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,QYLVLEOH,QHTXDOLW\6RFLDO&ODVVDQG&KLOGUHDULQJLQ%ODFN)DPLOLHVDQG:KLWH)DPLOLHV $XWKRU V $QQHWWH/DUHDX 6RXUFH$PHULFDQ6RFLRORJLFDO5HYLHZ9RO1R 2FW SS 3XEOLVKHGE\American Sociological Association 6WDEOH85/http://www.jstor.org/stable/3088916 . $FFHVVHG Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. . American Sociological Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to American Sociological Review. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY: SOCIAL CLASS AND CHILDREARING IN BLACK FAMILIES AND WHITE FAMILIES ANNETTE LAREAU Temple University Although family life has an important impact on children's life chances, the mechanisms through which parents transmit advantages are imperfectly understood. An ethnographic data set of white children and black children approximately 10 years old shows the effects of social class on interactions inside the home. Middle-class parents engage in concerted cultivation by attempting to foster children's talents through organized leisure activities and extensive reasoning. Working-class and poor parents engage in the accomplishment of natural growth, providing the conditions under which children can grow but leaving leisure activities to children themselves. These parents also use directives rather than reasoning. Middle-class children, both white and black, gain an emerging sense of entitlement from their family life. Race had much less impact than social class. Also, differences in a cultural logic of childrearing gave parents and their children differential resources to draw on in their interactions with professionals and other adults outside the home. Middle-class children gained individually insignificant but cumulatively important advantages. Working-class and poor children did not display the same sense of entitlement or advantages. Some areas offamily life appeared exempt from the effects of social class, however. In recent decades, sociological knowledge about inequality in family life has increased dramatically. Yet, debate persists, especially about the transmission of class advantages to children. Kingston (2000) and others question whether disparate aspects of family life cohere in meaningful patterns. Direct correspondence to Annette Lareau, Department of Sociology, 756 Gladfelter Hall, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122 (annette.lareau@temple.edu).An early version of this article was issued as a working paper by the Center for Working Families, University of California, Berkeley. I benefited from audience comments on earlier drafts presented at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in 2000, the University of California (Berkeley, Davis, and San Diego), University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and Temple University. Patricia Berhau, Anita Garey, Karen Hanson, Erin McNamara Horvat, Sam Kaplan, Michele Lamont, Karen Shirley, Barrie Thorne, Elliot AMERICAN Pointing to a "thin evidentiary base" for claims of social class differences in the interior of family life, Kingston also asserts that "class distinguishes neither distinctive parenting styles or distinctive involvement of kids" in specific behaviors (p. 134). One problem with many studies is that they are narrowly focused. Researchers look at the influence of parents' education on parWeininger, and Julia Wrigley made helpful suggestions, as did the ASR reviewers. For funding, I thank the Spencer Foundation, Sloan Foundation, ASA/NSF Grantsfor the Discipline, Temple Grant-in-Aid, and Southern Illinois University. I am indebted to the project's research assistants, particularly Wendi Starr Brown, Gillian Johns, Caitlin Howley-Rowe, Greg Seaton, and Mary Woods, all of whose field notes appear in the article. I thank Nikki Johnson who assisted in production of the manuscript, and M. Katherine Mooney for editorial assistance. Errors are my responsibility. SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW, 2002, VOL. 67 (OCTOBER:747-776) This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 747 748 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW ent involvement in schooling or at children's time spent watching television or at time spent visiting relatives. Only a few studies examine more than one dynamic inside the home. Second, much of the empirical work is descriptive. For example, extensive research has been done on time use, including patterns of women's labor force participation, hours parents spend at work, and mothers' and fathers' contributions to childcare (Hertz and Marshall 2001; Jacobs and Gerson 1998; Menaghan 1991). Time parents spend with children also has been examined (Bianchi 2000; Bianchi and Robinson 1997; Marsiglio 1991; Presser 1989; Zick and Bryant 1996), as well as patterns of children's time use (Hofferth and Sandberg 2001b; Juster and Stafford 1985; Sandberg and Hofferth 2001). But these works have not given sufficient attention to the meaning of events or to the ways different family contexts may affect how a given task is executed (but see Daley 2001; Rubin 1976; Thorne 2001). Third, researchers have not satisfactorily explained how these observed patterns are produced. Put differently, conceptualizations of the social processes through which fami- lies differ are underdeveloped and little is known about how family life transmits advantages to children. Few researchers have attempted to integrate what is known about behaviors and attitudes taught inside the home with the ways in which these practices may provide unequal resources for family members outside the home. A key exception is the work by Kohn and colleagues (e.g., Kohn and Schooler 1983), where the authors arguethat middle-class parentsvalue self-direction while working-class parents place a premium on "conformity to external authority." These researchers did not investigate, however, how parents go about translating these beliefs into actions. Fourth, little is known about the degree to which children adopt and enact their parents' beliefs. Sociologists of the family have long stressed the importance of a more dynamic model of parent-child interaction (Skolnick 1991), but empirical research has been slow to emerge (but see Hess and Handel 1974). Ethnographers' efforts to document children's agency have provided vivid but highly circumscribed portraits (Shehan 1999; Waksler 1991), but most of the case studies look at only one social class or one ethnic group. Moreover, ethnographerstypically do not explicitly examine how social class advantages are transmittedto children. I draw on findings from a small, intensive data set collected using ethnographic methods. I map the connections between parents' resources and their children's daily lives. My first goal, then, is to challenge Kingston's (2000) argument that social class does not distinguish parents' behavior or children's daily lives. I seek to show empirically that social class does indeed create distinctive parenting styles. I demonstrate that parents differ by class in the ways they define their own roles in their children's lives as well as in how they perceive the nature of childhood. The middle-class parents, both white and black, tend to conform to a culturallogic of childrearingI call "concertedcultivation." They enroll their children in numerous agespecific organized activities that dominate family life and create enormous labor, particularly for mothers. The parents view these activities as transmittingimportantlife skills to children. Middle-class parents also stress language use and the development of reasoning and employ talking as their preferred form of discipline. This "cultivation" approach results in a wider range of experiences for children but also creates a frenetic pace for parents, a cult of individualism within the family, and an emphasis on children's performance.1 The childrearing strategies of white and black working-class and poor parents emphasize the "accomplishment of natural growth."2These parents believe that as long I In a study of mothers' beliefs about childrearing, Hays (1996) found variations in how working-class and middle-class mothers sorted information, but she concluded that a pattern of "intensive mothering" was present across social classes. My study of behavior found class differences but, as I discuss below, in some instances working-class and poor parents expressed a desire to enroll their children in organized activities. 