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Class does make a difference in the lives and futures of American children. Drawing on in-depth observations of black and white middle-class, working-class, and poor families, Unequal Childhoods explores this fact, offering a picture of childhood today. Here are the frenetic families managing their children's hectic schedules of "leisure" activities; and here are families Class does make a difference in the lives and futures of American children. Drawing on in-depth observations of black and white middle-class, working-class, and poor families, Unequal Childhoods explores this fact, offering a picture of childhood today. Here are the frenetic families managing their children's hectic schedules of "leisure" activities; and here are families with plenty of time but little economic security. Lareau shows how middle-class parents, whether black or white, engage in a process of "concerted cultivation" designed to draw out children's talents and skills, while working-class and poor families rely on "the accomplishment of natural growth," in which a child's development unfolds spontaneously—as long as basic comfort, food, and shelter are provided. Each of these approaches to childrearing brings its own benefits and its own drawbacks. In identifying and analyzing differences between the two, Lareau demonstrates the power, and limits, of social class in shaping the lives of America's children. The first edition of Unequal Childhoods was an instant classic, portraying in riveting detail the unexpected ways in which social class influences parenting in white and African-American families. A decade later, Annette Lareau has revisited the same families and interviewed the original subjects to examine the impact of social class in the transition to adulthood.


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Class does make a difference in the lives and futures of American children. Drawing on in-depth observations of black and white middle-class, working-class, and poor families, Unequal Childhoods explores this fact, offering a picture of childhood today. Here are the frenetic families managing their children's hectic schedules of "leisure" activities; and here are families Class does make a difference in the lives and futures of American children. Drawing on in-depth observations of black and white middle-class, working-class, and poor families, Unequal Childhoods explores this fact, offering a picture of childhood today. Here are the frenetic families managing their children's hectic schedules of "leisure" activities; and here are families with plenty of time but little economic security. Lareau shows how middle-class parents, whether black or white, engage in a process of "concerted cultivation" designed to draw out children's talents and skills, while working-class and poor families rely on "the accomplishment of natural growth," in which a child's development unfolds spontaneously—as long as basic comfort, food, and shelter are provided. Each of these approaches to childrearing brings its own benefits and its own drawbacks. In identifying and analyzing differences between the two, Lareau demonstrates the power, and limits, of social class in shaping the lives of America's children. The first edition of Unequal Childhoods was an instant classic, portraying in riveting detail the unexpected ways in which social class influences parenting in white and African-American families. A decade later, Annette Lareau has revisited the same families and interviewed the original subjects to examine the impact of social class in the transition to adulthood.

