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