2 Some significant differences between the study's working-class and poor families (e.g., only the poor children experienced food shortages) are not highlighted here because, on the dimensions discussed in this paper, the biggest dif- This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY as they provide love, food, and safety, their children will grow and thrive. They do not focus on developing their children's special talents. Compared to the middle-class children, working-class and poor children participate in few organized activities and have more free time and deeper, richer ties within their extended families. Working-class and poor parents issue many more directives to their children and, in some households, place more emphasis on physical discipline than do the middle-class parents. These findings extend Kohn and Schooler's (1983) observation of class differences in parents' values, showing that differences also exist in the behavior of parents and children. Quantitativestudies of children's activities offer valuable empirical evidence but only limited ideas about how to conceptualize the mechanisms through which social advantage is transmitted. Thus, my second goal is to offer "conceptualumbrellas"useful for making comparisons across race and class and for assessing the role of social structurallocation in shaping daily life.3 Last, I trace the connections between the class position of family members-including children-and the uneven outcomes of their experiences outside the home as they interact with professionals in dominant institutions. The pattern of concerted cultivation encourages an emerging sense of entitlement in children. All parentsand children are not equally assertive, but the patternof questioning and intervening among the white and black middle-class parents contrasts sharply with the definitions of how to be helpful and effective observed among the white and ferences were between middle-class and nonmiddle-class families. See Lareau (forthcoming) for a more elaborate discussion as well as Lamont (2000) for distinctions working-class families draw between themselves and the poor; see McLanahan and Sandefur (1994) regarding family structure and children's lives. 3 Case studies of nonrandom samples, such as this one, have the limitation that findings cannot be generalized beyond the cases reported. These examples serve to illustrate conceptual points (Burawoy et al. 1991) ratherthan to describe representative patterns of behavior. A further limitation of this study is that the data were collected and analyzed over an extended period of time. (see the "Methodology" section). 749 black working-class and poor adults. The pattern of the accomplishment of natural growth encourages an emerging sense of constraint. Adults as well as children in these social classes tend to be deferential and outwardly accepting in their interactions with professionals such as doctors and educators. At the same time, however, compared to their middle-class counterparts,white and black working-class and poor family members are more distrustful of professionals. These are differences with potential longterm consequences. In an historical moment when the dominant society privileges active, informed, assertive clients of health and educational services, the strategies employed by children and parents are not equally effective across classes. In sum, differences in family life lie not only in the advantagesparents obtain for their children, but also in the skills they transmit to children for negotiating their own life paths. METHODOLOGY STUDY PARTICIPANTS This study is based on interviews and observations of children, aged 8 to 10, and their families. The data were collected over time in three research phases. Phase one involved observations in two third-grade classrooms in a public school in the Midwestern community of "Lawrenceville."4After conducting observations for two months, I grouped the families into social class (and race) categories based on information provided by educators. I then chose every third name, and sent a letter to the child's home asking the mother and father to participate in separate interviews. Over 90 percent of parents agreed, for a total of 32 children (16 white and 16 African American). A black graduate student and I interviewed all mothers and most fathers (or guardians) of the children. Each interview lasted 90 to 120 minutes, and all took place in 1989-1990. 4 All names of people and places are pseudonyms.The Lawrencevilleschool was in a white suburbanneighborhoodin a universitycommunity a few hoursfrom a metropolitanarea.The studentpopulationwas abouthalf white andhalf black; the (disproportionately poor) black childrenwerebusedfromotherneighborhoods. This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 750 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW Phase two took place at two sites in a northeasternmetropolitan area. One school, "Lower Richmond," although located in a predominantly white, working-class urban neighborhood, drew about half of its students from a nearby all-black housing project. I observed one third-grade class at Lower Richmond about twice a week for almost six months. The second site, "Swan," was located in a suburban neighborhood about 45 minutes from the city center. It was 90 percent white; most of the remaining 10 percent were middle-class black children.5 There, I observed twice a week for two months at the end of the third grade; a research assistant then observed weekly for four more months in the fourth grade.6 At each site, teachers and parents described their school in positive terms.7The observations took place between September 1992 and January1994. In the fall of 1993, I drew an interview sample from Lower Richmond and Swan, following the same method of selection used for Lawrenceville. A team of research assistants and I interviewed the parents and guardiansof 39 children. Again, the response rate was over 90 percent but because the classrooms did not generate enough black middle-class children and white poor children to fill the analytical categories, interviews were also conducted with 17 families with children aged 8 to 10. (Most of these interviews took place during the summers of 1996 and 1997.)8 Thus, the total 5 Over three-quartersof the students at Lower Richmond qualified for free lunch; by contrast, Swan did not have a free lunch program. 6 At both sites, we attended school events and observed many parent-teacherconferences. Also, I interviewed the classroom teachers and adults involved in the children's organized activities. These interview data are not presented here. 7 Both schools had computer labs, art programs, and music programs, but Swan had many more resources and much higher average achievement scores. Graffiti and physical confrontations between students were common only at Lower Richmond. At these two sites and in Lawrenceville, white faculty predominated. 8 I located the black middle-class parents through social networks; the white poor families were located through flyers left at welfare offices and social service programs, and posted on telephone poles. Ten white poor families (only) were paid $25 per interview. number of children who participated in the study was 88 (32 from the Midwest and 56 from the Northeast). FAMILY OBSERVATIONS Phase three, the most intensive research phase of the study, involved home observations of 12 children and their families in the Northeast who had been previously interviewed (see Table 1).9 Some themes, such as language use and families' social connections, surfaced mainly during this phase. Although I entered the field interested in examining the influence of social class on children's daily lives, I incorporated new themes as they "bubbled up" from the field observations. The evidence presented here comes mainly from the family observations, but I also use interview findings from the full sample of 88 children where appropriate. 1o Nine of the 12 families came from the Northeastern classroom sample. The home observations took place, one family at a time, from December 1993 to August 1994. Three 10-year-olds (a black middle-class boy and girl and a white poor boy) who were not part of the classroom sample were ob- 9 Of 19 families asked to participate in the intensive study, 7 declined (a response rate of 63 percent). I tried to balance the observational phase sample by gender, race, and class, and to "mix and match" the children on other characteristics, such as their behavior with peers, their relationships with extended family, and their parents' level of involvement in their education. The aim was to lessen the chance that observed differences in behavior would reflect unknown variables (e.g., church attendance or parents' participation at school). Last, I deliberately included two families (Irwins, Greeleys) who had some "middle-class" traits but who lived in a workingclass and poor area, respectively. Including these unusual families seemed conceptually important for disentangling the influences of social class and environment (neighborhood). 