Annette Lareau’s book Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life has generated a great deal of discussion in courses, on listservs, in the popular press about contrasts in childrearing in upper-middle class homes and working class homes.
Lareau characterizes middle-class child-rearing as “concerted cultivation”. Children are often hyper-scheduled and goal-driven, raised with a sense of entitlement by parents who schedule their own lives around their offspring’s many activities and who coach their children in negotiating their way through institutions and organizations.
Working-class child-rearing is described as facilitating “natural growth”. Children engage in free play, and are more often responsible for their own entertainment. They are more likely to spend unsupervised time with siblings, cousins, and neighbors in driveway games or runs to the neighborhood store.
Journalists, students, and even some family scholars have argued the benefits of middle-class childhoods filled with structured activity and the intense personal involvement of parents.
Now, from the American Academy of Pediatrics (via the Family Involvement Network of Educators at Harvard) comes this report on the importance of ample time for free play for children’s physical, intellectual, social, and emotional health.
Will working-class parents now be given credit for “getting it” and perhaps even be held up as models for middle-class parents?