Lareau, Annette. 2003. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. 1st ed. University of California Press.
Unequal childhoods is a book about class differences in how parents raise children. The book illustrates quite clearly that children raised in middle class homes are raised under a model of “concerted cultivation,” which involves lots of extracurricular activities (e.g., sports, lessons, tutoring, etc.), greater detail to language use and development, and parental interventions in institutions in ways designed to benefit middle class children. Children raised in working class and poor homes are raised under a model of “natural development,” which does not include the above characteristics and instead results in children having lots of free time (typically to play outside with friends or watch TV), limited extracurricular involvement, limited attention to language development, and an almost oppositional and antagonistic view of institutions. The implications of these different parenting styles are discussed, though, admittedly, the lack of data illustrating the advantages and detriments of the two styles as children age is not included in the book.
To illustrate the two different parenting styles, the author and several research assistants interview and observe about a dozen families across three classes: middle, working, and poor. They also include both black and white families but find limited differences between the two based on race; like white families, the bigger differences are the result of class differences.
The bulk of the book is made up of chapters detailing the lives of the children observed and illustrating how their lives reflect the different parenting practices. The parenting practices do seem to be distinct based on the data provided and there are very few instances when parents from one class employs the methods or models from the other class.
As noted, the biggest limitation of the book is that it speculates as to the actual implications of these different parenting styles and does not provide longitudinal data illustrating the outcomes. Despite this limitation, the book is interesting to read as it provides deep, insightful access into the lives of everyday people with a keen perspective on how parents parent and children are raised.