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Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520239500
ISBN-10: 0520239504
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This accessible ethnographic study offers valuable insights into contemporary family life in poor, working class and middle class American households. Lareau, an assistant sociology professor at the University of California, shadowed 12 diverse families for about a month, aiming for "intensive 'naturalistic' observation" of parenting habits and family culture. In detailed case studies, she tells of an affluent suburban family exhausted by jaunts to soccer practice, and of a welfare mother's attempt to sell her furniture to fund a trip to Florida with her AIDS-stricken daughter. She also shows kids of all classes just goofing around. Parenting methods, Lareau argues, vary by class more than by race. In working class and poor households, she says, parents don't bother to reason with whiny offspring and children are expected to find their own recreation rather than relying upon their families to chauffeur them around to lessons and activities. According to Lareau, working class and poor children accept financial limits, seldom talk back, experience far less sibling rivalry and are noticeably free of a sense of entitlement. Middle class children, on the other hand, become adept at ensuring that their selfish needs are met by others and are conversant in social mores such as shaking hands, looking people in the eye and cooperating with others. Both methods of child rearing have advantages and disadvantages, she says: middle class kids may be better prepared for success at school, but they're also likely to be more stressed; and working class and poor kids may have closer family ties, but sometimes miss participating in extracurricular activities. This is a careful and interesting investigation of life in "the land of opportunity" and the "land of inequality."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Uneqal Childhoods is as exciting to read as it is depressing in its implications." (Four stars)--"The Scotsman"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 343 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (September 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520239504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520239500
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
My bookgroup read this book and we couldn't stop talking about it. Lareau concludes from her look at different families that there are 2 parenting styles in America: one for middle and upper class families (concerted cultivation)and another for poor and low-income families (natural development). This book made us think about how we were raised, how we wish to raise our children and why, and how these ideals do and don't match with our spouses' upbringing and parenting styles. Lareau outlines the positive and negative aspects of each parenting style. This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in race and class in America. It is also a fine example of a research study written for a lay audience. As an academic and qualitative researcher I found this to be an excellent guide. It was easy to read, even for my non-academic friends, and every footnote was revealing about Lareau's own biases and upbringing. A MUST READ!
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Format: Paperback
I used this book in a senior seminar that I taught in the fall 2005 semester on children's health, education and welfare, and my students thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Besides getting caught up in the narrative of the children's lives that she chronicles, Lareau's research helped them conceptualize how they could initiate their own small-scale research projects. Her book, better than most others like it, puts a human face on the aggregate statistics that show that socioeconomic class is strongly determinative of children's futures.
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By A Customer on March 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book for teachers. While it isn't written specifically for us, it gives insight into how parents of various social classes view the educational system and the role of teachers. It is something that you have thought of, but didn't realize the extent. It helps understand why the things you're doing just aren't working, and what you can do to help foster parental communication to better a child's education. Consider it a must-read for the theory side of teaching; however, anyone can gain valuble knowledge by reading this book.
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Format: Paperback
Everyone knows that socioeconomic status is related to academic success, but not many books have examined the lives of kids outside of school in detail to reveal how differences in social class are related to differences in use of language, organizing time, dealing with authorities, family disputes, and doing homework.

I'm a professor in a graduate school of education, and it was important to me that Lareau was a careful researcher as well as a clear and lively writer. She studied 12 families, each with a fourth-grade child. Half were white, half were black. Half were from low social positions, and half from relatively high social positions. Lareau found that the upper-middle class families deliberately stimlated their child's development and conveyed a sense of entitlement, whereas lower class families believed that kids matured "naturally" -- regardless of race. I found it so persuasive and well-written that I'm assigning it to my students.
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Format: Paperback
Unequal Childhoods is a worthy sequel to Annette Lareau's immensely popular ethnography Home Advantage. In Unequal Childhoods Laureau addresses many of the same issues, especially the structure and functioning of the affluent middle class family with high aspirations for its children, and the much less affluent working class family that wishes its children well, but has no strict regimen as to how academic and material success should be achieved.

To overstate the case, the affluent parents with high aspirations for their children subject them to a rigorous, structured, and very busy schedule of study time and extra-curricular activities. They are preparing their children for admission to a selective college or university, and they expect them to succeed there. Furthermore, they expect their children, once they are adults, to carry this demanding socialization process with them, governing their lives, and, in due course, the lives of their children.

By sharp contrast, the less affluent families remind me very much of my own upbringing in the '50's and '60's. Out-of-school-time, especially during the summer months, was my own. Baseball, BB guns, long bicycle rides to nowhere in particular, B-grade movies, sneaking cigarettes, and a lot of TV. Parental discipline and supervision were limited almost entirely to seeing that we stayed out of trouble and avoided injury. Childhood was devoted, in traditional form, to being a child.

Working class parents valued education, but they gave it little thought. My expected destination after high school was an in-town state college. Two years before it had been a state teachers college, still referred to by many as "the normal school." Tuition was $150 a month, which I paid for by earnings from a part-time job.
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The book is worth reading for its fascinating case studies and for the very convincing discussion of the two very different types of childrearing habits: "concerted cultivation" for the middle and upper middle class and "natural growth" for working class and poor.

I am not convinced that the middle class "concerted cultivation" childrearing habits provide the benefits that the author suggests. "Concerted cultivation" is pretty new so there is no real evidence that a "concerted cultivation" childhood will benefit someone independent of socioeconomic status and genetics.

It is still a five-star book. It ties together things about modern middle class childhood that I wouldn't have thought to be related at all.
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