10I analyzed the data for the study as a whole in two ways. I coded themes from the interviews and used Folio Views software to help establish patterns. I also relied on reading the field notes, thinking about similarities and differences across families, searching for disconfirming evidence, and re-reading the field notes. This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 751 INVISIBLE INEQUALITY Table 1. Frequency Distribution of Children in the Study by Social Class and Race White Black Total 18 (GarrettTallinger) (Melanie Handlon) 18 (AlexanderWilliams) (Stacey Marshall) 36 14 (Billy Yanelli) (Wendy Driver) 12 (Tyrec Taylor) (Jessica Irwin)c 26 Workingclass b 12 (KarlGreeley) (Katie Brindle) 14 (HaroldMcAllister) (TaraCarroll) 26 Poor d 44 44 88 Social Class Middle class a Total sample Note: The names in each cell of the table indicate the childrenselected to take place in the family-observation phase of the study. a Middle-class children are those who live in households in which at least one parentis employed in a position that either entails substantialmanagerialauthorityor that draws upon highly complex, educationally certified skills (i.e., college-level). b Working-classchildrenare those who live in householdsin which neitherparentis employedin a middleclass position and at least one parentis employed in a position with little or no managerialauthorityand that does not draw on highly complex, educationallycertified skills. This category includes lower-level whitecollar workers. c An inter-racialgirl who has a black fatherand a white mother. d Poor children are those who live in households in which parentsreceive public assistance and do not participatein the laborforce on a regular,continuousbasis. served in their homes during the summer of 1995.11 The research assistants and I took turns visiting the participating families daily, for a total of about 20 visits to each home, often in the space of one month.12The observations went beyond the home: Fieldworkers followed children and parents as they participated in school activities, church services and events, organized play, visits to relatives, and medical appointments. Observa- IIRecruitmentto complete the sample was difficult as children needed to be a specific age, race, and class, and to be part of families who were willing to be observed. The white poor boy was recommended by a social service program manager; the black middle-class children were located through extended social networks of mine. 12 We did 12 to 14 observations of the Handlon and Carroll families before settling on the 20visit pattern. In Alexander Williams's case, the visits occurred over a year. To observe unusual events (e.g., a family reunion), we sometimes went back after formal observations had ended. tions typically lasted three hours, but sometimes much longer (e.g., when we observed an out-of-town funeral, a special extended family event, or a long shopping trip). Most cases also involved one overnight visit. We often carried tape recorders and used the audiotapes for reference in writing field notes. Writing field notes usually required 8 to 12 hours for each two- or three-hourhome visit. Participating families each were paid $350, usually at the end of the visits. We worked in teams of three. One fieldworker visited three to four times per week; another visited one to two times per week; and I visited once or twice per week, except for the two families for which I was lead fieldworker. The research teams' composition varied with the race of the family. Two white graduatestudents and I (a middle-aged white woman) visited the white families; for the black families, the teams included one white graduate student, one black graduate student, and me. All black families with male children were visited by teams that included a black male fieldworker. A white This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 752 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW male fieldworker observed the poor family with the white boy; the remaining white fieldworkers were female. Team members met regularly to discuss the families and to review the emerging analytic themes. Our presence altered family dynamics, especially at first. Over time, however, we saw signs of adjustment (e.g., yelling and cursing increased on the third day and again on the tenth). The children, especially, seemed to enjoy participating in the project. They reported it made them feel "special." They were visibly happy to see the fieldworkers arrive and reluctant to let them leave. The working-class and poor black boys were more comfortable with the black male fieldworkers than with the white female ones, especially at first.13 Overall, however, family members reported in exit interviews that they had not changed their behavior significantly, or they mentioned very specific alterations (e.g., "the house got cleaner"). A NOTE ON CLASS I undertook field observations to develop an intensive, realistic portraitof family life. Although I deliberately focused on only 12 families, I wanted to compare children across gender and race. Adopting the finegrained differentiationscharacteristicof current neo-Marxist and neo-Weberian empirical studies was not tenable.14 Furtherlimitations were imposed by the school populations at the sites I selected. Very few students were children of employers or of selfemployed workers. I decided to focus exclusively on those whose parents were employees. Authority in the workplace and "credential barriers"are the criteria most commonly used to differentiate within this heterogeneous group. I assigned the families to a working-class or middle-class category 13 Families developed preferences, favoring one fieldworker in a team over another. But these preferences were not stable across families, and the field notes did not differ dramatically between fieldworkers. Notes were much more similar than they were different. 14Wright (1997) uses 12 categories in his neoMarxist approach. Goldthorpe, a neo-Weberian, operationalizes his class schema at levels of aggregation ranging from 3 to 11 categories (Erikson and Goldthorpe 1993:38-39). based on detailed information that each of the employed adults provided about the work they did, the natureof the organization that employed them, and their educational credentials. I also included a category traditionally excluded from class groupings: families not involved in the labor market. In the first school I studied, many children were from households supported by public assistance. Omitting them would have restricted the scope of the study arbitrarily.15 The three class categories conceal important internal variations. The Williams family (black) and the Tallinger family (white) have very high incomes, both in excess of $175,000; the median income among the middle-class parents was much lower.16 Income differences among the middle-class families were not associated with differences in childrearing methods. Moreover, no other data in the study showed compelling intraclass divisions. I consider the use of one term-middle class-to be reasonable. CONCERTED CULTIVATION AND NATURAL GROWTH The interviews and observations suggested that crucial aspects of family life cohered. Within the concerted cultivation and accomplishment of natural growth approaches, three key dimensions may be distinguished: the organization of daily life, the use of language, and social connections. ("Interventions in institutions"and "consequences"are addressed later in the paper.) These dimensions do not capture all important parts of family life, but they do incorporate core aspects of childrearing (Table 2). Moreover, our field observations revealed that behaviors and activities related to these dimensions dominated the rhythms of family life. 15 Here "poor" refers to the source of income (i.e., government assistance versus labor market) rather than the amount of income. Although lower class is more accurate than poor, it is widely perceived as pejorative. I might have used "underclass," but the literature has defined this term in racialized ways. 16 Dollar figures are from 1994-1995, unless otherwise noted. Income was not used to define class membership, but these data are available from the author. This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY 753 Table 2. Summary of Differences in Childrearing Approaches ChildrearingApproach ConcertedCultivation Accomplishmentof NaturalGrowth Dimension Observed Key elements of each approach Parentactively fosters and assesses child's talents, opinions, and skills Parentcares for child and allows child to grow Organizationof daily life Multiplechild leisure activities are orchestratedby adults Child "hangsout"particularlywith kin Languageuse Reasoning/directives Child contestationof adult statements Extendednegotiationsbetween parentsand child Directives Rarefor child to question or challenge adults Generalacceptanceby child of directives Social connections Weak extended family ties Child often in