30 review for Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    Years ago, when I started on Good Reads, I read Outliers by Gladwell and one of the things I found particularly interesting in that book was the discussion of research into the differences between how working class and middle class kids behaved. This book is the research that Gladwell based his chapter in Outliers on. I really like Gladwell’s writing and think it is wonderful that he did something to popularise this research – but if you can, you should read this as well. This isn’t an insanely Years ago, when I started on Good Reads, I read Outliers by Gladwell and one of the things I found particularly interesting in that book was the discussion of research into the differences between how working class and middle class kids behaved. This book is the research that Gladwell based his chapter in Outliers on. I really like Gladwell’s writing and think it is wonderful that he did something to popularise this research – but if you can, you should read this as well. This isn’t an insanely difficult read – in fact, it is anything but – all the same, there is much more to this research than even a writer like Gladwell could cover in a single chapter. This is a seriously interesting look at the differences between how working class and middle class raise their children and the consequences of these differences. Gladwell picks out a particularly telling incident in his use of this research – a working class boy and a middle class boy both preparing to go to see the doctor. In the case of the middle class boy his mother literally rehearses the likely exchange between the boy and the doctor in the car on the way there. Because the boy has been brought up in a world where adults are more or less at his beck and call, he has no trouble in challenging the doctor to explain himself more clearly or in seeking additional information from him. The contrast with the working class boy could not be starker, he defers entirely to the doctor, is barely able to make eye contact and certainly never does anything that might be understood as challenging the authority of the doctor. The problem is that this deference by the working class is consistent across virtually all interactions between them (parents and children) and those ‘in authority’. There is also a horrible section of the book where a young girl with learning difficulties has been allowed to ‘progress’ through school without learning to read and this is more or less blamed on the mother because she hadn’t done enough to hold the school to account. The working class are shown to be caught between a rock and a hard place – if they complain then they are told they don’t understand the professional judgement of their betters, if they don’t complain they are held to blame for the consequences of professional neglect. The author defines the differences between these two ways of bringing up children as ‘concerted cultivation’ for the middle class kids and ‘the accomplishment of natural growth’ for the working class kids. That is, for the middle classes, it has become essential to ensure that one’s children are provided with an endless string on extra-curricular activities (soccer, piano lessons, gymnastics and shadow educational activities) and that these are undertaken regardless of the expense in terms of both finances and time for the parents. In fact, the lives of middle class children are scheduled to such an extent that they are often exhausted. Another very interesting aspect of these children’s lives is that they spend their time almost exclusively in groups of children pretty much identical to themselves (the cost of all of these activities excludes children not like them from participating) even to the point of being the same age as them (the activities are virtually always organised according to age cohorts). This is quite different from the working class kids who often play within their own communities and in groups of kids of many different ages. Working class and poor children are forced to ‘make their own amusement’, but, ironically enough, are rarely ‘bored’. The other thing I found remarkably interesting was the observation that middle class kids frequently talked about how much they hated their siblings, while this was never something the researchers observed in the working class kids. The other interesting thing here was that middle class families never spoke about money. This wasn’t necessarily because they had more than enough money, but more because providing money and time to cultivating their children was seen as a valuable investment in their future. The working class and poor children were constantly reminded about money and the shortage of it. The real difference here, and one that speaks to the whole problem of ‘merit’ and how that particular lie is used against whole sections of the population, is that middle class parents have been taught that abilities need to be ‘cultivated’ – that is, if a child shows the least interest in something, then that interest needs to be given an opportunity to grow, virtually despite the impact that might have on the parents and rest of the family. Working class parents are much more likely to believe in natural growth – talents are just ‘there’, you either have them or you don’t, and if you don’t then effort isn’t going to make them appear and if you do have them effort isn’t necessary. Nevertheless, this book certainly doesn’t present the middle class life as unequivocally good and the poor or working class lives as unequivocally bad. What is particularly interesting is that the extent of middle class ‘concerted cultivation’ is a remarkably new phenomenon, and not one that was a part of the lives of the parents of these children. The question, ‘why now?’ rings out in this book, and the answer is that the structural changes in the economy, particularly the increasing precariousness of employment, but also the rising educational attainment brought about by virtually mass tertiary education, means that reproducing middle class advantage is becoming increasingly more difficult. If one wants their children to have the same advantages they had then their children will need to be more highly socialised into the demands of the ‘new economy’. Many of the middle class parents are remarkably specific about these demands and the advantages the various activities they organise for their children provide them with for their futures. Even sports are seen in this light – as training grounds for team work, learning how to deal with both success and failure, being focused on performance, connecting effort to reward and so on. There is a lovely part where a father and son are talking about comic book heroes and the son needs to justify what he has said about various characters with reference to the various texts. That is, something identical to what will be expected of him at school. Needless to say, such a conversation was never observed in a working class family. Basil Bernstein made very similar observations in relation to working class and middle class kids in England in the 1960s. Middle class parents were much more likely to ‘negotiate’ with their kids, rather than impose authoritarian discipline on them, which was the standard mode for working class children. Middle class parents therefore encouraged their children to develop their language skills, taught them how to construct a reasoned argument and provided them with a sense that they were entitled to ask for things they needed or wanted. Working class kids were mostly taught to defer to authority and that authority (even in the case of parents) was ‘structural’ and so could only be resisted (often in self-defeating ways) and never actually overcome. There is so much more to this book – I certainly don’t want to leave you with the impression that reading this review is enough. This book really is fascinating and deserves to be read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book for the issues that I myself had observed through my student teaching. This book was assigned to me during graduate school while I was transitioning from one student teaching assignment to the other. My first student teaching assignment was on the Upper East Side in New York City. This school was in third place for the most PTA fundraising of any city in the city (the year before I came there, they raised a staggering $500,000 -and they were in third). Parents show I thoroughly enjoyed this book for the issues that I myself had observed through my student teaching. This book was assigned to me during graduate school while I was transitioning from one student teaching assignment to the other. My first student teaching assignment was on the Upper East Side in New York City. This school was in third place for the most PTA fundraising of any city in the city (the year before I came there, they raised a staggering $500,000 -and they were in third). Parents showed up for every meeting, every conference, every activity (and there were a lot of those). After school, kids skipped off to Hebrew school or CCD, soccer practice, piano lessons, private math enrichment tutoring, and whatever else their parents could dream up. My second student teaching practicum was in Washington Heights in a largely Hispanic school. Parents sent kids to school with candy as their lunch (not in their lunch, that was lunch). After school, kids went home to watch tv. If they were in the after-school care program, they had 30 minutes to do their homework, then they played out in the parking lot next to the school which served as their playground (people were kind enough to not park there during school hours). I often found myself wondering why parents treated their kids so differently. I couldn't believe that it was strictly because of a particular culture of any given race (there were Black kids in my room on the Upper East Side and White kids in my room in Washington Heights). When I read this book, the fact of socioeconomic status difference just made sense to me. Socioeconomic status is currently far more segregating than race is, giving each culture room to create its own strategies for raising children without influence from a different culture. I appreciated that Lareau was sensitive to issues of race, and therefore highlighted an upper-middle class family that was Black, and a working class family that was White to drive the point home that these differences aren't just about race. As a teacher, I found that this illuminated for me the places where my parents struggle in helping to meet the demands of education today (it is no longer acceptable, as it might once have been to just assume that children will get everything that they need). I now feel better equipped to inform parents about things that they can do to help their child succeed, while still being sensitive to the culture their children are being raised in. I guess I gave it four stars rather than five because, although it had great take-away, it was a bit dry. On the other hand, not every nonfiction book can be Freakonomics.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Manzoid

