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Unequal Childhoods

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Sunja-Rakia Fraser

on 2 October 2014

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Transcript of Unequal Childhoods

Unequal Childhoods
design by Dóri Sirály for Prezi
Concerted Cultivation and the Accomplishment of Natural Growth
The Conclusion
Chapter 2

Language as a Conduit for Social Life: Harold McAllister
Class, Race, and Family Life
Second Edition with an Update a Decade Later
by Annette Lareau

Concerted Cultivation vs. the Accomplishment of Natural Growth
Concerted Cultivation
Sense of Entitlement
Children learn to question adults and address them as equal relatives
Accomplishment of Natural Growth

Sense of Constraint
Children see a clear boundary between adults and children
The Study
Intensive "naturalistic"observations of 12 families (six white, five black, and one interracial)
Lower Richmond (
urban school
) and Swan (
suburban school
Book highlights 3 ways in which social class makes a difference in children's lives and family life:
the organization of daily life
language use
interactions between families and institutions
In Layman's terms...
Chapter 1
Concerted Cultivation=Sense of Entitlement=
"I call the shots!"
(Making the rules work in your favor)

Accomplishment of Natural Growth=Sense of Constraint=

"It is what it is"
(Less likely to try to customize interactions to suit their own preferences)
The life of an individual cannot be adequately understood without references to the institutions within which his biography is enacted.

-C. Wright Mills
Lower Richmond School and Surrounding Community
K- 5th grade
Looks forbidden: 3 stories tall and gray chain link fence
Asphalt Playground
Half black students & Half White Students
Lack of Lower Richmond School Resources: shortage of teaching supplies, shortage of teachers, children "slipping through cracks" as major learning problems go untreated
Swan School and Surrounding Community
K- 5th grade
Consists exclusively of one story buildings that are spread out over the school grounds
Playground has elaborate swing set and red hued mulch
No fence around Swan, the entire facility looks open and inviting
Differences between the two target schools
Key structural resources
Physical facilities
Educational supplies
Teacher salaries
Supplemental financing
Volunteer efforts contributed by parents
Social Structure and Daily Life


According to Lareau...
The Accomplishment of Natural Growth
Respect for Adults and Physical Discipline
Planned vs. Spontaneous
Trying Out Planned Activities
What was observed
Chapter 4
A Child's Pace: Tyrec Taylor
Chapter 4
Where are parents efforts directed?
The Taylor Family
This study examines how extra curricular activities are organized in a poor family like Tyrec's
Keeping children safe, enforcing discipline and regulating specific behaviors (Lareau 67)
Wanting their children to be happy, preferably doing activities that don't involve extensive parent involvement (Lareau 79)
Skills developed as a result:
Poor and working class children learn to work in informal peer groups
While they develop real skills, they are skills that are not highly valued in institutions that ALL children will encounter (Lareau 67)
A working class family
Divorced parents
Three children
(Siblings have a cordial relationship)
Constrained by shortage of funds
(a fact children were aware of, Lareau 67)
Spends time with whole family (both parents) on a weekly basis
Tyrec's parents instill in him a respect for adults
Strangers are addressed as "Miss", [Mister]
Beatings can occasionally be helpful in curbing misbehavior
Light punching and chasing can be settle minor disputes within informal peer groups
Planned events are unusual for the Taylors
Out of school time is generally unrestricted
Free to choose own schedules and activities
Chosen activities result in laughing, games, interesting conversations, playing and fighting, both pretend and actual (Lareau 75
Because events are unplanned, they are not age specific
Would they do it again?
What Happened?
Tyrec insisted on playing organized football. After expressing concern for his safety his parents agreed as a result of his insistence and strong desire to play
Tyrec and his mother found it exhausting to meet the rigorous and formal schedule of games and practice
Despite the difficulty, Tyrec mother insisted he "finish what he started" and made he complete the season
Beyond learning the responsibility of a routine, Ms. Taylor didn't see any benefit from formal football that could not be attained from Tyrec easily going outside and playing informal football with his peers
In her eyes, it provided the same benefits without putting extra financial and time burdens on the family
Tyrec's parents had a desire for their son's well being and happiness
This was accomplished by providing Tyrec with a safe place to live and allowing him to pursue what made him happy within a set of rules and with a small amount of direct adult supervision or organization
This created a group that functions without adult monitoring, and learns how to construct and sustain friendships on their own and how to organize and negotiate with one another (Lareau 79)
Children never complained about being bored
Characteristics of Katie
White/Female/9 Years Old
4th Grader at Lower Richmond Elementary School
Lives in an apartment complex with mother CiCi and 18 month old half brother Melvin
Short and bouncy with thin blonde hair
Tries to look mature/older by the way she dresses, puts up hair (French twist), wears lipstick
Father refuses to contact or see her but will send gifts
Spends weekends at her Grandmother’s house
Best friend is cousin Amy, same age
Loves acting and being dramatic, can cry on demand (puts on many plays/skits with Amy)
Participates in Christian Youth Group and school’s choir
Reasons for Poor Working-Class Parents view of their childrens social lives as not particulary important
Aside from actual labor (in many cases parents have multiple jobs – although Katie’s mom CiCi currently unemployed while raising Melvin) much [more] labor goes into getting children through the day – getting up, showered, dressed, to school, home from school safely, have dinner, get homework done, get to bed at a good time.
These tasks take time and create frustration.
Process of making ends meet through public assistance requires time and effort (public transit, lines for food stamps/food/health care).
Process of completing homework: 90 minutes
Process of collecting food stamps and grocery shopping (including 20 minute ride to store): at least 60 minutes
The children do not see themselves as worthy of being catered to or special in daily life - gain a sense of constraint, as opposed to entitlement.
Constraint can cause children to become inhibited and reserved.
Children take real pleasure in their playtime.
Lack of adult attention leads to children focusing on pleasing themselves.
Children can become independent and imaginative.
Children show more creativity, spontaneity, enjoyment, and initiative in activity (compared to middle-class).
Example: Katie showed much independence throughout day
Walks to school on own
Makes snack without asking for help after school
Heating up can of Campbell’s soup:
Her actions look competent and routine as she opens the can, pours the soup into the aluminum pot, and heats it on the stove. She neither asks for nor receives any adult assistance. (Lareau, 86).
Accomplishments of Natural Growth (through 'play')
To sum it all up...
Chapter 5

