around 1900.

The different contents that were introduced into school lessons became important for social stabilization. The educated classes talked about art, literature and music . In the lower classes, everyday culture offered other main topics; with the result that mixing up the shifts became unattractive for everyone involved: the subjects that were interesting in the different shifts were not shared as soon as shifts were changed.

The schools in the 19th century were initially designed as all-day schools . School went from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. (in winter from 8 a.m.) and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., which corresponded to the world of work, especially in the craft sector. After that, morning schools were introduced in Germany first in grammar schools and then in elementary schools. At the end of the 19th century, the increased demand for education in Germany resulted in closure effects : Gymnasiums became elite institutions through school fees. Parallel to the half-day school , the three-tier school system became the rule. At the same time, training courses for skilled workers were established, which also offered working-class families the prospect of advancement through training for children's skilled workers. With the establishment of dual training and the three-tier school system, however, the opportunity for working-class children to advance was less in Germany than in some other industrialized countries.

Political Concepts

At the end of the 19th century, the working class family in Germany gradually turned from the rural to the bourgeois model. As a result, the duty of care and upbringing for working-class children was increasingly shifted to the mothers. However, in contrast to mothers in middle-class families, mothers in working-class families were generally employed. The Fröbel half-day kindergartens , which were designed as educational institutions to complement the family, were mainly attended by middle-class children; at best, custody facilities were provided for working-class children.

Working-class children after the First World War

After World War I , society changed in what Antonio Gramsci called Fordism . The new social model was based on the production of bulk goods and their consumption, as well as the increasing establishment of the welfare state and the bourgeoisisation of the working-class family's lifestyle.

Klaus Kordon's award-winning youth book trilogy gives an impression of the realities of working-class children in the first half of the 20th century . It describes the life of a working-class family from the November Revolution 1918 (The Red Sailors) through the establishment of the National Socialist regime (With your back to the wall) to the end of World War II (The First Spring) from the perspective of working-class children.

Political Concepts

As a result of the rural exodus in the course of industrialization , tenements for the lower classes were built in large cities, especially in Berlin , Hamburg and Essen in Germany . In Vienna these houses were known as the apartment building. Several rear buildings were attached to the prestigious front building, so that only narrow, mostly rectangular courtyards remained free in between, into which no sunlight fell. A sequence of three or four backyards was not uncommon. The working-class families often sublet the apartments so that a large family had to share the kitchen-living room. These living conditions were extremely unhealthy, especially for children (cf. the “ social question ”).

From the middle of the 19th century, workers' settlements were built by companies as factory settlements for their workers and employees. This was done in order to tie workers to their jobs by providing apartments close to the company. In addition, it was about the industrial proletariat to become bourgeois by the concept of civil this small family should take. The Krupp settlements took over this function at the beginning of the 20th century .

The construction of workers' housing estates was partly financed by state subsidy programs.

School fees for elementary schools were abolished in 1918, but school fees for grammar schools in the Federal Republic of Germany continued until the 1950s. This meant that working-class children could go to primary school, but poorly to higher schools. The flogging was handled differently. While it was customary in elementary schools to punish boys and girls with a cane , corporal punishment was pushed back very early in high schools (however: punches with a ruler or slaps in the lower grades). Children were also beaten in (craft) training companies until the 1960s. In the GDR , school corporal punishment was abolished in 1949, in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1973 (in Bavaria 1983).

Typical diseases of workers' children

Due to the hard work, the poor living conditions as well as the poor nutrition and medical care of the workers, working-class children were exposed to a comparatively high health risk even before birth . In 1925 Otto Rühle described the health situation of working-class children as follows:

“In basement holes and attic rooms, lightless and musty courtyard apartments, in overpopulated tenements and residential barracks, it grows up, infested with scrofula, twisted and impoverished by rickets, tormented by the whole host of teething troubles that proliferate and rage in the stifling bread of the slums. The dangling crooked leg, the dislocated hip, the hunched back , the head of water - they are the wounds and marks from the bitter struggle that has been waged with death for years. And the dwarfed, narrow-chested, consumptive people , the emaciated to skeletons, those suffering from chronic intestinal colic, those afflicted with itchy rashes, the bed-wetting and epileptics, the feeble-minded and idiots - they all demonstrate the cruelty and severity of a fate that takes everything away from their youth or withholds them what could secure them physical fitness and fullness. "

- Otto Rühle 1925

On the psychology of working-class children

One criticism of psychological theories such as psychoanalysis is that they arose in a bourgeois environment and thus misunderstood the psychological constitution of workers. However, there were also special, work-based investigations.

