According to one study in researchers at New York University's Steinhardt School, some students in low-income families who grow up believing that hard work always is rewarded may be more likely to engage in risky behavior. Results showed that system justification was associated with higher self-esteem, less delinquent behavior, and better classroom behavior in sixth grade but worse trajectories of these outcomes from sixth to eighth grade. The results build on “system justification," a social-psychology theory that believes humans tend to defend, bolster, or rationalize the status quo and see overarching social, economic, and political systems as good, fair, and legitimate. These findings provide novel evidence that system-justifying beliefs undermine the well-being of marginalized youth and that early adolescence is a critical developmental period for this process.
Godfrey, E. B., Santos, C. E., & Burson, E. (2017). For better or worse? System-justifying beliefs in sixth-grade predict trajectories of self-esteem and behavior across early adolescence. Child Development. https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12854