homogenousage groupings Strongextendedfamily ties Child often in heterogeneousage groupings Interventionsin institutions Criticismsand interventionson behalf of child Trainingof child to interveneon his or her own behalf Dependenceon institutions Sense of powerlessnessand frustration Conflict between childrearing practicesat home and at school Consequences Emergingsense of entitlementon the partof the child Emergingsense of constrainton the partof the child Conceptually, the organization of daily life and the use of language are crucial dimensions. Both must be present for the family to be described as engaging in one childrearing approach rather than the other. Social connections are significant but less conceptually essential. All three aspects of childrearing were intricately woven into the families' daily routines, but rarely remarked upon. As part of everyday practice, they were invisible to parents and children. Analytically, however, they are useful means for comparing and contrasting ways in which social class differences shape the characterof family life. I now examine two families in terms of these three key dimensions. I "control" for race and gender and contrast the lives of two black boys-one from an (upper) middleclass family and one from a family on public assistance. I could have focused on almost any of the other 12 children, but this pair seemed optimal, given the limited number of studies reporting on black middleclass families, as well as the aspect of my argument that suggests that race is less im- portant than class in shaping childrearing patterns. DEVELOPING ALEXANDER WILLIAMS Alexander Williams and his parents live in a predominantlyblack middle-class neighborhood. Their six-bedroom house is worth about $150,000.17 Alexander is an only child. Both parents grew up in small towns in the South, and both are from large families. His father, a tall, handsome man, is a very successful trial lawyer who earns about $125,000 annually in a small firm specializing in medical malpracticecases. Two weeks each month, he works very long hours (from about 5:30 A.M. until midnight) preparingfor trials. The other two weeks, his workday 17 Mr. and Ms. Williams disagreed about the value of their home; the figure here averages what each reported in 1995. Housing prices in their region were lower-and continue to be lower today-than in many other parts of the country. Their property is now worth an estimated $175,000 to $200,000. This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 754 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW ends around 6:00 P.M. He rarely travels out of town. Alexander's mother, Christina, is a positive, bubbly woman with freckles and long, black, wavy hair.18A high-level manager in a major corporation, she has a corner office, a personal secretary,and responsibilities for other offices across the nation. She tries to limit her travel, but at least once a month she takes an overnight trip. Alexander is a charming, inquisitive boy with a winsome smile. Ms. Williams is pleased that Alexander seems interested in so many things: Alexanderis a joy. He's a gift to me. He's very energetic,very curious,loving, caring person, that, urn ... is outgoing and who, uh, reallyloves to be with people.Andwho loves to explore,andloves to readand ... just do a lot of fun things. The private school Alexander attends19 has an on-site after-school program. There, he participates in several activities and receives guitar lessons and photography instruction. ORGANIZATION OF DAILY LIFE. Alexanderis busy with activities during the week and on weekends (Table 3). His mother describes their Saturday morning routine. The day starts early with a private piano lesson for Alexander downtown, a 20-minute drive from the house: It's an 8:15 class. But for me, it was a tradeoff.I am very adamantaboutSaturday morningTV. I don't know what it contributes. So . . . it was . . . um . . . either stay at home and fight on a Saturday morning [laughs] or go do something constructive.... Now Saturday mornings are pretty bookedup. You know,the pianolesson, and then straightto choirfor a couple of hours. So, he has a very full schedule. 18 Alexander'smothergoes by ChristinaNile at work,butMrs.Williamsat church.Someother mothers' last names also differ from their children's.HereI assignall mothersthe samelast namesas theirchildren. 19 I contacted the Williams family through social networks after I was unable to recruit the black middle-class families who had participated in the classroom observation and interview phase. As a result, I do not have data from classroom observations or parent-teacherconferences for Alexander. Ms. Williams's vehement opposition to television is based on her view of what Alexander needs to grow and thrive. She objects to TV's passivity and feels it is her obligation to help her son cultivate his talents. Sometimes Alexander complains that "my mother signs me up for everything!" Generally, however, he likes his activities. He says they make him feel "special," and without them life would be "boring." His sense of time is thoroughly entwined with his activities: He feels disoriented when his schedule is not full. This unease is clear in the following field-note excerpt. The family is driving home from a Back-to-School night. The next morning, Ms. Williams will leave for a work-related day trip and will not return until late at night. Alexander is grumpy because he has nothing planned for the next day. He wants to have a friend over, but his mother rebuffs him. Whining, he wonders what he will do. His mother, speaking tersely, says: You have piano and guitar. You'll have some free time. [Pause] I think you'll survive for one night. [Alexander does not respond but seems mad. It is quiet for the rest of the trip home.] Alexander's parents believe his activities provide a wide range of benefits important for his development. In discussing Alexander's piano lessons, Mr. Williams notes that as a Suzuki student,20Alexander is already able to read music. Speculating about more diffuse benefits of Alexander's involvement with piano, he says: I don't see how any kid's adolescence and adulthood could not but be enhanced by an awareness of who Beethoven was. And is that Bach or Mozart? I don't know the difference between the two! I don't know Baroque from Classical-but he does. How can that not be a benefit in later life? I'm convinced that this rich experience will make him a better person, a better citizen, a better husband, a better father-certainly a better student. 20 The Suzuki method is labor intensive. Students are required to listen to music about one hour per day. Also, both child and parent(s) are expected to practice daily and to attend every lesson together. This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY 755 Table 3. Participation in Activities Outside of School: Boys Activities Organized by Adults Informal Activities Garrett Tallinger (white) Soccer team Traveling soccer team Baseball team Basketball team (summer) Swim team Piano Saxophone (through school) Plays with siblings in yard Watches television Plays computer games Overnights with friends Alexander Williams (black) Soccer team Baseball team Community choir Church choir Sunday school Piano (Suzuki) School plays Guitar (through school) Restricted television Plays outside occasionally with two other boys Visits friends from school Billy Yanelli (white) Baseball team Watches television Visits relatives Rides bike Plays outside in the street Hangs out with neighborhood kids Tyrec Taylor (black) Football team Vacation Bible School Sunday school (off/on) Watches television Plays outside in the street Rides bikes with neighborhood boys Visit relatives Goes to swimming pool Karl Greeley (white) Goes to swimming pool Walks dogs with neighbor Watches television Plays Nintendo Plays with siblings Harold McAllister (black) Bible study in neighbor's house (occasionally) Bible camp (1 week) Visits relatives Plays ball with neighborhood kids Watches television Watches videos Boy's Name/Race/Class Middle Class WorkingClass Poor Ms. Williams sees music as building her son's "confidence" and his "poise." In interviews and casual conversation, she stresses "exposure." She believes it is her responsibility to broaden Alexander's worldview. Childhood activities provide a learning ground for importantlife skills: Sportsprovidegreat opportunitiesto learn how to be competitive.Learnhow to accept defeat,you know.Learnhow to acceptwinning, you know, in a graciousway. Also it gives himthe opportunity to learnleadership skills and how to be a team player. ... Sportsreally providesa lot of really great opportunities. Alexander's schedule is constantly shifting; some activities wind down and others start up. Because the schedules of sports practices and games are issued no sooner