Otto Rühle examined the psyche of working-class children in the first decades of the 20th century . Using the terms of Alfred Adler's individual psychology , he believed to establish an inferiority complex in working class children , the effects of which could be described with Adler's expression of proletarian protest masculinity . This masculine protest is more likely to be found in the sons of workers and daughters from the bourgeoisie . Working-class daughters are triple oppressed as children, girls and working-class children, which inhibits the development of aggressive protest behavior. Rühle developed a questionnaire for individual psychology with the help of which the habitus of working-class children should be researched more specifically. Rühle, who at this time was moving closer to anarchism in his political convictions, saw the only possibility of liberation as the establishment of an anarchist youth movement organized by workers' children .

History of the workers' youth movement

The workers' youth movement includes youth organizations that have young people and children mainly from working-class and salaried families as members. In detail, these are the organizations listed below.

Kinderfreunde / Rote Falken (Austria)

In 1908 Anton Afritsch founded the “ Workers' Association Children's Friends ” in Graz together with six men and seven women . Among other things, holiday activities were organized for working class children. In 1917 the "Reichsverein Kinderfreunde" was founded. The first Reichsobmann was the Reichsrat MP Max Winter . The first vacation home followed in 1918, and in 1919 the first educator school of the “Children's Friends' Association” was founded. In 1921, several companies took part in the “Kinderheller” fundraising campaign for “Kinderfreunde”. In 1925 the organization Rote Falken was founded. In 1934, Austrofascism pushed both the Rote Falken and the Kinderfreunde (whose membership had grown to 100,000) underground.

Socialist youth workers - Rote Falken (Germany)

On October 10, 1904, the first organization of the working class youth was founded. On this date, 24 young workers and apprentices in Berlin came together to form the “Association of Apprentices and Young Workers in Berlin”. The occasion was the suicide of the locksmith apprentice Paul Nehring in Berlin. This put an end to his life in June 1904 after he could no longer endure the physical abuse of his teacher. In the same year, a workers' youth organization was also founded in Mannheim . In 1907 Heinrich Arnulf Eildermann wrote the song against the dawn for this movement . The Socialist Workers' Youth (SAJ) was founded on October 29, 1922, and the Children's Friends of Germany on November 13, 1923 . The term falcon came up in the groups of older child friends in the late 1920s. But also the younger ones in the SAJ described themselves as “Red Falcons”. The impetus for this came from Austria. Back then, the falcons were one of the first groups to deal with children's and youth rights and to discuss alternative educational concepts ( Kurt Löwenstein ). The falcons became known then, among other things, through the first children's republics . The first children's republic took place in Seekamp in 1927 with several thousand children.

In the last years of the Weimar Republic, the SAJ joined alliances such as the Jungbanner ( Reichsbanner ) and the Iron Front in order to continue the struggle for democracy in a paramilitary manner. On May 2, 1933, the falcons were banned across Germany like many other social democratic and anti-fascist groups. Many falcons were imprisoned by the National Socialists from 1933 onwards. Occasionally, child friends and SAJ members were active in the resistance. Others were able to flee abroad.

Naturefriends youth of Germany

The Naturefriends Youth was founded in 1926 as a counterbalance to civil education. It emerged from the Naturfreunde tourism association , founded in 1895 , which was socially motivated and tried to combine the aims of the labor movement with the experience of nature. The friends of nature in the Weimar Republic also combined political demands for the eight-hour day and better living and working conditions with the right of free access to nature for everyone. The founding of the Naturefriends Youth served, among other things, to educate the proletariat . The work of the Naturfreundejugend was shaped by

Christian working-class youth

The priest Joseph Cardijn founded the CAJ in Brussels in 1925 . It was Cardijn's concern to make the young workers aware of their dignity and to educate them through campaigns and seminars. You should be able to take responsibility for yourself and society. In doing so he developed the method “see - judge - act”, which later found its way into the pedagogy of youth and adult education in society and the church in a slightly different function.

National Socialism / Second World War

Working-class children in the National Socialist education system

The National Socialists had promised to enable working class children to move up in the education system. Instead of abolishing civil education privileges, however, a new education sector was introduced parallel to the traditional school. This should be made possible by the newly created Adolf Hitler schools and the later Nazi educational institutions . The educational methods in these institutions were described by former students as sadistic. The National Political Educational Institutions promoted working class and petty bourgeois children in order to later form a new elite . There were about 35 of these. By 1941, around 6,000 students are said to have attended these facilities. This new elite was selected based on racial and political criteria. From 1938 it was possible to study without a high school diploma. Although there were so-called Langemarck scholarships for sons of workers and farmers, these scholarship holders made up only 0.14% of the students in 1939. The fact that in 1938 the working class children made up only 2% of the students and 9% of the high school graduates shows that the conventional education system did not really open up.

