Penn State

Sukhdeep Gill - Professor of Human Development and Family Studies, Penn State York

Book Title: Unequal Childhoods: Race, Class, and Family Life. Second Edition. A Decade Later.

Author: Annette Lareau

Book Description:

I chose Unequal Childhoods because it provides compelling evidence of the ways in which social stratification shapes life chances for children and families. When I first read this book, I found it a refreshing change from examining only quantitative data. It delves into the rich fabric of everyday lives of families to provide an understanding of how growing up in diverse contexts affords or shrinks opportunities and choices made by families. Lareau’s conceptualization of ‘concerted cultivation’ and ‘natural growth’ and her expert handling of the ethnographic data to explain how parents from different social and economic backgrounds raise their children makes it easily accessible for students to comprehend the manner in which families’ physical, financial, and social resources enhance or curtail life chances for children. Lareau draws a vivid picture of everyday family interactions based on participant-observations of twelve White and African American families. This allows the reader to understand how similarities and differences in family dynamics, parent-child interactions, parents’ struggles to meet family demands and aspirations, and children’s lived experiences result in either a sense of entitlement or constraint even before those children enter formal institutions. I find this research as relevant today as I did when the first edition of this book was published more than a decade ago.

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