than the start of the new season, advance planning is rarely possible. Given the sheer number of Alexander's activities, events inevitably overlap. Some activities, though This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 756 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW short-lived, are extremely time consuming. Alexander's school play, for example, requires rehearsals three nights the week before the opening. In addition, in choosing activities, the Williamses have an added concern-the group's racial balance. Ms. Williams prefers that Alexander not be the only black child at events. Typically, one or two other black boys are involved, but the groups are predominantly white and the activities take place in predominantly white residential neighborhoods. Alexander is, however, part of his church's youth choir and Sunday School, activities in which all participants are black. Many activities involve competition. Alex must audition for his solo performancein the school play, for example. Similarly, parents and children alike understandthat participation on "A," "B," or "All-Star"sports teams signal different skill levels. Like other middle-class children in the study,Alexander seems to enjoy public performance.According to a field note, after his solo at a musical production in front of over 200 people, he appeared "contained, pleased, aware of the attention he's receiving." Alexander's commitments do not consume all his free time. Still, his life is defined by a series of deadlines and schedules interwoven with a series of activities that are organized and controlled by adults ratherthan children. Neither he nor his parentssee this as troublesome. LANGUAGE USE. Like other middle-class families, the Williamses often engage in conversation that promotes reasoning and negotiation. An excerpt from a field note (describing an exchange between Alexander and his mother during a car ride home after summer camp) shows the kind of pointed questions middle-class parents ask children. Ms. Williams is not just eliciting information. She is also giving Alexander the opportunity to develop and practice verbal skills, including how to summarize, clarify, and amplify information: As she drives, [Ms. Williams] asks Alex, "So,how was yourday?" Alex: "Okay.I hadhot dogs today,but they wereburned!Theywere all black!" Mom:"Oh,great.You shouldn'thave eaten any." Alex: "They weren't all black, only half were. The rest were regular." Mom: " Oh, okay. What was that game you were playing this morning? ... Alex: "It was [called]'Whatcha doin?"' Mom: "How do you play?" Alexander explains the game elaboratelyfieldworker doesn't quite follow. Mom asks Alex questions throughout his explanation, saying, "Oh, I see," when he answers. She asks him about another game she saw them play; he again explains.... She continues to prompt and encourage him with small giggles in the back of her throat as he elaborates. Expressions of interest in children's activities often lead to negotiations over small, home-based matters. During the same car ride, Ms. Williams tries to adjust the dinner menu to suit Alexander: Alexander says, "I don't want hot dogs tonight." Mom: "Oh? Because you had them for lunch." Alexander nods. Mom: "Well, I can fix something else and save the hot dogs for tomorrow night." Alex: "But I don't want any pork chops either." Mom: "Well, Alexander, we need to eat something. Why didn't you have hamburgers today?" Alex: "They don't have them any more at the snack bar." Mom asks Alexander if he's ok, if he wants a snack. Alexander says he's ok. Mom asks if he's sure he doesn't want a bag of chips? Not all middle-class parents are as attentive to their children's needs as this mother, and none are always interested in negotiating. But a general pattern of reasoning and accommodating is common. SOCIAL CONNECTIONS. Mr. and Ms. Wil- liams consider themselves very close to their extended families. Because the Williams's aging parents live in the South, visiting requires a plane trip. Ms. Williams takes Alexander with her to see his grandparents twice a year. She speaks on the phone with her parents at least once a week and also This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY calls her siblings several times a week. Mr. Williams talks with his mother regularly by phone (he has less contact with his stepfather). With pride, he also mentions his niece, whose Ivy League education he is helping to finance. Interactions with cousins are not normally a part of Alexander's leisure time. (As I explain below, other middle-class children did not see cousins routinely either, even when they lived nearby.) Nor does he often play with neighborhood children. The huge homes on the Williams's street are occupied mainly by couples without children. Most of Alexander's playmates come from his classroom or his organized activities. Because most of his school events, church life, and assorted activities are organized by the age (and sometimes gender) of the participants, Alexander interacts almost exclusively with children his own age, usually boys. Adultorganized activities thus define the context of his social life. Mr. and Ms. Williams are aware that they allocate a sizable portion of time to Alexander's activities. What they stress, however, is the time they hold back. They mention activities the family has chosen not to take on (such as traveling soccer). SUMMARY. Overall, Alexander's parents engaged in concerted cultivation. They fostered their son's growth through involvement in music, church, athletics, and academics. They talked with him at length, seeking his opinions and encouraging his ideas. Their approachinvolved considerable direct expenses (e.g., the cost of lessons and equipment) and large indirect expenses (e.g., the cost of taking time off from work, driving to practices, and foregoing adult leisure activities). Although Mr. and Ms. Williams acknowledged the importance of extended family, Alexander spent relatively little time with relatives. His social interactions occurred almost exclusively with children his own age and with adults. Alexander's many activities significantly shaped the organization of daily life in the family. Both parents' leisure time was tailored to their son's commitments. Mr. and Ms. Williams felt that the strategies they cultivated with Alexander would result in his having the best possible chance at a happy and productive life. They couldn't imagine themselves not investing 757 large amounts of time and energy in their son's life. But, as I explain in the next section, which focuses on a black boy from a poor family, other parents held a different view. SUPPORTING THE NATURAL GROWTH OF HAROLD MCALLISTER Harold McAllister, a large, stocky boy with a big smile, is from a poor black family. He lives with his mother and his 8-year-old sister, Alexis, in a large apartment.Two cousins often stay overnight. Harold's 16-yearold sister and 18-year-old brother usually live with their grandmother,but sometimes they stay at the McAllister's home. Ms. McAllister, a high school graduate,relies on public assistance (AFDC). Hank, Harold and Alexis's father, is a mechanic. He and Ms. McAllister have never married. He visits regularly, sometimes weekly, stopping by after work to watch television or nap. Harold (but not Alexis) sometimes travels across town by bus to spend the weekend with Hank. The McAllister's apartmentis in a public housing project near a busy street. The complex consists of rows of two- and three-story brick units. The buildings, blocky and brown, have small yards enclosed by concrete and wood fences. Large floodlights are mounted on the corners of the buildings, and wide concrete sidewalks cut through the spaces between units. The ground is bare in many places; paper wrappersand glass litter the area. Inside the apartment,life is humorous and lively, with family members and kin sharing in the daily routines. Ms. McAllister discussed, disdainfully, mothers who are on drugs or who abuse alcohol and do not "look after" their children. Indeed, the previous year Ms. McAllister called Child Protective Services to report her twin sister, a cocaine addict, because she was neglecting her children. Ms. McAllister is actively involved in her twin's daughters'lives. Her two nephews also frequently stay with her. Overall, she sees herself as a capable mother who takes care of her children and her extended family. ORGANIZATION OF DAILY LIFE. Much of Harold's life and the lives of his family members revolve aroundhome. Project resi- This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 758 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW dents often sit outside in lawn chairs or on front stoops, drinking beer, talking, and watching children play. During summer, windows are frequently left open, allowing breezes to waft through