The Hitler Youth and the Association of German Girls initially allowed working-class children to move up in society. Until 1936, the majority of Hitler Youth leaders were recruited from working-class families, but thereafter from the educated middle class. Membership was voluntary for working-class children for a long time, while civil servants were obliged to send their children to the Hitler Youth as early as the mid-1930s.

Working-class children in the GDR

The education system of the GDR was created from scratch after the Second World War. Due to the denazification of the National Socialist education system, neither teachers nor teaching materials were available for the students. This state of emergency was resolved with the creation of so-called new teachers , most of whom came from the working class. In order to ensure greater equality of opportunity for working-class children, kindergartens were created from 1946 onwards , which were supposed to lead to school readiness, and the tripartite school system was also replaced by an eight-year elementary school for this purpose. In addition to academic performance, social affiliation, gender equality (boy-girl ratio) as well as political attitudes and commitment in the FDJ were decisive for the delegation to the advanced secondary school leading to the Abitur . Pupils with career aspirations such as officers or teachers for whom applicants were urgently needed were also given preference. In the regulations for admission to a university in 1947, if the occupation is worker, the following should be added: recipient of so and so wages in April 1945 and the job; For the small farmer occupation , the size of the cultivated land was to be given in hectares.

In the GDR there were workers and farmers faculties (ABF) between 1949 and 1963 . Among other things, socially disadvantaged students should be led to the Abitur here. There were ABFs B. at the universities of Rostock and Greifswald . The writer Hermann Kant , a graduate of the ABF Greifswald, has set a monument to these institutions with his book Die Aula .

Comparable institutions such as the later Academy for Labor and Politics in Hamburg remained exceptions in the Federal Republic.

Relative number of students at GDR universities according to social origin
Family of origin / year 1958 1967 1988
Father or mother academician 14% 30% 78%
Working class 53% 30% 10%
(Lenhardt / Stock: Bildung, Bürger, Arbeitskraft, 1997, p. 115.)

In the 1950s, these various measures led to the fact that working-class children were for the first time represented at universities according to their relative size in society as a whole.

Since the end of the 1950s, there has been a phase of increasing social closure in which the former civil education privilege was gradually replaced by an education privilege of the newly emerged “socialist intelligentsia”. The cause of this change was, on the one hand, the dissolution of the workers 'and peasants' faculties and , on the other hand, a changed admission procedure: While the mass organizations decided on admission regulations until 1963, after that it was only the universities and colleges themselves. This change was justified with the policy of the New Economic System , according to which educational economic determinants should decide from now on. In addition, in addition to school performance, it was no longer social origin but “social activity” that was decisive, for example functions in the political child and youth association, where workers' children seldom held such positions. Until the end of the GDR, 60% of the study places were reserved for working-class children, but the actual proportion of studying working-class children fell continuously from the end of the 1950s until it finally fell below the level of the FRG itself. In 1958, the proportion of working-class children among GDR university students was 53%, in 1967 it was only 30% and finally only 10% at the end of the 1980s. Since this development contradicted the self-image of the GDR leadership, from 1967 on there was no longer any information on the social origins of the students in the GDR's statistical yearbooks. In addition, the term worker itself became increasingly broader over time. For example, despite his university degree, an officer still counted as “workers” if he had previously completed vocational training, and at times even the children of management cadres and “ fighters against fascism ” were considered “workers' children ” for this reason alone.

Working-class children in the Federal Republic of Germany 1946–1965

After the liberation from the National Socialist regime, the Allies set up a commission to find out to what extent the German education system had contributed to the development of National Socialism in Germany. Named after its head George F. Zook , the Zook Commission came to the conclusion that the very early division of the student body through the tripartite school system encouraged a class mindset , which in turn produced a subject mentality . The Commission therefore recommended (Directive 54 of the Allied Control Authority) that this type of school should be replaced by a single school, which should consist of a six-year elementary school and sections based on it, but not of various types of school.

Social origin of the students in comparison to the social stratification of the total population in 1955/56
Social classes Total population Student body
Upper middle class 4.6% 47.2%
Lower middle class 38.6% 47.4%
Upper lower class 13.3% 5.0%
Lower underlayer 38.6% 0.4%
Unclassifiable 4.9% -
(R. Dahrendorf: Working-class children at German universities, 1965, p. 9.)

This recommendation was only followed up very sporadically in the western occupation zones , and finally in 1955 the ministers of education in the young Federal Republic agreed to keep the old school system.

