Sunday, July 23, 2006

parenting as concerted cultivation

[This is the passage about parenting dynamics from today’s other posting that is more focused on socioeconomic factors.]

Annette Laueau’s ethnographic Unequal Childhoods: class, race, and family life indicates in detail what parents of successful children do. She finds that successful children are far more communicatively engaged by their parents, for the sake of facilitating broad engagement of their children’s lives, than are the parents of unsuccessful children. This might seem unsurprising; but what’s interesting is what the parents of successful children do: They’re enmeshed in a syndrome, so to speak, that educes cognitive development and independence, whereas the parents of unsuccessful children tend to believe that letting their children have “freedom”—that “natural growth” takes care of itself—is good parenting.

The parents of successful children have a sense of lovingly engaging and tracking their kids, reasoning with them rather than dictating, insisting on their involvement in this-and-that—what Lareau calls “Concerted Cultivation” (CC below). This is not about being a “helicopter parent.” But parents of unsuccessful children tend to be dis-involved. They have a “Natural Growth” (NG) attitude toward good parenting.

From the table “Typolology of Differences in Child Rearing…” on page 31:

language use: CC involves trying to reason with the kids and justify directives; NG tends to simply issue directives. CC acquiesces to “child contestation” of adult statements; NG doesn’t find questioning acceptable. CC: “extended negotiations between parent and child”; NG: “general acceptance by child of directives”

intervention in institutions: CC: “criticisms and interventions on behalf of child” (caused by non-acceptance of constraints); NG: “dependence on institutions” (caused by acceptance of constraints). CC: “training of child to take on this role”; NG: “sense of powerlessness and frustration” and “conflict between childrearing practices at home” (paternalistic parent-to-child) “and at school” (adult-to-child).

organization of daily life CC: “multiple child leisure activities orchestrated by adults”; NG: “‘hanging out’, particularly with kin, by child”

key elements: CC: “Parent actively fosters and assesses child’s talents, opinions, and skills”; NG: “Parent cares for child and allows child to grow”

consequences: CC: “emerging sense of entitlement on the part of the child”; NG: “ emerging sense of constraint on the part of the child”

This is a developmental class difference—not as such a socioeconomic class difference with different developmental correlates (though this may happen to be the case, too); rather, a differentiation of developmentality that fosters socioeconomic class difference! This is not a chicken-and-egg quibble. It’s within one’s power to learn to change developmental class when it’s not yet in one’s power to change socioeconomic class. The ambitious mentality of the voluntary immigrant who turns out to thrive may be equally available to the native poor who persistently fail. ...