    The book uses extreme close-ups of several families over several months (kind of like "embedded journalists"), to draw the differences in upbringing between poor/working-class families versus middle-class families. The book is divided into three parts. The first part shows the hectic schedule of organized activities that middle-class children engage in, with parents (especially moms) heavily involved, whereas poorer children's activities are much more disengaged from their parents. The second par The book uses extreme close-ups of several families over several months (kind of like "embedded journalists"), to draw the differences in upbringing between poor/working-class families versus middle-class families. The book is divided into three parts. The first part shows the hectic schedule of organized activities that middle-class children engage in, with parents (especially moms) heavily involved, whereas poorer children's activities are much more disengaged from their parents. The second part describes differences in language use between middle-class families and poorer families. The third part shows the class differences as parents try to intercede on their children's behalf with school authorities. The close-up stories are pretty fascinating, and the conclusions are not quite what you might expect. For example, one common observation of poorer families was that siblings stuck up for each other and were kinder to each other, whereas siblings in middle-class families were much crueler, ruder, and more competitive with each other. Don't know if that's obvious to you, but that surprised me. There are other observations like that, making this book definitely worth a read. One caveat -- the author is really repetitive. For some reason she feels the need to reiterate her main themes during and after every section. You'll quickly learn to skim past these boring repetitive segments.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    This is a book that I keep returning to. I've decided to have my qualitative research methods class read it for Spring 2009. Of course I love that it deals with differences in family life as they relate to social class, but I am also amazed at its thoroughness, sensitivity, and scope. One of the book's key insights is that young people who grow up in upper middle class households may be better prepared to argue for their own way within the school systems, but they are also socialized into a trou This is a book that I keep returning to. I've decided to have my qualitative research methods class read it for Spring 2009. Of course I love that it deals with differences in family life as they relate to social class, but I am also amazed at its thoroughness, sensitivity, and scope. One of the book's key insights is that young people who grow up in upper middle class households may be better prepared to argue for their own way within the school systems, but they are also socialized into a troubling individualism and sense of entitlement through our responsiveness. On the other hand, young people from working class households grow up prepared to subsume their own needs to those around them. This is a great value for collective life, but it works against them within the individualistic, meritocratic school system. The book is therefore a great antidote to the many educational studies that seem to normalize the middle class experience as the ideal and too often see impoverished communities as troubled and lacking in their culture. The book doesn't idealize working class backgrounds, but actually adds theoretical and empirical heft to Paul Willis' classic of a generation ago, Learning to Labor: Why Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    Makes some good points, but the author's tripping all over herself trying to avoid siding with the middle class was hard to take. She says several times that physical punishment used to be the norm--as though this makes it okay? I mean she shows plenty of concern that one of the children can barely read even though illiteracy "would have been virtually universal in certain time periods" (as she says of the practice of hitting children). I mean I appreciate her point that most books of this type Makes some good points, but the author's tripping all over herself trying to avoid siding with the middle class was hard to take. She says several times that physical punishment used to be the norm--as though this makes it okay? I mean she shows plenty of concern that one of the children can barely read even though illiteracy "would have been virtually universal in certain time periods" (as she says of the practice of hitting children). I mean I appreciate her point that most books of this type are going to be written by middle class people so we have to try to avoid normalizing that culture, but her attempts are clumsy. Another example is that middle class children's "sense of entitlement" is consistently used to explain why they feel comfortable asking questions of a doctor. Really? We need to stigmatize the ability to properly interact with a doctor? Though she mentions a working-class person's ability, in contrast, to argue with a landlord or cable company, she does not talk about a sense of entitlement to explain the behavior in those cases. I end up feeling that the book begs the questions. Yes, the middle class is in sync with major cultural institutions and this gives them advantages. But discussions of what stops others from doing the same don't precisely tie into the thesis. Yes, economic constraints keep their children from expensive extracurriculars. Yes, the parents' education and occupational experience limits their understanding of professional jargon (a point that really could have been made more of in the "What is to be done" section). But the author seems to admit that these have to do with socioeconomic status. Why the working-class and poor families can't make cultural adjustments, the way the middle-class did, like not physically punishing their children or asking them questions to improve their verbal skills is an explanation that is started but never really resolves. Maybe the problem is that if I took a test on this book I would have trouble answering the question "How did the researchers determine a subject's class?" If class is based on cultural things, then a working-class person performs what the author wants to call working-class culture _by definition_. Thus the difficulty of discussing class in America.