As a rule, working-class children continued to say that they went to elementary school and then, when they were 14, pursued an apprenticeship or an unskilled job. While in 1955/56 the lower class made up 38.6 percent of the population in the Federal Republic of Germany, only 0.5 percent of the student body could be assigned to this class. For this reason, the DGB had made socio-political corrections, including a. through the University of Economics and Politics as well as through the funding measures of the Hans Böckler Foundation .

Ralf Dahrendorf drew attention to this educational disadvantage in his study of working-class children at German universities in 1965 . An ethnological study by Stanford University in California came to the conclusion that classes for working class children in Baden-Württemberg in the early 1960s consisted of practicing normative sayings. Discretion and tact on the part of teachers towards working class children only existed in exceptional cases. The evaluation also showed that pupils in elementary schools were regularly slapped in the face: for sloppy housework, arguments, contradictions, dirty clothes, unintentional damage to school supplies, bad table manners or slow eating. School fees were still charged at grammar schools until 1962. Until 1970 there were also tuition fees, which also deterred working-class children from the university. It was not until the educational reforms of the 1970s that the proportion of working-class children in universities rose gradually from 6% in 1963 to a high of 18% in 1982.

In the 1950s, some working-class children in West Germany developed a youth culture that was pejoratively referred to as thugs or rowdies . This group rebelled against family, social, and societal authorities. As early as the beginning of the 20th century, young workers were referred to by the term youngsters .

On May 1, 1956, the DGB started a campaign to introduce the 5-day week with 8 hours of daily working time under the motto: "Saturday is my father" . Attention should be drawn to the fact that (working class) children should have the right to see their father at least two days a week for longer periods.

With the Sputnik shock , almost all federal states began to facilitate access to high schools, which went hand in hand with promoting working-class children. The SPD called this more " equal opportunities ", the CDU " equal opportunities ". School fees were already uncommon, now the entrance exams were dropped and the capacities were expanded. In the 1970s, the reforms paid off; this created (as in the GDR in the 1960s) a new class of young people who were born as working-class children but now studied.

Home children

Children of working-class single mothers, in particular, often became home children . Educational abuse was practiced to a considerable extent in these homes until 1970. According to the education professor Ulrich Herrmann, the home education between 1945 and 1970 was a step backwards from the reform of the home education of the 1920s. The lower strata of bourgeois class society should be taught discipline by all means. For the majority of the children in the home, this 'pedagogy' had severe traumatic consequences; only 20% of the children in the home managed to build a normal life in the period that followed.

Only with protests in the summer of 1969 under the motto "Smash the home terror" from the APO , which were propagated by Gudrun Ensslin and Andreas Baader , among others , as well as a TV report and the film / screenplay " Bambule " (1970) by the journalist Ulrike Meinhof , the The offense was publicly denounced and replaced within a very short time by a more humane home education. So far (as of 2010), the former children in the home have not received any material compensation from the responsible institutions. The ' Association of Former Children in Care ' has been fighting for reparations since 2004 .

The term working class child today

Is the term obsolete today?

IGM youth in action

The social model described above has changed since the late 1960s . There is no longer talk of Fordism , but of post-Fordism . Traditional workers are less visible and the term “workers child” seems to have become obsolete.

From the 1960s onwards, Pierre Bourdieu assumed that the social environment in which one grew up determined one's habitus . This is done via conditioning that is completed by puberty and then unconsciously controls life. Bourdieu described the habitus of the ruled class as the necessity habitus . That is, life is judged from the standpoint of necessity .

Michael Vester then designed a structure for different milieus . He assumed that the working class , which in 1991 made up 22% of the population in West Germany, could be differentiated according to the values ​​as follows:

  • New employee environment 5% (value retention: modernized)
  • Traditional employee environment 12% (value retention: partially modernized)
  • Traditional employee milieu 5% (value retention: traditional)

Franz Schultheis writes on this subject in the afterword of the extensive study of limited liability companies :

“Yet it still exists, the world of the worker, and he himself still exists, after all, a few million citizens still belong to the 'worker' category, a category 'protected' under labor and social security law. It is therefore by no means a negligible fringe group, even if it actually seems to have massively lost social visibility and coherence, attention and recognition. "

Low social origin group

The University Information System (HIS) has been working with the construct of social groups of origin since 1982 . You have thus created a rough indicator for social surveys that makes connections between the economic situation and educational tradition at home and student behavior visible. The triennial social survey of the German Student Union also works with these four groups of origin (low, medium, high, highest), which results from the prestige, the decision-making autonomy and the income level of the parents 'profession and the parents' highest educational qualification.