Children's Play is for Children: Katie Brindle
Katie told me excitedly on the phone, “I’m making a dollhouse! My Grandmom brought me some boxes and I am making a doll house!” When I got [to the apartment], I asked her about the dollhouse. She shrugged her shoulders and looked discouraged. She said, “I don’t know how to make it.”
Katie picks up the box off the Formica counter [in the kitchen] and carries it high in the air over the living room and plops it down on the rug. She says, “Mom, will you help me?” Cici says, “Nah.” Katie is silent but disappointed. (Lareau, 82). 
Sometimes they [working-class and poor children observed] would request adults to pay attention to them or to assist them with activities. As this chapter shows, adults often (but not always) decline such requests. Generally, children accept these decisions silently, as Katie does with her dollhouse project. They do not pressure adults to cater to their wishes. (Lareau, 83).
By letting the children play on their own, outcomes are seen in children to become independent at a younger age.
Other advantages were that children appeared to be more relaxed as well as vibrant. They were not as tired. They did not seem staid or bored. When they were playing, they were fully engaged in the process; it seemed to be truly fun to them. (Lareau, 103).
Specific examples:
Katie choosing to join choir on own at school.
Katie joining youth Christian group on own.
Katie truly enjoys acting/being dramatic (creating skits as an activity at home) and showed growth in creativity and enjoyment (long periods of time coming up with skits and a feeling of “being good” at it – including acting out dying and crying).
Can be seen as attention seeking for mother.
Activities are not always ignored:
CiCi periodically agrees to watch (while smiling occasionally) Katie and her cousin perform skits, and also occasionally plays Monopoly with her.
But nurturing her children’s creative development is not something she sees as her responsibility. In general, she believes that children’s play is for children. (Lareau, 101).
Katie’s life is dominated by informal play, both with children she joins outdoors, in the parking lot of her apartment building, and with her cousin, Amy, at their Grandmom’s house. In both working-class and poor families, parents seemed preoccupied by the amount of work involved in caring for children and by the effects of inadequate economic resources…parents appeared to believe that children would thrive naturally, without the benefit of special toys or lessons. (Lareau, 102).
Chapter 7
Why It's Unequal!
Institutionalized preferences become institutionalized inequality (Lareau, 164)
Parenting guidelines (developed by a few researchers) say:
Talking with children develops educational interest playing an active role in schooling (Lareau, 24). More words= better vocabulary
It is important to reason with children and teach them how to negotiate and solve problems rather than resorting to physical fights (Lareau, 24)
Negotiation develops reasoning skills
The McAlisters, classified as a poor family in Unequal Childhoods, use language as a functional tool. They use fewer words to clearly communicate with family members (Lareau, 129). On average, fewer words are spoken in the working class and poor households that Lareau has observed (Lareau, 170).
Working class and Low income households that were observed used short sentences and simple words. Children were seldom seen negotiating with adults (children did negotiate with other children as seen when Tyrec and his friends disagree while playing).
Main topic of conversation described in text: Bible camp (bible camp was not explicitly discussed, but most tasks that were completed (i.e. physical, shopping list) were so Harold could attend bible camp) money, food, sports, and what’s on TV.
 Language use in the Accomplishment of Natural Growth model
Adult to Child
Child to Adult
Children are respectful to adults responses to directives are often wordless
Negotiation is rare
Responses to parent directives are often quick/wordless responses (nodding head)
Children automatically refer to adults with respectful language
Types of Communication
Pros to Natural Growth Language usage
4th grader at Lower Richmond
Working-class and poor parents are no less eager than middle-class parents to see their children succeed in school.
However, they consider it the teacher’s job to teach their kids what they need to know.
They are more respectful of the expertise of their child’s teacher than middle-class parents. Rather than nagging the teacher about how to manage their child, they seek advice from the teacher as to how they can help.
This may be because they lack the requisite vocabulary to effectively challenge teachers. (Ex: Ms. Driver admitted that she couldn’t understand the reports the school sent her regarding Wendy’s reading progress. She may not have understood the terms “sight vocabulary” and “language arts skills”)
Possibly because of the disconnection created by this barrier, such parents have a tendency to merge authority figures into one indiscriminate group- ex: teachers, librarians, principals, etc.= “the school”
This parental attitude gives children the experience of home and school as two separate worlds that they move between. Middle-class parents, in contrast, foster an interconnectedness between the two domains.
Execeptions to the apparent respect of schools by working-class and poor parents
The Case of Wendy Driver
Wendy was three years behind in language based activities and took two special education classes a day.

-Ms. Driver monitored Wendy’s homework and supported her efforts to read, but she had only a vague notion of her daughter’s disabilities.

-She welcomed interventions, but didn’t request them and awaited the results rather than calling to ask for them.

-All the teachers and staff had a different idea of what was causing Wendy’s learning problem and a different opinion on how to intervene. They even disagreed on whether or not Wendy should be held back a grade. Ms. Driver thought she should be held back, but did not express this opinion and waited to go through with whatever the school decided.

-In a parent-teacher conference, Wendy’s teacher said to Ms. Driver, “If our roles were reversed- I’d be beating me on the head”, implying that if she’d taken an interventionist approach from the start, Wendy’s reading problem would never have been “allowed” to persist.
(Teachers wish working-class and poor parents would parent in the style of concerted cultivation like middle-class parents do.)

Chapter 11
General Information
Important to the Yanelli Family
Natural Growth VS Concerted Concentration

Lifelong Consequences of Natural Growth for Little Billy and others  

The Yanelli family like many other working class and poor families have difficulty adapting institutional recommendations when it comes to their personal lives.
Ms. Yanelli is very outspoken about her distrust and “hatred” of the school and employees. In addition, she feels pressured to change her parenting style. Little Billy is fully aware of these aspects of his mother’s life and seems to adopt them in some manner.

Lareau divulges minor mistakes in her methodology as well as insensitivities in the families’ portrayals
Explains her conviction that not submitting study results to respondents for review is NOT unethical
Presents responses of those interviewed to first edition of UC.
Compares her qualitative study with others’ quantitative work

Getting Personal
Lareau admits that research took a psychological toll
Describes personal issues that inhibited more in-depth research
Admits she was distressed by some respondents’ negative reaction to the book
Wrestles over ethical questions

Reactions of Respondents
Evenly split – 6 were pleased with their portrayal and 6 were not
Reactions inconsistent along racial and socioeconomic lines
UC evoked strong feelings and polarized opinions
Yanelli: “You made us look like poor white trash.”
Tallinger, Williams: cut off contact

