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Unequal childhoods : class, race, and family…
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Unequal childhoods : class, race, and family life (edició 2011)

de Annette Lareau

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397653,482 (4.19)1
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.… (més)
Membre:SchoolmarmA
Títol:Unequal childhoods : class, race, and family life
Autors:Annette Lareau
Informació:Berkeley : University of California Press, ©2011.
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Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life de Annette Lareau

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Unequal Childhoods is a landmark book in understanding the interactions between class, the culture of childraising, and the expectations of institutions like schools and medical offices in late 20th century America. Lareau's central thesis is that middle class parents (which includes people I would consider rich) engage in "concerted cultivation" of their children, giving them ample opportunity to practice a cultural repertoire of skills such as playing well under the command of others with institutionally vested authority, politely demanding the institution address your questions and concerns, and ensuring success when on a team of people with whom you have no longstanding connections. At the same time, working class and poor parents allow their children to "grow naturally", giving them ample opportunity to be children, have free time, self-organize into playgroups of varying ages where leaders emerge naturally rather than being appointed from the outside, and teaching implicitly and explicitly that institutions are not easy to understand and should not to be trusted. The second edition includes a follow-up with the children about ten years later, when they are 18-21 years old, and notes that the original conclusions are supported by the children's life trajectories. Lareau also notes the middle class children seemed to reach a level of maturity between that of children and adults earlier and sustained it even into college, whereas the working class and poor children were clearly children in elementary school but by 18 were fully independent and grown.

This book proved to be a fascinating explication of the competing philosophies of the families I grew up with and still interact with -- this book feels like it would make for wonderful discussion in a K-12 educational setting, especially with the children themselves. I wonder how much of the parental nagging that college professors receive is caught up in parents who are familiar with the findings of this book. I also wonder how much of the successful charter school mantras around keeping the kids for long days and giving them access to highly educated teachers who can give them enrichment experiences and explicitly teach cultural expectations fell out of this book -- I have a feeling it is quite a lot. Her point about poorer families being more likely to engage in corporal punishment and how that puts them at risk from institutions, engendering legitimate distrust of those organizations for a cultural practice that in other eras would be unremarkable, is also well-received; I expect similar legitimate distrust fuels a substantial amount of current American cultural wars.

A lot of my initial criticisms Lareau eventually addressed. For instance, I was dismayed at her assumption of meaningful consent to be analyzed through participant-observation for an academic book by parents who don't even understand that "tooth decay" is equivalent to "cavities". She has a chapter at the end framing this question, though not as baldly as I'd have liked; to my mind the only possible ethical justification is one in which she owns that her study takes advantage of less-advantaged families who cannot grasp what they are consenting to in order to explicate their opinions to the powerful institutions that now will misunderstand those families less frequently -- a questionable ethical position to my mind, but the only reasonable justification I can perceive. I'd also still have liked to tease apart cause-and-effect a bit more than she was able to do -- if there had been sufficient money for all needs and still money left over for childrens' activities, would the poorer families have encouraged that behavior? Her argument seems to brush this aside by arguing (admittedly strongly) for the cultural components of how parents determine their children's activities, but I'd have liked some explicit evidence addressing whether it's the culture that causes the choices regardless of how much money is available, or whether it's the money that causes the culture.

Because the main thrust of the argument is articulated on the jacket, the reviews, and the first chapter in increasing depth, I was concerned that the entire book would devolve into a series of anecdotes that added nothing -- but that was not in fact the case. The chapters are rich and well-argued, and I see why this book continues to be a landmark study, despite (because of?) its consequentialist ethics. ( )
  pammab | Nov 5, 2019 |
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/681109783). 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.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
Unequal Childhoods changed my views on child development and the impact of race and class more than any other book I have read. Truthfully, I read this book several years ago but wanted to make sure that I had the opportunity to review it and sing its praises. While I have always been aware that gender, race, class and other social and economic factors create different conditions in childhood depending on these factors Unequal Childhoods gave me a solid framework and theoretical perspective that clarified and supported me as a teacher and a child and family therapist. It has made my work with families stronger and more respectful and feels absolutely true to the struggles I see. Being able to see the strengths and challenges of different parenting styles has also allowed me to broaden my approach. Truly brilliant.

Thank you to Edelweiss for allowing me to review this book. ( )
  Karen59 | May 7, 2015 |
This is a good read. I read it for one of my classes in college. I think I read it in one night. I has insight and pretty good research of class, race, and family life. I was able to relate to some of the experiences shared. Yes, Indeed. It was definately one of the better books I have read. It really captivated me.
  Joyster | Apr 30, 2014 |
(just a few chapters for class) ( )
  alycias | Apr 4, 2013 |
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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.

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