Accordingly, students with a low social background would include students whose parents

  • Civil servants in the ordinary and middle service (e.g. conductors, administrative assistants, secretaries)
  • Employees with executive activity (e.g. shorthand typists, salespeople)
  • Skilled workers, dependent craftsmen
  • unskilled, semi-skilled workers

are. Overall, this group comprises 49 percent of 19 to 24 year olds in the Federal Republic of Germany. The DSW social survey found in its reports an increase in educational disadvantage for this group.

Since the generation of grandparents in this group still predominantly belonged to the traditional working class and the professions listed above largely correspond to the colloquial terminology of workers , the use of the term workers' children in today's context is less appropriate, but it cannot be dismissed entirely. The term people of low social origin would be more precise to designate a largely homogeneous group that has actually “inherited” the group of working-class children.

See also: social origin

Regarding the English language regulation: working class and poverty class / straddler

In English usage, the terms “working class background” and “povertyclass background” (origin from the class of the poor) are distinguished from one another.

A group called Workingclass Academics has existed in the USA since 1995 . Once a year, you hold the WCA conference on the subject of discrimination against students with an origin from working-class families and poor families. In 2003 this meeting took place in Great Britain . Working-class children who rise despite the educational disadvantage are also referred to in English as straddlers (from English: to straddle = spread), since they have one leg in the working class ( blue collar ) and the other in a higher one Layer ( white collar = suit wearer). There is a lot of autobiographical literature on this in the USA .

Migrant children as workers' children

Character in a graffiti picture by the Mainz Writer Can2

From 1954 to 1973, the Federal Republic of Germany specifically recruited workers abroad. In 1973, the year the recruitment stopped, 4 million so-called “ guest workers ” were already living here . Their children are also often referred to as second (or now third) generation migrants .

Migrant children experience institutionalized discrimination in the education system in Germany . It is noticeable that Turkish migrant daughters start studying much more often than Turkish migrant sons.

The so-called Kanak Sprak as a subcultural and identity-forming element is widespread among migrant children (especially among the Turkish) (as of 2004) .

Youth cultures shaped by working-class children

Patti Smith in
Copenhagen in 1976

Working-class children shaped various youth cultures .

In rock music , special, also socially determined musical preferences have always existed. Listeners from working-class families often take a stand against a higher social class with their music and in this way construct a “we-feeling” for themselves. They often reject more complex musical structures than those belonging to the educated bourgeoisie and prefer a more “straightforward” music. This also correlates with the origins of many, especially British rock musicians - such as B. Eric Burdon , Rod Stewart or the Beatles - for whom music was often the only real possibility of social advancement within the relatively rigid British class system.

The mods came into being in the early 1960s . They tried to distance themselves from their working class origins by using expensive clothing.

English working-class youth adopted the style of the Jamaican rude boys in the late 1960s . The skinhead youth movement developed out of the black rude boy and white mod scene in the British working-class districts . These distinguished themselves from the mods by wearing typical work clothes. They wanted to uphold the values ​​of the disappearing traditional working class culture of their homeland , which was expressed through their clothing and behavior.

The punk movement also has its roots very strongly in the western European working-class neighborhoods. English punk music was previously known as working class rock'n'roll (see also Oi! ).

In French and Italian, the term worker-student was often used in the late 1960s . This meant working class students. These took part in the May riots at the occupied Sorbonne University or in squatting in Italy . In Germany, too, there were squatting by young people from working-class families in the late 1960s and early 1970s . For example, the Georg von Rauch House in Berlin has been occupied almost exclusively by young workers. Students were tolerated there, but left university professors were not.

At least in Germany, the protagonists of the early punk movement almost all came from the middle-class milieu.

And the hip-hop has its origins in the urban underclass. Especially in US city centers, from which industrial companies moved since the 1970s, causing the unemployment rate among black working-class children to rise to 40%, they developed hip-hop with its forms of rap , ( MCing ), DJing , breakdancing and Writing on an increasingly popular subculture . In Germany, Turkish working-class children have been developing Turkish hip-hop since the 1980s .

In recent years, the originally racist and classicist term White Trash has developed into a brand among whites , similar to niggers among people of African origin . Artists today are more open about their proletarian origins and even flirt with it. This development is probably due to the desire for a cultural identity of these artists and as such probably a reaction to the urbanism of the blacks, who like to brag about coming from the ghetto, even if this is often not the truth.

Educational disadvantage

According to the Basic Law, no one in the Federal Republic of Germany may be disadvantaged on the basis of their origin, which is understood to mean their social origin. In fact, various educational studies state that people with a low social background are educationally disadvantaged in the Federal Republic of Germany . By the 1980s this discrimination decreased. It has been increasing again since 1990. The social disadvantage has shifted: while in the 1970s “Catholic workers daughter from the country” was a formula for multiple disadvantages, today it is more of the “Turkish youth from the problem district”. What has remained a characteristic of extreme educational disadvantage is origin from working-class families.

