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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 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.
Annette Lareau is the Stanley I. Sheerr Professor in the sociology department at the University of Pennsylvania. A graduate of the University of California-Santa Cruz, she earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California-Berkeley. She is the author of Home Advantage: Social Class and Parental Intervention in Elementary Education and coeditor of Social Class: How Does it Work?, Education Research on Trial, and Journeys through Ethnography: Realistic Accounts of Fieldwork. Xe Sands has more than a decade of experience bringing stories to life through narration, performance, and visual art, including recordings of Thrill of the Chase by Christina Crooks and Buttered Side Down by Edna Ferber. From poignant young adult fiction to powerful first-person narrative, Sands's characterizations are rich and expressive and her narrations evocative and intimate. She has also won an AudioFile Earphones Award for her narration of The Sweet Relief of Missing Children by Sarah Braunstein.
1. Concerted Cultivation and the Accomplishment of Natural Growth
2. Social Structure and Daily Life
Part I. Organization of Daily Life
3. The Hectic Pace of Concerted Cultivation: Garrett Tallinger
4. A Child’s Pace: Tyrec Taylor
5. Children’s Play Is for Children: Katie Brindle
Part II. Language Use
6. Developing a Child: Alexander Williams
7. Language as a Conduit for Social Life: Harold McAllister
Part III. Families and Institutions
8. Concerted Cultivation in Organizational Spheres: Stacey Marshall
9. Concerted Cultivation Gone Awry: Melanie Handlon
10. Letting Educators Lead the Way: Wendy Driver
11. Beating with a Belt, Fearing “the School”: Little Billy Yanelli
12. The Power and Limits of Social Class
Part IV. Unequal Childhoods and Unequal Adulthoods
13. Class Differences in Parents’ Information and Intervention in the Lives of Young Adults
14. Reflections on Longitudinal Ethnography and the Families’ Reactions to Unequal Childhoods
15. Unequal Childhoods in Context: Results from a Quantitative Analysis
Annette Lareau, Elliot Weininger, Dalton Conley, and Melissa Velez
Appendix A. Methodology: Enduring Dilemmas in Fieldwork
Appendix B. Theory: Understanding the Work of Pierre Bourdieu
Appendix C. Supporting Tables
Appendix D. Tables for the Second Edition
Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life is mainly about concerted cultivation. Even though Wikipedia is not considered a reliable source, it defined concerted cultivation as a style of parenting that is marked by a parent's attempts to foster their child's talents through organized leisure activities. This parenting style is commonly exhibited in middle and upper class American families. A child that has been concertedly cultivated will often express greater social prowess in social situations involving formality or structure attributed to their increased in organized clubs, sports, musical groups as well as increased experience with adults and power structure.
Concerted cultivation also emphasizes the use of reasoning skills and variations in language use. Parents start to encourage their children to learn how to speak with adults so that they become comfortable and understand the importance of eye contact and speaking properly at an early age. This explains the book in a nutshell.
Annette Lareau compared working class families and middle class families and it is evident how certain children are concertedly cultivated. Children who are reared through concerted cultivation are prepared to negotiate their way through life as well as have things work in their favor more than children who are not concertedly cultivated.
In chapter three, Lareau wrote that concerted cultivation controls adults' leisure time. This chapter took a look at Garrett Tallinger and his family who were middle class. Organized sports were a top priority for the family. The Tallingers and others like them are committed to child-rearing strategies that favor the individual development of each child, sometimes at the expense of family time and group needs. Lareau wrote that these young sports enthusiasts and budding musicians acquire skills and dispositions that help them navigate the institutional world. She also said that compared to their working-class and poor counterparts, middle-class children are more competitive with and hostile toward their siblings, and they have much weaker ties with extended family members.
Chapter six focused on Alexander Williams and his family, who were also middle class. In this chapter the use of language was important. There was a specific case where Alexander went to the doctors with his mother and she encouraged him to tell the doctor how he felt and what was ailing him instead of her telling the doctor.
Chapter eight looked at Stacey Marshall and the Marshall's who were also middle class. Mr. and Ms. Marshall preferred to reason with their children rather than give directives. This chapter looked at families and institutions. There was one incident where Ms. Marshall was attending a party with her two daughters and Stacey started to get irritated with her mother. Stacey said, "Just leave Mom - I can't take much more of you." Ms. Marshall did not chastise her daughter after the statement. A working class mother might have felt that the statement was disrespectful and used corporal punishment to correct the child.
Chapter eight also focused on family and institutions, particularly taking a look at Billy and the Yanelli's. This was a working class family where both of the parents were high school dropouts with no health insurance. Billy did fairly well in school but was considered a behavioral problem. His mother corrected him by spanking him, which school administrators considered inappropriate.
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