the units and providing vantage points from which residents can survey the neighborhood. A large deciduous tree in front of the McAllister's apartment unit provides welcome shade in the summer's heat. Harold loves sports. He is particularly fond of basketball, but he also enjoys football, and he follows televised professional sports closely. Most afternoons, he is either inside watching television or outside playing ball. He tosses a football with cousins and boys from the neighboring units and organizes pick-up basketball games. Sometimes he and his friends use a rusty, bare hoop hanging from a telephone pole in the housing project; other times, they string up an old, blue plastic crate as a makeshift hoop. One obstacle to playing sports, however, is a shortage of equipment. Balls are costly to replace, especially given the rate at which they disappear-theft of children's play equipment, including balls and bicycles, is an ongoing problem. During a field observation, Harold asks his mother if she knows where the ball is. She replies with some vehemence, "They stole the blue and yellow ball, and they stole the green ball, and they stole the other ball." Hunting for balls is a routine part of Harold's leisure time. One June day, with the temperature and humidity in the high 80's, Harold and his cousin Tyrice (and a fieldworker) wander around the housing project for about an hour, trying to find a basketball: We head to the otherside of the complex. On the way . .. we passed four guys sitting on the step. Theirages were 9 to 13 years. They had a radioblaring.Two were working intentlyon fixing a flat bike tire. The othertwo weredribblinga basketball. Harold:"Yo!What'sup, ya'll." Group:"What'sup,Har.""What'sup?"Yo." They continued to work on the tire and dribbletheball.As we walkeddownthehill, Haroldasked,"Yo,couldI use yourball?" Theguy responded,lookingup fromthetire, "Naw,man.Ya'll mightlose it." Harold, Tyrice, and the fieldworker walk to anotherpart of the complex, heading for a makeshift basketball court where they hope to find a game in progress: No such luck. Harold enters an apartment directly in front of the makeshift court. The door was open.... Harold came back. "No ball. I guess I gotta go back." The pace of life for Harold and his friends ebbs and flows with the children's interests and family obligations. The day of the basketball search, for example, after spending time listening to music and looking at baseball cards, the children join a water fight Tyrice instigates. It is a lively game, filled with laughter and with efforts to get the adults next door wet (against their wishes). When the game winds down, the kids ask their mother for money, receive it, and then walk to a store to buy chips and soda. They chat with anotheryoung boy and then amble back to the apartment,eating as they walk. Another afternoon, almost two weeks later, the children-Harold, two of his cousins, and two children from the neighborhoodand the fieldworker play basketball on a makeshift court in the street (using the fieldworker's ball). As Harold bounces the ball, neighborhood children of all ages wander through the space. Thus, Harold's life is more free-flowing and more child-directed than is Alexander Williams's. The pace of any given day is not so much planned as emergent, reflecting child-based interests and activities. Parents intervene in specific areas, such as personal grooming, meals, and occasional chores, but they do not continuously direct and monitor their children's leisure activities. Moreover, the leisure activities Harold and other working-class and poor children pursue require them to develop a repertoireof skills for dealing with much older and much younger children as well as with neighbors and relatives. LANGUAGE USE. Life in the workingclass and poor families in the study flows smoothly without extended verbal discussions. The amount of talking varies, but overall, it is considerably less than occurs in the middle-class homes.21 Ms. McAllister 21 Hart and Risley (1995) reported a similar difference in speech patterns. In their sample, by This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY jokes with the children and discusses what is on television. But she does not appear to cultivate conversation by asking the children questions or by drawing them out. Often she is brief and direct in her remarks. For instance, she coordinates the use of the apartment's only bathroomby using one-word directives. She sends the children (there are almost always at least four children home at once) to wash up by pointing to a child, saying one word, "bathroom,"and handing him or her a washcloth. Wordlessly, the designated child gets up and goes to the bathroom to take a shower. Similarly, although Ms. McAllister will listen to the children's complaints about school, she does not draw them out on these issues or seek to determine details, as Ms. Williams would. For instance, at the start of the new school year, when I ask Harold about his teacher, he tells me she is "mean" and that "she lies." Ms. McAllister, washing dishes, listens to her son, but she does not encourage Harold to support his opinion about his new teacher with more examples, nor does she mention any concerns of her own. Instead, she asks about last year's teacher, "What was the name of that man teacher?" Harold says, "Mr. Lindsey?" She says, "No, the other one." He says, "Mr. Terrene." Ms. McAllister smiles and says, "Yeah. I liked him." Unlike Alexander's mother, she seems content with a brief exchange of information. SOCIAL CONNECTIONS. Children, especially boys, frequently play outside. The number of potential playmates in Harold's world is vastly higher than the number in Alexander's neighborhood. When a fieldworker stops to count heads, she finds 40 children of elementary school age residing in the nearby rows of apartments. With so many children nearby, Harold could choose to play only with others his own age. In fact, though, he often hangs out with older and younger children and with his cousins (who are close to his age). The McAllister family, like other poor and working-class families, is involved in a web about age three, children of professionals had larger vocabularies and spoke more utterances per hour than the parents of similarly aged children on welfare. 759 of extended kin. As noted earlier, Harold's older siblings and his two male cousins often spend the night at the McAllister home. Celebrations such as birthdaysinvolve relatives almost exclusively. Party guests are not, as in middle-class families, friends from school or from extra-curricularactivities. Birthdays are celebrated enthusiastically, with cake and special food to mark the occasion; presents, however, are not offered. Similarly, Christmas at Harold's house featured a tree and special food but no presents. At these and other family events, the older children voluntarily look after the younger ones: Harold plays with his 16-month-old niece, and his cousins carry aroundthe younger babies. The importance of family ties-and the contingent nature of life in the McAllister's world-is clear in the response Alexis offers when asked what she would do if she were given a million dollars: Oh, boy! I'd buy my brother,my sister,my uncle, my aunt,my nieces andmy nephews, and my grandpop,and my grandmom,and my mom, and my dad, and my friends,not my friends,but mostly my best friend-I'd buy themall clothes...andsneakers.AndI'd buy some food, and I'd buy my mom some food, andI'd get my brothersandmy sisters gifts for theirbirthdays. SUMMARY. In a setting where everyone, including the children, was acutely aware of the lack of money, the McAllister family made do. Ms. McAllister rightfully saw herself as a very capable mother. She was a strong, positive influence in the lives of the children she looked after. Still, the contrast with Ms. Williams is striking.Ms. McAllister did not seem to think that Harold's opinions needed to be cultivated and developed. She, like most parents in the working-class and poor families, drew strong and clear boundaries between adults and children. Adults gave directions to children. Children were given freedom to play informally unless they were needed for chores. Extended family networks were deemed important and trustworthy. THE INTERSECTION OF RACE AND CLASS IN FAMILY LIFE I expected race to powerfully shape children's daily schedules, but this was not This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 760 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW evident (also see Conley 1999; PattilloMcCoy 1999). This is not to say that race is unimportant.Black parents were particularly concerned with monitoring their children's lives outside the home for signs of racial problems.22 Black middle-class fathers, especially, were likely to stress the importance of their