Quantitative educational studies such as PISA and the DSW social survey essentially no longer relate to the term working-class child , but rather put together various characteristics that represent a largely homogeneous group. The PISA study speaks of the ESCS index , which means that the economic, social and cultural status is combined into one category. They point to a very strong educational disadvantage. The DSW social survey proceeds in a similar way.

The group of children of low social origin in fact inherits the group of workers' children in terms of educational disadvantage. Studies in the sociology of education show the clear connection between social origin and the educational access and success of children. For example, in 2004 Jutta Allmendinger et al. Came to the conclusion that only 28% of working class children cross the threshold to secondary schools after the 10th grade, compared to 73% of the children of civil servants; only 6% of working class children make it to universities, in contrast to 49% of civil servant children. In addition, there were still workers in traditional labor professions, with children making up a large proportion of the group with low origins. Today (after 1990) the discrimination against "working class children" is being discussed again, since they are not represented at universities according to their proportion of the population. Whether this is due to the easier, but not threshold-free access conditions, or whether a specific positive discrimination of this group of people would be necessary in order to promote more of them to qualified degrees is debatable.

In qualitative studies on educational disadvantage, the term workers 'child or workers' daughter is still predominantly used today.

Health effects

Those who grow up in a working-class family are twice as likely to develop depression as a child from a middle-class family.

Children with a low social status are particularly often affected by eating disorders, they suffer more often from mental illnesses such as hyperactivity. In comparison, young girls from lower social classes become pregnant more often than young people from the middle and upper classes. In this context there is also school education, which is an essential factor. Girls with a lower level of education are statistically more likely to become pregnant.

Main article: Socially determined inequality of health opportunities

Working-class children in the media

Films with children from the working class
Films about young people in so-called problem areas
Milieu sketches of working class families in television programs
Plays about working class children
  • Grips-Theater : Balle Malle Hupe and Arthur, Goofy stays Goofy, A party at Papadakis, You can't stand that in your head, All the best
Working children in songs

See also



  • Wolfgang Abendroth : Introduction to the history of the labor movement. From the beginning until 1993 . Distel, Heilbronn 1997, ISBN 3-929348-08-X .
  • Siegfried Baske, Martha Engelbert (Ed.): Two decades of education policy in the Soviet zone of Germany. Documents 1945–1965 Part 1 and 2 . Eastern European Institute at the Free University of Berlin 1966.
  • Regina Becker-Schmidt , Gudrun-Axeli Knapp : Working-class children yesterday, working-class children today . Neue Gesellschaft, Bonn 1985, ISBN 3-87831-417-5 .
  • Margarete Flecken: Working children in the 19th century. A socio-historical investigation of their living environment. Beltz Verlag, Weinheim / Basel 1981, ISBN 3-407-54116-3 .
  • Ulla Hahn : The hidden word . dtv, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-423-13089-X .
  • Edwin Hoernle : Basic questions of proletarian education . Edited by Lutz von Werder and Reinhart Wolff, Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1973, ISBN 3-436-01878-3 .
  • Hermann Kant : The auditorium . Novel. Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-7466-1190-3 .
  • Klaus Kordon : 1848. The story of Jette and Frieder . Novel. Weinheim / Basel 1998, ISBN 3-407-79761-3 .
  • Klaus Kordon: The Red Sailors or A Forgotten Winter . Novel. Weinheim / Basel 1998, ISBN 3-407-78771-5 .
  • Klaus Kordon: With your back to the wall . Novel. Weinheim / Basel 1999, ISBN 3-407-80061-4 .
  • Klaus Kordon: The first spring . Novel. Weinheim / Basel 1999, ISBN 3-407-79615-3 .
  • Sebastian Kurme: Youngsters. Youth protest in Germany and the USA in the 1950s . Campus Research, New York / Frankfurt 2006, ISBN 3-593-38175-3 .
  • Gero Lenhardt, Manfred Stock: Education, Citizens, Workers. School development and social structure in the FRG and the GDR . Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-518-28921-7 .
  • Martin Andersen Nexö : Ditte human child . Aufbau-Tb-Verlag, ISBN 3-7466-5123-9 .
  • Otto Rühle : Child misery. Proletarian images of the present. 1906.
  • Otto Rühle: The proletarian child. A monograph . 1911.
  • Otto Rühle: The soul of the proletarian child . 1925.
  • Otto Rühle The proletarian child. Monthly papers for proletarian education . Verlag am other Ufer, Dresden / Leipzig (1st year 1925 - 2nd year 1926).
  • Martin Stadelmeier: Between Langemark and Liebknecht. Young workers and politics in the First World War. Die Falken, Bonn 1986, DNB 870058762 .
  • Bruno Schoning (Ed.): Working-class childhood. Childhood and school time in memories of workers' lives . Päd. Extra Buchverlag, reprint 5, Bensheim 1979, ISBN 3-921450-73-X .