  6. 5 out of 5

    William

    An absolute must-read that really makes you question and reflect on your own upbringing and how you became the person you are. Simply excellent.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Everyone thinks they understand the concept of inequality, whether based on economic standing, race, education or environment. But do we really understand? When children are enrolled in the same public school system, (theoretically) have access to the same extra-curricular activities and the same social safety nets, why is there still such a discrepancy. Ms. Lareau explored these issues in her in-depth study of 12 third-graders from various racial and socio-economic backgrounds. Ms. Lareau and h Everyone thinks they understand the concept of inequality, whether based on economic standing, race, education or environment. But do we really understand? When children are enrolled in the same public school system, (theoretically) have access to the same extra-curricular activities and the same social safety nets, why is there still such a discrepancy. Ms. Lareau explored these issues in her in-depth study of 12 third-graders from various racial and socio-economic backgrounds. Ms. Lareau and her team went into the homes of her subjects, followed the children to school, doctor’s appointments and extra-curricular activities. Acting as “invisible” observers of real life they noted the differences (and similarities) in the attitude of the parents, the children themselves as well as the peripheral people in their lives, such as teachers, coaches and social workers. For the purpose of her study Ms. Lareau chose to name her economic classes as “poor”, “working class” and “middle class”. Her findings and conclusions were interesting and sometimes a little disturbing, but truthfully, not all that surprising. This book is not the type of book I would reach for on a bookshelf, but a friend (whose opinion on books, among other things, I value and trust) posted an excellent review on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...). When I finished reading his review I started thinking back to when I was raising my daughters and began mentally ticking off the study criteria and conclusions he mentioned in his review. That was the reason I read this book … I wanted to see how I “stacked up” to the norm in the parenting department. Or, in other words, how badly I had possibly “messed up”. Going into the book with that as my sole focus I think my impressions of the book are a little different from someone who may be reading this for educational purposes. I understand that this was an ethnological study and thereby needs clear demographic boundaries. According to the book’s definition I am firmly planted in the “working-class” with the occasional dips of my big toe into “poor” and “middle-class” pools. From my perspective I could relate to many of the issues that were discussed in this book and that made it extremely interesting to read. However, when it came time to listen to the study’s conclusions I found myself disagreeing with the author. Not because her conclusions were incorrect according to her study, or because they painted such a drastic discrepancy between the classes of children, but because she was being statistical and analytical and I was being emotional. That could not be helped; I started reading this book with a personal agenda. I did enjoy the book. It certainly opened my eyes to many aspects of the inequality the book discusses. I am pleased that I read this edition as it had additional chapters following up on most of the original participants into their adult years. Following the first study Ms. Lareau supplied all the participants with a copy of the original publication. In this edition discusses their reactions to her findings. That was interesting reading, as the feelings were so diverse. The only negative comment I have about the book, and about Ms. Lareau as a sociologist, is that she took an inordinate amount of pages to justify why she did the study in the manner she did, and why she came to the conclusions she did. She became almost apologetic (and, if I dare say it, whiny) in her attempt to explain. I found this unprofessional. Twenty-twenty hindsight is fine if she wanted to discuss the “if I knew then what I know now I would have done it this way …” possibilities, but this was her study, her parameters and her conclusions – she should not feel the need to apologize for her findings. So what did I take away from this study and this book? I certainly have a better understanding of the why’s behind certain behaviors, actions and decisions. And most importantly, I came to the conclusion that I was pretty upper-middle-of-the-road in the mom department and didn’t mess up too badly.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Robert Owen

    “Unequal Childhoods” was fascinating, and added significantly to my understanding of class and racial inequality in America. At its core, "Unequal Childhoods" is a made-for-lay-person summary of Annette Lareau’s 19__ ethnographic study in which she examines the lives of twelve fourth grade children of differing socioeconomic classes in order to explore the root causes of class inequality in American society. Contrary to the popular American conceit that one’s lot in life is the product of one’s “Unequal Childhoods” was fascinating, and added significantly to my understanding of class and racial inequality in America. At its core, "Unequal Childhoods" is a made-for-lay-person summary of Annette Lareau’s 19__ ethnographic study in which she examines the lives of twelve fourth grade children of differing socioeconomic classes in order to explore the root causes of class inequality in American society. Contrary to the popular American conceit that one’s lot in life is the product of one’s own diligence, intelligence and talent, Lareau points out that because wealth is distributed by class and that class membership generally tends to be inherited from generation to generation, who one’s parents are plays a role in personal prosperity that is largely ignored by American citizens at large and policy makers in particular. Lareau’s study seeks to explore the differences in parenting strategies adopted by poor, working class and middle class families that might explain this trend. Middle class parents (particularly those with college educated mothers) actively engage their kids in programs of child enrichment (soccer, ballet, basketball, baseball, science camp, piano lessons, etc.) that become the centerpiece of family life and tend to adopt parenting styles that favor negotiation and verbal skills. Poor and working class parents on the other hand tend towards a natural growth “let kids be kids” strategy that accepts as healthy and normal large amounts of unstructured, child initiated play and adopt parenting styles that rely more heavily on parent directives and nonverbal communications (including corporal punishment). While both strategies have clear benefits and advantages, schools tend to expect and value more highly the middle-class style over the poor and working class style. Schools expect parents to be actively involved in their kids’ educations and view any inclination to “leave it to the professionals at school” that is common among poor and working class parents as a huge parental failure. The “leave it to the professionals at school” attitude is not a function of laziness or indifference about their kids’ life outcomes, but rather, is a manifestation of poor and working class parents’ acculturated view of their role, rights and obligations as parents. “I wouldn’t tell the brain surgeon how to operate on my brain, so why would I tell a teacher how to teach my kids.” In contrast to poor and working class parents, middle class parents (especially moms) feel completely entitled to tell a teacher how to teach her kids and actively work to successfully intervene on their children’s behalf – they know how the game is played and they play it enthusiastically to the tremendous benefit of their kids. Poor and working class parents do not know how the game is played, and as a consequence, their kids consistently lose. The book provides a comprehensible theory for why and how prosperity (or the lack of it) tends to pass from generation to generation. My interests stemmed primarily from issues of American racial inequality; yet while the book talks about race to a certain degree its approach recommends broader, race-independent insights into the effects of class divisions. The poor, working class and middle-class families examined tended, regardless of race, to exhibit broadly comparable child raising strategies and enjoyed or suffered their consequences in like fashion. For the black children studied, the issues of race were toxic enhancements to common general outcomes that resulted from parenting strategies deployed by poor, working - and middle - class parents.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Starswirl the Bearded

