56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2004
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!
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2005
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.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2004
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.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2006
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.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2009
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. And, of course, I would cut costs further by living at home. I dropped out after two years.
In addition to her extremely interesting typology, Lareau makes clear that families vary more than we might expect. Poor inner-city families are often extended families, and a child might sleep in a different house each night. Sleeping arrangements depended largely on who was working the night shift
This kind of hit-and-miss arrangement would have been anathema to affluent upper middle class parents. They almost certainly would have taken it as evidence of neglect.
The upper middle class parents raised children who were imbued with a sense of entitlement. They expected to mature and live at least as well as their parents.
For the working class and poor children, the future was open-ended. They expected to get by, using familial sources of extended-family support that served them well as children. Their aspirations, however, were not high.
Perhaps because Unequal Childhoods focuses on more schools and more families than Home Advantage, I thought it may have lacked the coherence that made Home Advantage such a good read. This difference may also be due to the fact that Lareau used graduate students, all quite competent, I am sure, to do her field work, often actually living in subjects' homes. This made for a great source of rich and varied ethnographic material, but then it all has to be put together into one book. Having done something like this on a very small scale, I know how difficult it can be to construct a coherent and readable picture.
In any case, this is a fine piece of ethnographic research, and we can all learn a great deal from it. It raises a very difficult question? Just how should children be raised? I hate to think that it is after the fashion of the upper-middle class entitled, but that seems the better answer. What have we wrought.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2006
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.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2009
Annette Lareau's descriptively rich, nonjudgmental, and brutally honest portrayal of family life through nine detailed case studies reveals tangible differences in child rearing strategies and childhood experiences among families of various races and social classes. A major strength of this book is Lareau's engaging writing style, which intimately situates the reader in the physical and emotional context of each family. This may be an experience for the reader that is comfortable, uncomfortable, or both.
Another positive quality rests in Lareau's neutral and objective voice that does not validate or condemn any child rearing method. Her self proclaimed perspective, ". . . that in raising their children, parents were doing the best they could" (p. 272), is consistently present throughout the text. By consciously neglecting to qualify the child rearing strategies and childhood experiences she is thoroughly describing, Lareau is empowering the reader to make any and all judgments.
For example, Lareau's tireless research teased out two distinct, class-specific, child rearing methodology camps she refers to as "concerted cultivation" and the "accomplishment of natural growth". She describes the benefits of being a child raised in each camp and outlines specific skills children develop when exposed to either child rearing method. In addition, she contextualizes these skills within the adult world by articulating in which situations certain skills are advantageous. Likewise, she identifies situations where lacking certain skills can create poignant disadvantages. Which advantages are valued and which disadvantages are acceptable is entirely dependent upon the reader.
Another strong contribution, which also proves to be a weakness, is the length to which Lareau went to find both African American and Caucasian families across classes. This feat goes a long way to support how class, more so than race, influences child rearing methods. However, Lareau's exclusive focus on urban and suburban African Americans and Caucasians leaves out a multitude of people from other races, ethnicities, sexualities, linguistic backgrounds, immigration experiences, as well as those living in rural communities. Other groups including Asian Americans, American Indians, Latinos, Homosexuals, Immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia, as well as Refugees from East and Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe may have very different family contexts and child rearing methods than those Lareau describes in this book.
By her own admission, Lareau explains, ". . . one cannot generalize from these results to the broader population" (p. 266). This is not possible because she was unable to randomly select her participants. Although her intention may not be to generalize her results to the broader population, I hope researchers and scholars will diligently and rigorously explore the unique ethnographic details of childhood experiences of the distinct groups listed above and many others.
In addition to the lack of generalization and limited racial and ethnic scope, Lareau also neglected to explicitly define her class distinctions, especially middle class. In her methodology, she describes her initial intent to focus strictly on middle class and working class. She wanted to find parents who were all employees distinguished by their supervisory and managerial duties or lack thereof. However, she found some parents were unemployed, underemployed, living below the poverty line, and receiving public assistance. Therefore, she includes poor class with working class to juxtapose the middle class. My question is, if she includes poor class, why does she neglect to include the wealthy class comprised of the employer and the self-employed?
Shortcomings and weaknesses aside, this powerful text is beneficial to anyone who strongly believes or strongly opposes the notion that we live in a post-racial, merit-based, classless society where all citizens have truly equal opportunities for success. Anyone studying, having intellectual curiosities, or working in the fields of anthropology, sociology, education, social justice, public health, psychology, urban studies, or cognitive development would find this qualitative research literature both functional and enjoyable.
From reading this book, I learned that exposing the detailed realities of middle class family life without valorization allows for a discussion that permits challenging of middle class values that are often unquestionably accepted as the exemplary lifestyle in contemporary American society. I also learned that there are tangible advantages and benefits to growing up in a working class or poor household such as the ability to cooperate, negotiate with peers, be creative, entertain oneself, and effectively make use of leisure time.