Literature on structural change in society

Literature on the disadvantage of working class children

  • Viyan C. Adair, Sandra L. Dahlberg (Eds.): Reclaiming Class. Women, Poverty, and the Promise of Higher Education in America . Philadelphia 2003, ISBN 1-59213-022-4 .
  • bell hooks : Where we Stand: Class Matters . New York 2000, ISBN 0-415-92913-X .
  • Peter A. Berger , Heike Kahlert (Ed.): Institutionalized inequalities. How education blocks opportunities . Weinheim / Munich 2005, ISBN 3-7799-1583-9 .
  • Hannelore Bublitz (1980): Somehow I didn't belong anywhere: working-class daughters at the university. ISBN 3-88349-208-6 .
  • Pierre Bourdieu: The subtle differences. Critique of social judgment . Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-518-28258-1 .
  • Ralf Dahrendorf: Working-class children at German universities. Mohr Siebeck, 1965, ISBN 3-16-517471-7 .
  • Leslie Feinberg : Dreams in the Awakening Morning. Stone Butch Blues . Roman, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-930041-35-9 .
  • Erika Haas (1999): children of workers and academics at the university. A gender and class specific analysis. ISBN 3-593-36223-6 .
  • Wolfgang Isserstedt, Elke Middendorff, Steffen Weber, Klaus Schnitzer, Andrä Wolter : The economic and social situation of students in the Federal Republic of Germany 2003. 17. Social survey of the German Student Union carried out by the HIS University Information System . Bonn / Berlin 2004 (published by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research).
  • Heinz Kluth , Ulrich Lohmar , Rudolf Tartler (eds.): Young workers yesterday and today. 1955.
  • Alfred Lubrano: Limbo. Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams . New Jersey 2004, ISBN 0-471-71439-9 .
  • Walter Müller, Reinhard Pollak : Why are there so few workers' children in Germany's universities? In: Rolf Becker, Wolfgang Lauterbach (ed.): Education as a privilege? Explanations and findings on the causes of educational inequality . Wiesbaden 2004, pp. 311-352.
  • Julia Reuter, Markus Gamper, Christina Möller, Frerk Blome (eds.): From working-class child to professorship. Social advancement in science. Autobiographical Notes and Sociobiographical Analyzes . transcript, Bielefeld 2020, ISBN 978-3-8376-4778-5 .
  • Jake Ryan, Charles Sackery: Strangers in Paradise. Academics from the Working Class . Lanham / New York / London 1995, ISBN 0-7618-0142-1 .
  • Anne Schlüter (Ed.): Working-class daughters and their social advancement. On the relationship between class, gender and social mobility . Deutscher Studienverlag, Weinheim 1992.
  • Anne Schlüter (ed.): Educational mobility. Studies on the individualization of working-class daughters in the modern age . Deutscher Studienverlag, Weinheim 1993.
  • Michelle Tea (Ed.): Without a Net. The Female Experience of Growing up Working Class . Emeryville 2003, ISBN 1-58005-103-0 .
  • Gabriele Theling: Maybe I would have been happier as a saleswoman: Workers' daughters & college . Münster 1986, ISBN 3-924550-18-2 .

