In 2003 Annette Lareau, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, published her famous book Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. Hailed as a hallmark ethnographic study on family life, the study explored parenting dynamics and parenting differences between middle-class families and that of the working-class and poor. Lareau and several of her graduate assistants set out to examine how the different socioeconomic status of 88 families determined the fate of children and prepared them (or not) for work, professionalism, independence, and the market, irrespective of race. While highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of child-rearing practices in all classes, Lareau nonetheless posited that “concerted cultivation” — the middle-class parenting approach — paid off in the long run while working class parenting styles — accomplishment by natural growth — helped less in developing children’s verbal and time management skills, professionalism, and independence, all of which facilitate employment and advancement in the market.
Recently, she released an updated edition of her book that includes a follow-up with several children from the original study. For any researcher studying child development, family life, child-rearing practices, or something similar, this book is a valuable examination that highlights the importance of class when thinking about children’s outcomes. Although Lareau readily admits there is nothing new about her argument, the ethnographic approach she uses to study class-based parenting styles is relatively new. See the Chronicle of Higher Education article for more information on the new edition.