sons understanding "what it means to be a black man in this society" (J. Hochschild 1995). Mr. Williams, in summarizing how he and his wife orient Alexander, said: [Wetryto] teachhimthatraceunfortunately is the most importantaspectof our national life. I meanpeoplelook at otherpeopleand they see a color first.But thatisn't going to definewhohe is. He will do his best.He will succeed,despiteracism.AndI thinkhe lives his life thatway. Alexander's parentswere acutely aware of the potential significance of race in his life. Both were adamant, however, that race should not be used as "an excuse" for not striving to succeed. Mr. Williams put it this way: I discusshow raceimpactson my life as an attorney,andI discusshow racewill impact on his life. The one teachingthat he takes awayfromthis is thathe is neverto use discriminationas an excuse for not doing his best. Thus far, few incidents of overt racism had occurred in Alexander's life, as his mother noted: Those situationshave been far and few between.... I mean, I can count them on my fingers. Still, Ms. Williams recounted with obvious pain an incident at a birthday party Alexander had attended as a preschooler. The grandparentsof the birthday child repeatedly asked, "Who is that boy?" and exclaimed, "He's so dark!" Such experiences fueled the Williams's resolve always to be "cautious": 22 This section focuses primarily on the concerns of black parents. Whites, of course, also benefited from race relations, notably in the scattering of poor white families in working-class neighborhoods rather than being concentrated in dense settings with other poor families (Massey and Denton 1993). We've never been, uh, parents who drop off their kid anywhere. We've always gone with him. And even now, I go in and-to school in the morning-and check [in]. . . . The school environment, we've watched very closely. Alexander's parents were not equally optimistic about the chances for racial equality in this country. Ms. Williams felt strongly that, especially while Alexander was young, his father should not voice his pessimism. Mr. Williams complained that this meant he had to "watch" what he said to Alexander about race relations. Still, both parents agreed about the need to be vigilant regarding potential racial problems in Alexander's life. Other black parents reportedexperiencing racial prejudice and expressed a similar commitment to vigilance. Issues surroundingthe prospect of growing up black and male in this society were threaded through Alexander's life in ways that had no equivalent among his middleclass, white male peers. Still, in fourth grade there were no signs of racial experiences having "takenhold" the way that they might as Alexander ages. In terms of the number and kind of activities he participatedin, his life was very similar to that of Garrett Tallinger, his white counterpart (see Table 3). That both sets of parents were fully committed to a strategy of concentrated cultivation was apparentin the number of adult-organized activities the boys were enrolled in, the hectic pace of family life, and the stress on reasoning in parent-child negotiations. Likewise, the research assistants and I saw no striking differences in the ways in which white parents and black parents in the working-class and poor homes socialized their children. Others (Fordham and Ogbu 1986) have found that in middle school and high school, adolescent peer groups often draw sharp racial boundaries, a patternnot evident among this study's third- and fourth-grade participants (but sometimes present among their older siblings). Following Tatum (1997:52), I attribute this to the children's relatively young ages (also see "Race in America," The New York Times, June 25, 2000, p. 1). In sum, in the broader society, key aspects of daily life were shaped by racial segregation and discrimination. But in terms of enroll- This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY ment in organized activities, language use, and social connections, the largest differences between the families we observed were across social class, not racial groups. DIFFERENCES IN CULTURAL PRACTICES ACROSS THE TOTAL SAMPLE The patterns observed among the Williams and McAllister families occurred among others in the 12-family subsample and across the larger group of 88 children. Frequently, they also echoed established patterns in the literature. These patterns highlight not only the amount of time spent on activities but also the quality of family life and the ways in which key dimensions of childrearing intertwine. ORGANIZATION OF DAILY LIFE In the study as a whole, the rhythms of family life differed by social class. Workingclass and poor children spent most of their free time in informal play; middle-class children took part in many adult-organized activities designed to develop their individual talents and interests. For the 88 children, I calculated an average score for the most common adult-directed, organized activities,23based on parents' answers to interview questions.24 Middle-class children averaged 4.9 currentactivities (N = 36), working-class children averaged 2.5 activities (N = 26), and poor children averaged 1.5 (N = 26). 25 Black 23 Activities coded as "organized" are Scouts/ Brownies, music lessons, any type of sports lesson (e.g., gymnastics, karate), any type of leagueorganized sports (e.g., Little League), dance lessons, choir, religious classes (excluding religious primary school), arts and crafts classes, and any classes held at a recreation center. 24 As other studies have found, the mothers in my sample were far more knowledgeable than the fathers about their children's daily lives and spent more time caring for children (Crouter et. al. 1999; Thompson 1999). Family observations showed fathers playing a very important role in family dynamics, however, especially by contributing laughter and humor (Lareau 2000b). 25 Some data are missing. The list of activities was so long we sometimes shortened it to conserve time (we always asked respondents, how- 761 middle-class children had slightly more activities than white middle-class children, largely connected to more church involvement, with an average of 5.2 (N = 18) compared with 4.6 activities for whites (N = 18). The racial difference was very modest in the working-class group (2.8 activities for black children [N = 12] and 2.3 for white children [N = 14]) and the poor group (1.6 activities for black children [N = 14] and 1.4 for white children [N = 12]). Middle-class boys had slightly more activities than middle-class girls (5.1 versus 4.7, N = 18 for both) but gender did not make a difference for the other classes. The type of activity did however. Girls tended to participate in dance, music, and Scouts, and to be less active in sports. This patternof social class differences in activities is comparableto other, earlier reports (Medrich et al. 1982). Hofferth and Sandberg's (2001a, 2000b) recent research using a representative national sample suggests that the number of children's organized activities increases with parents' education and that children's involvement in organized activities has risen in recent decades. The dollar cost of children's organized activities was significant, particularly when families had more than one child. Cash outlays included paying the instructors and coaches who gave lessons, purchasing uniforms and performance attire, paying for tournamentadmission and travel to and from tournaments, and covering hotel and food costs for overnight stays. Summer camps also were expensive. At my request, the ever, whether there were any activities their children had experienced that were not covered in the list). On average, middle-class parents were not queried concerning 2.5 of the approximately 20 items on the list; working-class parents were not asked about 3.0 items; and poor parents were not asked about 2.0 items. Since the sample is nonrandom, inferential procedures are not applicable. At a reviewer's request, I carried out a Scheffe post hoc test of group differences and found significant differences (at the p < .001 level) between the middle-class children and the working-class and poor children. The difference between working-class and poor children is nonsignificant (at the p < .05 level). Statistically significant differences do not occur across racial groups or by gender; nor are there significant interactions between race or gender and class. This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 762 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW Table 4. Participation in Activities Outside of School: Girls Girl's Name/Race/Class Activities Organizedby Adults InformalActivities Melanie Handlon(white) Girl Scouts Piano Sundayschool Church Churchpageant Violin (throughschool) Softball team Restrictedtelevision Plays outside with neighborhood