Many educators may not be familiar with the behaviors and skills children raised in an accomplishment of natural growth setting bring to the classroom. Since educators are required to attend college, many of them have only experienced concerted cultivation child rearing methods. Educators who actively engage with this text may potentially find and enhance skills in students who come from accomplishment of natural growth households. They may also be more patient and understanding when expecting or encouraging skills that are exclusively transmitted in a concerted cultivation household.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2011
Looking into private family/parenting styles differentiated by class and race, the book reads almost like a series of mini reality TV shows airing on the Discovery or Learning channels with the added advantage of having an academic narrating and guiding you through it all.
One advantage of Lareau's lucid style, is the ease with which the book can be read (dare I say enjoyed) by most readers. This book would be useful for parents wishing to compare the impact of different parental approaches or for teachers trying to assess parenting styles/philosophies based on child behavior.
Another advantage is that it could also help readers understand adults and how their attitudes, management or decision making styles in the work place are affected by their race, class and upbringing. For instance, anyone trying to understand or perhaps even struggling to work with or manage "Generation Y" (Generation me) individuals, this is an outstanding must-read primer to other books such as "Not Everyone Gets a Trophy".
Pages 165-181 and the top of page 245 relating to Stacey were so accurate that "Stacey" became office code for individuals with a high sense of entitlement coupled with a low to non-existent work ethic or performance level. For instance, `concerted cultivation' coupled with the presumption that a higher education automatically equates to higher salary sometimes leads to: "I've been told education leads to affluence; I got the education so give me the money, I deserve it!"; regardless of actual output, performance or competence, which then leads to "This is a mundane task and beneath me, I didn't get a Masters degree for this. This is boring. I also need constant direction and feedback on my performance. I was top of my class and my parents told me I was special... so when do I get that management job I deserve?".
Overall, this is a great book, it was a fun read and was well worth the below $20 price tag.
The paperback edition is of a good quality binding and paper with average sized font causing no eye strain. The text is clear and well printed with minimal or no noticeable typos. The pages offer plenty of margin space for notes; line spacing allows for easy underlines; endnotes only but worthwhile looking into during the read.
Amazon lists it as 343 pages but the text only runs to p.257, followed by 3 appendices, endnotes, a bibliography and an index which give the book a total of 331 pages.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2010
This was a great book. I marveled at how the data showed how insignificant race was to a child's potential to succeed, but rather, the socieconomic class that a family is in, does more to determine the attributes (for success) that a child will/won't have based on the child rearing styles. I was raised in Newark,NJ, but amazingly, many things that my father did fell under the "Concerted Cultivation" method. The book also shed light on how things that I am doing with my children will help or harm them in their lives. I was happy to see that I am "in line with" many researchers, educators, etc. with regards to the "best pactices" of child rearing. The aspects that I do incorporate from the "Natural Growth" school of thought are important to me based on the way that I was raised, thus, getting a mixture and hopefully a well balanced upbringing for my boys. The book didn't say one style was better or best, but rather pointed out what the child learns from each method, in turn, allowing the parent that reads the book to tweak their practices, change them (if necessary), and to realize how the child is being molded by each action that is taken in the household. I think that this is a must read for any parent, especially urban parents, that desire to help their children achieve in the future by giving them the tools of success. The notion that this nation is made up of individuals that can achieve based on talent and hard work alone, as well as the past historical notion that one's race pre-determines success or failure is blown out of the water in this study. It's also worthy to note that there was data confirming that some households still are, to a much smaller degree, promoting hatred based on race. Many will say that someone is "crying about racism," but the unbiased approach to this study showed real evidence that it is still institutionalized and even fed to children in some households. All around a great body of work in my opinion.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2010
This book is fascinating. Lareau explains the differences between how children are raised in middle class, working class and poor families. There are many breakthroughs here. And, although some of the information might be labeled as common knowledge, it's great to see the behaviors studied in depth.
Lareau focuses on three aspects of family life: The family schedule, communication (use of language), and the relationships between the family and other institutions - especially schools. I really like how the author uses the personal observation of the families in the study. You really get a feel for the family life. In a lot of ways you get to know the children and the family and then she shows you how their lives differ from others that are similar.
As a side note, I really liked this book for some personal reasons as well. I grew up in a household that matched Lareau's description of "working class" almost exactly. Now that I have children of my own I can still see the working class influences in my parenting although I'm certainly middle class at this point. I also find myself watching other middle class parents talking with their children and thinking, "How can they parent like that?" when they allow their children to talk back to them or continuously give them options and choices. I think this book helped me learn just as much about myself as it did about class and children throughout society.