    This book should be required reading for all politicians, educators, parents and voters. I stumbled across 'Unequal Childhoods', while reading 'Outliers', by Malcolm Gladwell: he uses examples from Lareau to support the central argument of his book (that unusually successful people have almost always benefited from unusually fortunate opportunities - quite often including an unusually high level of parental investment. While it may sound obvious, it goes against everything I was taught to believe This book should be required reading for all politicians, educators, parents and voters. I stumbled across 'Unequal Childhoods', while reading 'Outliers', by Malcolm Gladwell: he uses examples from Lareau to support the central argument of his book (that unusually successful people have almost always benefited from unusually fortunate opportunities - quite often including an unusually high level of parental investment. While it may sound obvious, it goes against everything I was taught to believe as a child: that succeeding is largely due to one's own effort). Lareau's book is actually very different than Gladwell's. It introduces us to children from different economic backgrounds and their families, following them for over a decade while bringing every individual to life. We're given an engaging insight into the daily routine of our protagonists; though Lareau makes sharp comparisons of parenting styles between socioeconomic classes, these are incorporated naturally into the narrative. On one level this is a very high quality piece of research - but it never feels dry or lifeless. To the contrary, it's a compelling read; avoiding an academic writing style in favour of a direct, simple, first person narrative. For me the most relevant part of the book came towards the end when Lareau interviewed the now university-aged participants: perhaps unsurprisingly, the children from the highest socioeconomic bracket (the "concerted cultivation" group) were on track to graduate from university with a wide range of opportunities. Two of the children from the highest income brackets will also be graduating with very little debt: the frankly astonishing investment of parental time/money into extracurricular sports paid off in athletic scholarships. What fascinated me is that these privileged young adults were blind to just how large a role their parent's investment played in their adult achievements: they viewed themselves as hardworking and responsible for their own success. This blindness is something I have often observed in my fellow university students, many of whom receive financial support from their parents (it also isn't uncommon for said parents to do their laundry, book them onto revision courses, buy them cars, assist them in buying apartments etc.). Yet these students widely condemned the looters in the 2011 London riots as being "scum" and "lazy": from what I could gather, this was because the looters felt entitled to things they hadn't earned. Another thing I found fascinating is that many of the behaviours teachers interpret as signs of intelligence (asking insightful questions, making eye contact, speaking clearly, backing up one's statements with evidence etc.) were in fact taught and encouraged by the wealthier parents. While some might argue that the nature/nurture debate wasn't addressed here (and indeed, data from adoption studies would have been welcome), I would still recommend this book to everyone - especially those who think children living in unequal societies have true equality of opportunity: Lareu provides compelling evidence that they do not.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    I read this for a sociology class at school. I'm not sure you really want to get me started on this book so I'll try to condense and keep it brief... Basically Lareau's thinking is that working class and poor parents allow their children the "accomplishment of natural growth" which is largely because the parents have little or not involvement in their kids lives while middle class parents use "concerted cultivation" because they make every effort (to the point of ridiculous schedules) to develop I read this for a sociology class at school. I'm not sure you really want to get me started on this book so I'll try to condense and keep it brief... Basically Lareau's thinking is that working class and poor parents allow their children the "accomplishment of natural growth" which is largely because the parents have little or not involvement in their kids lives while middle class parents use "concerted cultivation" because they make every effort (to the point of ridiculous schedules) to develop their kids talents and skills. She very clearly prefers the "accomplishment of natural growth." Now, I will say that Lareau has a couple good points in that the middle class needs to slow down and our kids don't need to be involved in *everything* under the sun. Children do indeed need unstructured, free play time. I agree 100% on that. We also need to reestablish respect for adults - however, the respect that she is so excited about in the working class and poor families is often gained (as shown in her study) through the threat of the child being hit by the parent if they are disrespectful. Is that the best way to gain respect or is that even real respect? I could go on (and on and on) about this book but I'll stop. It was a compelling read because I was spitting nails through most of it...

  11. 4 out of 5

    jessica wilson

    I have to say that this book was surprising to me in the observations unspoken. Not an easy read as the vocabulary and style is quite academic (which for me borders on boring but that is me). As a student of human development or should I write Human Development I was surprised to find no reference to Urie Bronfenbrenner's ecological model of development which is a keystone to community that then includes class, race, and family life. I did however learn of Pierre Bourdieu, father of the class de I have to say that this book was surprising to me in the observations unspoken. Not an easy read as the vocabulary and style is quite academic (which for me borders on boring but that is me). As a student of human development or should I write Human Development I was surprised to find no reference to Urie Bronfenbrenner's ecological model of development which is a keystone to community that then includes class, race, and family life. I did however learn of Pierre Bourdieu, father of the class deprivation theory. The topic of the book is very interesting to me yet I feel the words lend themselves to bias, Then again, I probably add my own biases into the mix . If you are a student of sociology or developmental theory, I do think this is a "good" read. Keep a notebook at hand, don't forget a pen, and don't feel poorly about yourself if your family raised you sans concerted cultivation, you'll still do just fine.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mythili

