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Reflective Writing #2

gcrossnoe's picture

I found Lareau's categorization of child-rearing into two distinct methods, concerted cultivation and the accomplishment of natural growth, and her ascription of each method to a specific socioeconomic class to be very problematic.

First of all, although I can accept Lareau's proposition of two different methods by which to raise children, I think it is false to assume that they are mutually exclusive. Although there might very well be instances in which a child experiences no structure, but only "accomplishment of natural growth," as well as situations in which a child has no free time, and experiences only "concerted cultivation," I think most parents employ elements of both techniques. Personally, I had my fair share of activities -- Girl Scouts, church choir, YMCA soccer, piano lessons -- that I went to every week, and my parents often encouraged me and my sister to work through our problems verbally. In this manner, I am a product of concerted cultivation. However, I also know that during elementary and middle school, I was allowed to go wherever my bike could take me. My friends and I were constantly at each other's houses, hiking along the river that ran next to our town, playing soccer in nearby fields, and creating impromptu games of capture the flag. According to Lareau, these activities could only be performed by children of "accomplishment of natural growth." Since many of the friends that I explored creeks and played tag with were in Girl Scouts with me, I know that the children I grew up with were also experiencing a combination of Lareau's two methods.

For this reason, operating on Lareau's proposition that there are only two methods of raising children, I think her labels should be seen on a spectrum instead of two distinct, isolated categories. I believe that a majority of American children experience both structure and free time, and it is wrong to assume that if a child receives one type, she does not receive the other.

Additionally, I do agree with Lareau's argument that social class has an effect on a child's growth, education, and activities, in the sense that having more money allows a child to have more opportunities. However, I am not convinced that a person's paycheck can predict how they will raise their son or daughter. First and foremost, social classes are not as distinct as Lareau supposes. As someone mentioned in class last week (or two weeks ago?), they had thought that they came from a middle class family until they read the description of the Tallinger's home. There is a wide variance within social classes that Lareau ignores.

This exacerbates her assumption that a child's social class determines whether they are raised according to "concerted cultivation" or "accomplishment of natural growth." I think it is a gross oversimplification to assume that all working-class children prefer unstructured play time to organized activities, or that all upper middle-class families have a "relentless focus on reasoning and negotiation." I think it is absurd to believe that a parents' income determines how much conversation occurs in a household.

In conclusion, I felt that Lareau's theory had some convincing segments, but overall, her application attempted to explain more than it could. Her conclusions created too many false dichotomies in a world that is hardly ever separated into two distinct categories.