Lareau's "Unequal Childhood" Paper Analysis

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Before critically discussing Lareau’s Unequal childhood’s paper, it is important to briefly mention a few conceptual terms in order to get the gist of what Lareau was trying to convey to her readers.

First, according to Macionis (2004) the term family is defined as a social institution found in all societies that unite people in cooperative groups to oversee the bearing and raising of children. Same author also discusses several theoretical approaches have been identified that identifies the family as a form of social institution and how the family unit interconnect with other social institutions within any given society. According to the Structural-Functional Analysis for example, the family serves as a unit that perform many vital tasks which include socialization, regulation of sexual activity (reproduction), social placement and emotional support. According to the Social-Conflict Analysis, the family unit contributes to the perpetuation in inequality solely based on race, class, gender, gender and ethnicity. Finally, Symbolic-Interaction Analysis focuses on the changing dynamics of any family structure and how it evolves over the life course of an individual.

In reading Lareau’s paper, I clearly can see where the sociologist’s Social-Conflict and Structural Functional Analysis plays into the author’s term of Concerted Cultivation. According to Lareau for example, she found that middle class families fostered their children’s talents through organized leisure activities which was supposed to teach children respect for authority figures and how to properly interact within a structured environment. Parents became role models in helping their children to learn various skills such as reasoning, use of proper language, bargaining as well as how to think critically. This form of structured/organized child bearing practices was seen as opportunities thus creating and instilling a sense of entitlement especially within various social institutions such as education for example where children are allowed to ask adults questions and saw adults as their equals. This style of child bearing allowed parents to be fully engaged in their children’s lives thus providing their children confidence and the ability to advance in certain social institutions such as employment, education and within their own communities.

On the other hand, Lareau’s concept of Natural Growth is far different and somewhat similar to the sociologist’s theoretical concept of Symbolic Interaction Analysis. The concept of Natural Growth implies that the parent cares for their child but as a means to support a child’s natural growth. Evidence of this could be seen whereas children would spend most of their non-school time in unstructured play with age mates. This form of child-bearing practices was found in working class families or those of lower socio-economic status. Children raised in this type of environment are left in activities that are usually unstructured (i.e. hang out) and thus did not provide equal opportunities to develop skills such as those children raised using the concerted cultivation style of child bearing. Due to socio-economic status, parents often times did not have the time to spend with their children due to disparities in employment hours for example or forcing families to work more than one job in order to “make ends meat” thus taking qualitative time away from their children which is supposed to foster nurturance and a sense of entitlement.

The strengths and weakness between these two styles of child bearing practices vary. For example, the uses of language provided by parents unto their child were different between those using Concerted Cultivation vs. Natural Growth. For example, a parent using the Natural Growth practice may say unto their child “I told you not to touch the remote control” and the child might respond by saying “why not” and the parent’s reply would simply be because “I said so.” The weakness here is that a child...
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