    One of the most insightful parenting books I’ve read (despite the fact that it’s not a parenting book). This book really highlights the contrasts between upper/middle class and working-class/poor parents’ assumptions and resources when it comes to raising their kids. Reading it intermittently as I went through the year I often wondered what an ethnographer looking over my shoulder would say about my parenting style. Everyone is portrayed reasonably unflatteringly!—which is refreshing. And fair. One of the most insightful parenting books I’ve read (despite the fact that it’s not a parenting book). This book really highlights the contrasts between upper/middle class and working-class/poor parents’ assumptions and resources when it comes to raising their kids. Reading it intermittently as I went through the year I often wondered what an ethnographer looking over my shoulder would say about my parenting style. Everyone is portrayed reasonably unflatteringly!—which is refreshing. And fair. I liked her criticism of the stifling regimens of cultivation imposed by some upper middle class families and recognition of the benefits of the less structured approaches of poorer families. I also kind of loved the section at the end where the researcher explains why various families were mad at her after the book was published. Yikes. It’s a bit disheartening to see, in great detail, how much these kids’ lives end up constrained by the class they’re born into but also sobering, I guess. Though I also found myself wondering about what the book would have looked like with some upper/middle/lower-income immigrants in the mix. All sorts of other crazy parenting assumptions would come to play!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Overall an intriguing book, and I believe that Lareau presents several thoughtful ideas in the course of her study, which focuses on the lives of middle and working- class children (ages 9 or 10)from various families. The writing style remained less personal than I would have preferred, and rarely did I feel that I "got to know" any of the children whose lives were discussed. I suppose, however, that this personalization had to be sacrificed in order to maintain a sense of professionalism. Somet Overall an intriguing book, and I believe that Lareau presents several thoughtful ideas in the course of her study, which focuses on the lives of middle and working- class children (ages 9 or 10)from various families. The writing style remained less personal than I would have preferred, and rarely did I feel that I "got to know" any of the children whose lives were discussed. I suppose, however, that this personalization had to be sacrificed in order to maintain a sense of professionalism. Sometimes, however, "professionalism" caused the book to read too much like a haphazard collection of field notes, and many details and ideas were repeated over much. I believe this book, if it is to be marketed to the public, could benefit from a bit of editorial work in making it more engaging to readers. I felt that Lareau's discussion of "concerted cultivation" vs. "natural growth" was the most effective part of the work. In this section, she discusses the tendency of middle class families to schedule their children's free time, preparing them for challenges they foresee in the adult world, whereas most working- class families prefer to allow children's leisure time to remain unscheduled. I appreciated Lareau's readiness to see the merits of both, as well as their faults. Indeed, as she writes, though middle class children may be more prepared to interact with authority than their working- class counterparts, they often have trouble organizing their own free time, as they have grown so accustomed to such a level of structure in their lives. I also applaud Lareau's refusal to make this division in children's opportunities into a racial issue, which too many tend to discount it as. To say that these "unequal childhoods" are merely the product of racial disparities would be to cheapen the issue, and I agree with Lareau that social polarization is an issue which transcends ethnicity.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kathrina

    Americans don't consider social class often enough in evaluating systemic bias in schooling as well as career opportunities. Parenting styles tend to adhere to social class practices, and middle class parenting styles tend to be rewarded in our capitalist economy. But not always, and not dependably. Everything matters, and unfortunately, best intentions are not enough. I knew this, but it's nice to hear again -- having a family is hard work, especially when you're your own best resource. Americans don't consider social class often enough in evaluating systemic bias in schooling as well as career opportunities. Parenting styles tend to adhere to social class practices, and middle class parenting styles tend to be rewarded in our capitalist economy. But not always, and not dependably. Everything matters, and unfortunately, best intentions are not enough. I knew this, but it's nice to hear again -- having a family is hard work, especially when you're your own best resource.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I have been meaning to read this book for years. Great book for teachers to read. I particularly enjoyed the additions in the second edition that discussed family reactions to being in the study.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sushil

    I was surprised by a lot of what was discussed through this book, especially as it related to my own family life. I remembered how much my sister and I would laugh at kids on American Sitcoms for being upset over being grounded, being upset that I couldn't take more Karate Classes as a kid, unsure of how to go through the college application process because my parents did not have a comprehensive understanding of it, and much more. I never thought about how so many of those experiences were drawn I was surprised by a lot of what was discussed through this book, especially as it related to my own family life. I remembered how much my sister and I would laugh at kids on American Sitcoms for being upset over being grounded, being upset that I couldn't take more Karate Classes as a kid, unsure of how to go through the college application process because my parents did not have a comprehensive understanding of it, and much more. I never thought about how so many of those experiences were drawn on social classes. I thought most kids either hung out with their friends or watched TV at home when they weren't in school. I didn't know that some parents talk to their kids through reason as opposed to through directives. I used to be repulsed by kids I saw talking back to their parents. Then, everything that was said of how Middle Class parents differ from Working Class and Poor Parents when it comes to involvement in school activity. I think my particular school experiences were unique from the ones in the book because my parents are immigrants to the U.S. I think this is a great book to learn more about how social class has implicit affected your life, the advantages and disadvantages. I'm uncertain of what Annette Lareau had to say about race though. She makes an argument that one's social class is more impactful on their life than their race. Race in the U.S. plays a crucial role in what social class you fall in the U.S. though.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eli

    Learned in class that an important part of sociology is broadening your perspective, and this book did that for sure. Helped me identify both privileges and limitations of the environment I grew up in, and also gave me a glimpse into childhoods that are different than mine. Was thinking of giving it 4 stars because it's a white researcher writing in part about race and that makes me skeptical, but I decided on 5 after seeing that families' reactions and responses to the book (some positive/indif Learned in class that an important part of sociology is broadening your perspective, and this book did that for sure. Helped me identify both privileges and limitations of the environment I grew up in, and also gave me a glimpse into childhoods that are different than mine. Was thinking of giving it 4 stars because it's a white researcher writing in part about race and that makes me skeptical, but I decided on 5 after seeing that families' reactions and responses to the book (some positive/indifferent, some very negative) are included at the end of the second edition.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kuenzang Om