Literature on working-class child culture

Web links

Wiktionary: worker child  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b Pierre Bourdieu : The subtle differences. Critique of social judgment . Frankfurt am Main 1987.
  2. Lars Schmitt: Ordered and not picked up. Social inequality and habitus structure conflicts in studies. Springer VS, ISBN 978-3-531-92193-8 .
  3. ^ Karl Marx , Critique of the Gotha Program, 1875. MEW 19: 13–32.
  4. ^ JF Bergier: The industrial bourgeoisie and the emergence of the working class 1700–1914. In: Carlo M. Cipolla (ed.): European economic history in 4 volumes . Volume 3: The Industrial Revolution, pp. 283 and 284.
  5. On child labor up to the First World War and its legal regulation cf. Collection of sources on the history of German social policy from 1867 to 1914 , Department I: From the time when the Reich was founded to the Imperial Social Message (1867–1881), Volume 3: Workers' protection , edited by Wolfgang Ayaß , Stuttgart / Jena / New York 1996; Collection of sources on the history of German social policy from 1867 to 1914, Section II: From the Imperial Social Message to the February decrees of Wilhelm II (1881–1890), Volume 3: Workers' protection , edited by Wolfgang Ayaß, Darmstadt 1998; Collection of sources on the history of German social policy from 1867 to 1914, III. Department: Expansion and differentiation of social policy since the beginning of the New Course (1890–1904), Volume 3, worker protection , edited by Wolfgang Ayaß, Darmstadt 2005.
  6. ^ FW Henning: Industrialization in Germany 1800 to 1914, p. 194.
  7. ^ Child Labor and the Division of Labor in the Early English Cotton Mills
  8. ^ FW Henning: Industrialization in Germany 1800 to 1914, p. 195.
  9. Sigrid von den Steinen: Pedagogy of Early Childhood ( Memento of the original from December 12, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. Klaus Kordon: The Red Sailors or A Forgotten Winter . Roman, Weinheim and Basel 1998.
  11. Klaus Kordon: With your back to the wall . Roman, Weinheim and Basel 1999.
  12. Klaus Kordon: The first spring . Roman, Weinheim and Basel 1999.
  13. ^ Ute Frevert: Illness as a political problem (= critical studies on historical science . Volume 62). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht 1984, ISBN 3-525-35721-4 , p. 321.
  14. Otto Rühle: On the Psychology of the Proletarian Child, 1975.
  15. Otto Rühle: The soul of the proletarian child. 1925.
  16. ^ Rainer Geißler : The social structure of Germany - on social development, p. 288.
  17. ^ Lenhardt / Stock: Bildung, Bürger, Arbeitskraft, 1997, p. 115.
  18. Ralf Dahrendorf: Workers' Children at German Universities, 1965, p. 9.
  19. Sebastian Kurme: Youngsters. Youth protest in the 1950s in Germany and the USA, p. 178 ff.
  21. Michael Vester, Peter von Oertzen, Heiko Geiling, Thomas Hermann, Dagmar Müller: Social milieus in social structural change. Between integration and exclusion . Frankfurt am Main 2001.
  22. ^ Franz Schultheis, Kristina Schulz (ed.): Society with limited liability. Impositions and suffering in everyday German life . Konstanz 2005, p. 557.
  23. 17th Social Survey by the German Student Union, p. 471 f.
  24. Feridun Zaimoglu: Kanak Sprak: 24 discrepancies from the edge of society. 6th edition. Rotbuch, Hamburg 2004.
  25. Tibor Kneif: Aesthetic and non-aesthetic evaluation criteria in rock music, pp. 105 and 107. In: Wolfgang Sandner (Ed.): Rock music - aspects of history, aesthetics, production .
  26. Wolfgang Isserstedt, Elke Middendorff, Steffen Weber, Klaus Schnitzer, Andrä Wolter : The economic and social situation of students in the Federal Republic of Germany 2003 . 17th social survey by the German student union carried out by the HIS (University Information System), Bonn, Berlin 2004.
  27. Thomas Brüsemeister among others: Sociology of Education. Introduction to perspectives and problems. VS Springer 2008, ISBN 978-3-531-15193-9 , p. 82.
  28. Erika Haas (1999): workers and academics children at the university. A gender and class specific analysis .
  29. Walter Müller, Reinhard Pollak (2004): Why are there so few workers' children in Germany's universities? Pp. 311-352. In: Rolf Becker, Wolfgang Lauterbach (ed.): Education as a privilege? Explanations and findings on the causes of educational inequality . Wiesbaden.
  30. Hannelore Bublitz (1980): Somehow I didn't belong anywhere: working-class daughters at the university .
  31. Anne Schlüter (Ed.): Working-class daughters and their social advancement. On the relationship between class, gender and social mobility . Deutscher Studienverlag, Weinheim 1992.
  32. ^ Anne Schlüter (ed.): Educational mobility. Studies on the individualization of working-class daughters in the modern age . Deutscher Studienverlag, Weinheim 1993.
  33. Gabriele Theling: Perhaps I would have been happier as a saleswoman: Workers' daughters & college . Münster 1986.
  34. Children from working-class families twice as likely to be depressed adults. Researcher says social inequalities and depression have roots in early life. In: Harvard Gazette - University News, Faculty Research & Campus Events. Harvard University , June 22, 2001, accessed December 7, 2010 .
  35. Ulf Meinke: Study: Many children suffer from overweight and depression. One in seven young people has emotional problems and one in five eating disorders. Children from the lower classes are particularly affected. Westdeutsche Zeitung , May 16, 2007, accessed December 7, 2010 .
  36. Dr. Britta Bürger: teenage pregnancy. (No longer available online.) In: Counselor - Sexuality & Partnership. , March 2001, archived from the original on January 20, 2011 ; Retrieved December 7, 2010 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /