Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life

By | February 25, 2018
Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life

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.

3 thoughts on “Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life

  1. Tinie
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    A Master’s Thesis – repetitive and shallow on analsyis but none-the-less an interesting topic., January 12, 2018
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    This review is from: Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life (Kindle Edition)
    The premise of this book is interesting and the initial questions raised when reviewing the concepts generally cause one to mind dwell into the “what-if” scenarios and the reason why I bought the book. However, I was not overly excited to learn the book was not really what I expected. It is written as if it were a Master’s Thesis for the public. The extreme redundant nature of the writing, backtracking, and excessive levels of detail do not leave an opportunity to consider the true essence of the consequences and effects of the different forms of being raised. Sure, a thesis form of writing is good for those studying to be a sociologist or concerned with the traditional academic writing form but not for the general public. (obviously it was not written for the general public but maybe for some alternative motive that is not easily deciphered – maybe to pad the resume. Clearly a lot of work went into the study and I respect the effort. I just think there was so much more to write about than the research foundation. The book needs to focus more on the analysis and not the background detail and repetition of points.
  2. Anonymous
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Very accessible read and makes a great gift, February 7, 2018
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    I greatly enjoyed this book. It stood out from the other books assigned in my graduate sociology program because it was very accessible, rather than strictly academic. It has had a lasting effect on how I think of childhood education and how that education affects the rest of people’s lives. I’ve since given it to a long-time public school teacher who also found it very interesting. I did find some parts a bit repetitive and believe it could have been edited a bit more to remove the redundant parts. I just skimmed those parts and they did not take away from the content of the book. I also very much appreciated the 10-year followup. I would recommend it to everyone and believe it will be eye-opening for many people who work with children (and those that don’t!).
  3. Anonymous
    1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A Must Read For Everyone, October 15, 2015
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    Tinie (New York, NY) –

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    This book was part of the reading material for my 400-level Purdue University Sociology course. It has taught me A LOT about the various aspects of family and child-life in the families of different SES in the US. Now, I have passed the book on to my mum as suggested reading, and she too has claimed to have learned a lot about the lives of American families, as well as opening her eyes to other aspects of child-rearing. Once again, this is definitely a book worth the read.

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