    This book follows kids who are born into different socio-economic families and follow their development over the years. Very insightful. Must read especially if you are in the field of education.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pat Roberts

    Intriguing and captivating

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ebony Wilkins

    Annette Lareau follows twelve families through interviews and observations to highlight how class and race play into the rhythms of family life and the ‘logic of child rearing’ in their homes. Unequal Childhoods is an ethnography that centers on the naturalistic observations in the homes and daily activities of selected 10-year-old students in neighborhoods surrounding Philadelphia. Her research team conducted interviews of the students, their parents, their teachers, and included audio and vide Annette Lareau follows twelve families through interviews and observations to highlight how class and race play into the rhythms of family life and the ‘logic of child rearing’ in their homes. Unequal Childhoods is an ethnography that centers on the naturalistic observations in the homes and daily activities of selected 10-year-old students in neighborhoods surrounding Philadelphia. Her research team conducted interviews of the students, their parents, their teachers, and included audio and video taped observations of daily activities like watching television, interactions with siblings and relatives, and accompanied the students to scheduled sporting events. Each chapter in Unequal Childhoods narrates the hours of recorded field notes with each target participant. Research assistants closely documented the conversations and relationships within each familial structure and with outside members of their communities. The author/researcher talks about the ideas of concerted cultivation of middle class parents in their efforts to mold their children’s activities closely, while also pointing out the more natural growth that was prevalent in poor- working class families, where children had more freedoms and negotiated a majority of their time independent of adult supervision. Using a categorical analysis method, Lareau highlights themes of language, activity, and interaction with institutional structures for middle class and poor-working class families. She concluded that race didn’t play as large a part in her study as she anticipated, which steers me in the direction of her methodology. It seems to me for the population she targeted, race should have played a more primary role in her study, as well as having a greater impact on her findings. The methodology appears to be rigorous and valid, but I do question the reliability of this study based on about how each child was selected as a spotlight in this book. Of the 88 children interviewed, only 12 were highlighted and included in her findings. As with any study, researcher bias might be a factor throughout, and I wonder if another researcher would attempt to replicate this study, how the data would be reported and what themes would emerge. Unequal Childhoods was a good read, and serves as a model study when considering ethnographies. I look forward to reading the extended version of this study, where Lareau follows up with these families.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Leighanne Medina

    This book was assigned to me as a pre-reading for my Masters of Arts in Teaching program. I ended up devouring this book. What a fascinating study. I even loved the additions that were added with the second edition, which dealt with the topic of where each of the subjects were 10 years later, and even how the families responded to the study itself. A very thought-provoking book, and one I will keep and reference in the future. This book really challenged me to look outside the box when it comes This book was assigned to me as a pre-reading for my Masters of Arts in Teaching program. I ended up devouring this book. What a fascinating study. I even loved the additions that were added with the second edition, which dealt with the topic of where each of the subjects were 10 years later, and even how the families responded to the study itself. A very thought-provoking book, and one I will keep and reference in the future. This book really challenged me to look outside the box when it comes to social class.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liam Eitman

    Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life is an in-depth analysis of how social class affects the lives of children and how their parents raise them. Annette Lareau writes about twelve families that she studied at length. The research question that Lareau was answering was “what effect does social class have on the upbringing of children?” Lareau chose research subjects that have diverse backgrounds. She analyzed four children that would be considered middle class, four c Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life is an in-depth analysis of how social class affects the lives of children and how their parents raise them. Annette Lareau writes about twelve families that she studied at length. The research question that Lareau was answering was “what effect does social class have on the upbringing of children?” Lareau chose research subjects that have diverse backgrounds. She analyzed four children that would be considered middle class, four children that would be considered working class, and four children that would be considered poor. Within each class she chose two girls and two boys. Each class was broken down into either white or black. In each class there was a boy and one girl who were white and one boy and one girl who were black. Lareau’s study collected data on eighty-eight ten year olds. These families are clustered around two central locations: Lower Richmond School and Swan School. Lower Richmond School is located in the city. The buildings in the area are covered in graffiti, there is no grass for students to play on, and needs a security guard. The surrounding neighborhood is largely a white working class neighborhood and a number of students take the bus from a poor black housing project. The streets are not safe for students, they are hectic with traffic and people frequently ignore driving laws like speed limits and stop signs. The students rarely run into serious threats but fights on the playground occur multiple times a week. Compared to other schools in the district, Lower Richmond has a great number of positive aspects. The school does still run into many of the same issues that other urban schools do such as lack of funding and teacher shortages (Lareau, 2011, pg. 15-19). Swan School is located in the suburbs. The school consists of multiple one story buildings. The property has large grassy areas for the students to have multiple games happening at once. The open and inviting facility has a large playground with no fence. The surrounding community is primarily made up of middle class families. The middle class families in the area are predominantly white. The streets in the neighborhood are safer, there are less potholes and when it snows the streets are promptly plowed. The shopping in the area is not located within walking distance, everyone must drive to stores. Parents are involved in the school. At the Swan School they have many more resources than Lower Richmond does, they don’t have a shortage of teachers and they have plenty of classroom supplies (Lareau, 2011, pg. 19-24). We see a detailed analysis of how social class plays a large role in the child rearing process. Middle class families lived very different lives from their poor and working class counterparts. Middle class parents take a more hands on approach to child rearing. These parents sign their children up for all of the activities that the child wants to participate in. They fill their schedules with endless adult organized activities and very little time for self organized activities like playing with their friends at the park or making up a game. Middle class children live more hectic, on the go lives than poor and working class families. Parents of middle class families take a large role in their child’s education. Middle class parents see themselves as having a place in schools which makes them more comfortable with confronting teachers and school administrators about issues they see in the classroom or struggles their children are having in school. Middle class children make more eye contact when talking because they are used to frequent conversations with their parents. These children feel more entitled. This is evident when we see that they are more likely to talk back to their parents than their poor and working class counterparts. It can also be seen in how they address authority figures like teachers and doctors. Middle class children are more likely to address health issues that they notice with doctors. We see very different details emerge from poor and working class families. Parents of poor and middle class children don’t take as forward of a role in their child’s education as middle class parents do. Poor and working class parents rely more on the role of teachers and schools to determine what is best for their child. These parents don’t spend as much time in casual conversation with their children. Family is a huge part of poor and working class family life. Children in these social classes spend large amounts of their time interacting with their extending family. Parents allow their children to have more time to go outside and play on their own and with their friends rather than filling their schedules with adult organized activities. Poor and working class families, on average, don’t take a stand for themselves when it comes to interacting with authority figures. They will not discuss health issues with doctors and they will not address educational issues with teachers. Lareau stated that these differences between middle class families and poor and working class families does not mean that one cares less or wants their child to succeed more than the others. The strategies may change but the desire for success stays the same. Reading this book allowed me to reflect on my own life. Growing up in a middle class family provided me with a lot of opportunities. My parents took a very active role in my education. My father was the president of the PTA for three years at my school. My mother volunteered to chaperone every field trip. She also made sure I was doing all of my school work and if I had issues she would address them with my teachers and figure out how she could best help me. One thing that differed in my life than most of the middle class families that we read about was the interaction with extended family. Growing up we spend at least two weekends a month going to visit my grandparent to go to church with them and spend the day at their house. My aunt and uncle lived around ten minutes away from my house so we had ample time to play with our cousins in informal ways. I know that if I have any health or educational issues I can address doctors and teachers to give myself the best opportunities for success. This book has taught me that as a teacher I should not be judging parents based on their involvement. They saw their parents interacting with school in one manner or the other and have potentially continued that practice. I know that I need to engage with parents and not wait for them to come to me because they might not come to me at all. It is my job to reach out to parents and find ways to help them help their children. Social class should not affect the way I interact with students. To allow myself to view a child differently or treat them poorly because of their would be doing an injustice to not only them but their parents, the entire classroom and the whole community. It is my role as a teacher to do everything that I can to help students succeed regardless of class, race, or family life.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marsha

    I was shocked to see the unnamed footprint of class differences permeating education to the detriment of all children. The deck is stacked against working class and poor people in ways we can't imagine. And the great value of this culture is fully lost at educational institutions. So that the contribution of people not in the middle class is squandered. Lareau uncovered all the inadvertent stuff INCLUDING a huge feeling of superiority on one side and alienation on the other. I was shocked to see the unnamed footprint of class differences permeating education to the detriment of all children. The deck is stacked against working class and poor people in ways we can't imagine. And the great value of this culture is fully lost at educational institutions. So that the contribution of people not in the middle class is squandered. Lareau uncovered all the inadvertent stuff INCLUDING a huge feeling of superiority on one side and alienation on the other.

  24. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    As I tear through this heartbreaking and brilliantly documented study I am amazed that we have so many conversations about public education without the lens of class. This book really speaks to every element of our nations educational failures and addresses every aspect of our identities as children, parents, teachers and/or community members. Leaving no stone unturned, Lareau builds an unassailable case that we are all responsible for the future of public education and each others children.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tannya

    This was such an insightful book from a parent's perspective. It discusses at great length the differences in parenting techniques and resources based on lifestyle, income, access to schools etc. etc. Although I had to read this as a text for a class, as a parent I found some really great insight. This was such an insightful book from a parent's perspective. It discusses at great length the differences in parenting techniques and resources based on lifestyle, income, access to schools etc. etc. Although I had to read this as a text for a class, as a parent I found some really great insight.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    This book is an illuminating treatment of the effects of socio-economic status on various aspects of family life. It brought together a lot of issues about which I had thought before but which had never quite gelled for me, until now. Super interesting and also very readable: the tone is scholarly but the writing is accessible to a lay audience.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Von

    An example of outstanding sociological research and one of my favorites in recent years. Lareau shows the many ways in which social background impacts children's ability to navigate important social institutions, such as the educational system. An example of outstanding sociological research and one of my favorites in recent years. Lareau shows the many ways in which social background impacts children's ability to navigate important social institutions, such as the educational system.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura Papsun

    This book is a fascinating story of several children from a sociologist's point of view. It details the gaps in educational opportunities due to socio-economic status. It will change the way you think about why students fail in schools. This book is a fascinating story of several children from a sociologist's point of view. It details the gaps in educational opportunities due to socio-economic status. It will change the way you think about why students fail in schools.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This book gives readers a great structure for making sense of how class informs parenting approaches. I would recommend this anyone in the Social Sciences but it is also written in a way that would make it accessible to anyone who is interested in kids.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Rich and readable description of the way social class shapes interaction with institutions. (And there's a lot of unreadable sociology out there.) Made me think about the choices I make with my kids. Rich and readable description of the way social class shapes interaction with institutions. (And there's a lot of unreadable sociology out there.) Made me think about the choices I make with my kids.

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