Peer relationships play a central role in the development and life of pupils. Rule-breaking at school is measured against institutional norms represented by the school and, additionally, against informal group norms which are important for the learning environment and public awareness of the school, but also difficult to access. This study examines, when and how young people in school class, as an organized peer group, legitimize or condemn rule-breaking.
Group discussions are conducted with 14- to 15-years-olds in four secondary schools in the canton of Zurich which contrast in terms of social location and population density.
The analysis is based on the documentary method and refers to a main orientation to school norms. However, the results also show that divergent and informal group norms are situa-tionally accepted alongside institutional norms. The first occur specially when the level of teachers’ control is low or solidarity among peers is high.