Lareau vs. Lareau
Wrestles over whether it is ethical to publish study results that may surprise or enrage respondents
Impractical to invite respondent edits; would distort results and inject bias
Dishonest to invite respondent feedback but not edits: a token effort that might cause MORE pain
Conclusion: researchers are required to gain respondents’ consent but not feedback or edits

Quantitative vs. Qualitative
Answers the question: is the data in UC typical?
Presents quantitative results showing relationships between income level/maternal education and structured childhood activities
Controls for race, gender
As income level/maternal education increases, so does participation in organized activities

Unresolved Questions
Is Lareau’s quantitative “reality check” sufficient?
What exactly do the quantitative results validate?
The existence of soccer moms, OR
The reproduction of inequality?

“The life paths we pursue are neither equal nor freely chosen.”

Chapter 14 & 15
Letting Educators Lead The Way: Wendy Driver
Chapter 10
Beating With a Belt, Fearing "The School": Little Billy Yanelli
“Words are part and Parcel of the Human Experience” (Lareau, 129)
Short, direct, one word instructions. Adults tell children what to do, and children do it.
No debate
Language for completing tasks
Parent directed
child’s response is often one or two word answers
Language for discipline
Threats of physical violence
Parents discipline children without hesitation when necessary
Children observed who were raised in the accomplishment of Natural Growth developed a sense of constraint when functioning around figures of authority. Adults as a child; bosses, teachers and doctors as an adult.
Child to Child: exuberant during play and competitive sports
Language during play
Free flowing, boasting
Back and forth Banter
Communication during competitive sports
Language and persona transform (confidence was observed in Harold)
Verbal Challenges
Result: More autonomy from adults
No whining
Ease with peers
Development of resourcefulness and creativity
Tight-knit families
Deep respect for adults
Street smarts
Autonomy from adults
Lack of eye contact when speaking is less desirable in the workforce
Discomfort with authority figures can lead to feeling unable to discuss concerns, bad impressions during an interview
No development of reasoning skills (this is contradicted several times throughout the book)
Does not learn how to construct evidence to back-up reasoning or claim (negated by William Labov in “Academic Ignorance and Black Intelligence)
Limited vocabulary (I think she means in terms of academic language)
Does not gain the tools necessary for getting the rules to work to his advantage
Cons to Natural Growth Language Usage
Working-class and poor parents often resent the power teachers have to report anything they consider child abuse to social services. They fear that teachers will judge them as unable to properly take care of their children and that the state will take away their kids.

When Wendy’s school sent a note home saying she had a sore wrist, the Driver parents took her to the hospital. They guessed it was nothing serious, but feared the consequence if the school found out that they had done nothing.

Working-class and poor parents see the way schools deal with conflict as inappropriate and often advise their children to hit a kid who is bothering them.

Working class
“layered” family
Uses traditional gender roles in their home
Mr. and Ms. Yanelli are not married
Both Mr. and Ms Yanelli are high school dropouts.

Examples: He [Mr. Yanelli] enjoys his son and takes an active role in driving him to his baseball games, assisting the coach, and chastising Billy to swing at the ball. (PG 222)
“…he is not involved at all in Billy’s child care or schooling: “it’s her department.”” (PG 222)
Billy’s Schooling

Example: “His mother monitored his homework to make sure that it was done.” (PG 226)
Example: “With family , “there’s always somebody there for them and somebody who cares about them no matter what kind of life they have.”” (PG 226)

The Issue
Parents who use belts are at risk for being considered abusive much more than parents who engage in verbal abuse of children. (i.e. a mother who tells a child “I don’t want to be your mother anymore”). Schools, as arms of the state, selectively enforce child-rearing standards. (PG 221)

In the Yanelli family Natural Growth was clearly the childrearing strategy of choice.
Ms. Yanelli’s directives, instantly telling Billy to “cut it out” or to “go [take a shower]” created an environment of limited cognitive growth. Little Billy didn’t have to think about why he had to do certain things.
Similarly, Ms. Yanelli is also guilty of using “the belt” when she is frustrated. When Little Billy was in trouble for not following the directives he was punished. But the use of “the belt” and lack of reasoning did not cause Billy to understand the difference between right and wrong behaviors.

Chapter 12
The Power and Limits of
Social Class
Chapter 13
Class Differences in Parent's Information and Intervention in the Lives of Young Adults
Full transcript