kids Bakes cookies with mother Swims (not on swim team) Listens to music Stacey Marshall(black) Gymnasticslessons Gymnasticteams Church Sundayschool Youth choir Watchestelevision Plays outside Visits friendsfrom school Rides bike Wendy Driver (white) Catholiceducation(CCD) Dance lessons School choir Watchestelevision Visits relatives Does housework Rides bike Plays outside in the street Hangs out with cousins Jessica Irwin (black father/ white mother) Church Sundayschool Saturdayartclass School band Restrictedtelevision Reads Plays outside with neighborhood kids Visit relatives Katie Brindle (white) School choir Fridayevening churchgroup (rarely) Watchestelevision Visits relatives Plays with Barbies Rides bike Plays with neighborhoodkids TaraCarroll(black) Church Sundayschool Watchestelevision Visits relatives Plays with dolls Plays Nintendo Plays with neighborhoodkids Middle Class WorkingClass Poor Tallingers added up the costs for Garrett's organized activities. The total was over $4,000 per year. Recent reports of parents' expenditures for children's involvement in a single sport (e.g., hockey) are comparably high (Schemari 2002). Children's activities consumed time as well as money, co-opting parents' limited leisure hours. The study also uncovered differences in how much time children spent in activities controlled by adults. Take the schedule of Melanie Handlon, a white middle-class girl in the fourth grade (see Table 4). Between December 8 and December 24, Melanie had a piano lesson each Monday, Girl Scouts each Thursday, a special Girl Scout event one Monday night, a special holiday musical performance at school one Tuesday night, two orthodontist appointments, five special rehearsals for the church Christmas pageant, and regular Sunday commitments (an early church service, Sunday school, and youth choir). On weekdays she spent several hours after school struggling with her home- This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY work as her mother coached her step-by-step through the worksheets. The amount of time Melanie spent in situations where her movements were controlled by adults was typical of middle-class children in the study. The schedule of Katie Brindle, a white fourth-graderfrom a poor family, contrasts sharply, showing few organized activities between December 2 and 24. She sang in the school choir. This involved one after-school rehearsal on Wednesdays; she walked home by herself after these rehearsals. Occasionally, Katie attended a Christian youth group on Friday nights (i.e., December 3). Significantly, all her activities were free. She wanted to enroll in ballet classes, but they were prohibitively expensive. What Katie did have was unstructuredleisure time. Usually, she came home after school and then played outside with other children in the neighborhood or, watched television. She also regularly visited her grandmother and her cousins, who lived a few minutes away by bus or car. She often spent weekend nights at her grandmother's house. Overall, Katie's life was centered in and around home. Comparedwith the middle-class children in the study, her life moved at a dramatically less hectic pace. This pattern was characteristic of the other working-class and poor families we interviewed. In addition to these activities, television provided a major source of leisure entertainment. All children in the study spent at least some free time watching TV, but there were differences in when, what, and how much they watched. Most middle-class parents we interviewed characterizedtelevision as actually or potentially harmful to children; many stressed that they preferred their children to read for entertainment.Middle-class parents often had rules about the amount of time children could spend watching television.26 These concerns did not surface in interviews with working-class and poor parents. Indeed, Ms. Yanelli, a white working-class mother, 26 Recent time-diary data suggest that middleclass parents' reports of how much time their children spend watching television are significantly lower than their children's actual viewing time (Hofferth 1999). There is no comparable gap shown in national data for less educated parents. 763 objected to restricting a child's access to television, noting, "You know, you learn so much from television." Working-class and poor parents did monitor the content of programs and made some shows off-limits for children. The television itself, however, was left on almost continuously (also see Robinson and Godbey 1997). LANGUAGE USE The social class differences in language use we observed were similar to those reported by others (see Bernstein 1971; Hart and Risley 1995; Heath 1983). In middle-class homes, parents placed a tremendous emphasis on reasoning. They also drew out their children's views on specific subjects. Middle-class parents relied on directives for matters of health and safety, but most other aspects of daily life were potentially open to negotiation: Discussions arose over what children wore in the morning, what they ate, where they sat, and how they spent their time. Not all middle-class children were equally talkative, however. In addition, in observations, mothers exhibited more willingness to engage children in prolonged discussions than did fathers. The latter tended to be less engaged with children overall and less accepting of disruptions (A. Hochschild 1989). In working-class and poor homes, most parents did not focus on developing their children's opinions, judgments, and observations. When children volunteered information, parents would listen, but typically they did not follow up with questions or comments. In the field note excerpt below, Wendy Driver shares her new understanding of sin with the members of her white working-class family. She is sitting in the living room with her brother (Willie), her mother, and her mother's live-in boyfriend (Mack). Everyone is watching television: Wendy asks Willie: "Do you know what mortalsin is?" Willie:"No." WendyasksMom:"Doyou knowwhatmortal sin is?" Mom: "What is it?" Wendy asks Mack:"Do you know what it is?" This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 764 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW Mack: "No." Mom: "Tell us what it is. You're the one who went to CCD [Catholic religious education classes]." Wendy: "It's when you know something's wrong and you do it anyway." No one acknowledged Wendy's comment. Wendy's mother and Mack looked at her while she gave her explanation of mortal sin, then looked back at the TV. Wendy's family is conversationally cooperative, but unlike the Williamses, for example, no one here perceives the moment as an opportunity to further develop Wendy's vocabulary or to help her exercise her critical thinking skills. Negotiations between parents and children in working-class and poor families were infrequent. Parents tended to use firm directives and they expected prompt, positive responses. Children who ignored parental instructions could expect physical punishment. Field notes from an evening in the home of the white, working-class Yanelli family capture one example of this familiar dynamic. It is past 8:00 P.M. Ms. Yanelli, her son Billy, and the fieldworker are playing Scrabble. Mr. Yanelli and a friend are absorbed in a game of chess. Throughout the evening, Billy and Ms. Yanelli have been at odds. She feels Billy has not been listening to her. Ms. Yanelli wants her son to stop playing Scrabble, take a shower, and go to bed. Mom: "Billy, shower. I don't care if you cry, screams." Billy: "We're not done with the Scrabble game." Mom: "You're done. Finish your homework earlier."That evening, Billy had not finished his homework until 8:00 P.M. Billy remains seated. Mom: "Come on! Tomorrow you've got a big day." Billy does not move. Mom goes into the other room and gets a brown leather belt. She hits Billy twice on the leg. Mom: "Get up right now! Tomorrow I can't get you up in the morning. Get up right now!" Billy gets up and runs up the steps. Ms. Yanelli's disciplinary approachis very different from that of the middle-class parents we observed. Like most working-class and poor parents we observed, she is directive and her instructions are nonnegotiable ("Billy, shower" and "You're done."). Using a belt may seem harsh , but it is neither a random nor irrational form of punishment here. Ms. Yanelli gave Billy notice of her expectations and she offered an explanation (it's late, and tomorrow he has "a big day"). She turned to physical discipline as a resource when she felt Billy was not sufficiently responsive.27 SOCIAL CONNECTIONS We also observed class differences in the context of children's social relations. Across the sample of 88 families, middle-class children's involvement in adult-organized activities led to mainly weak social ties. Soccer, photographyclasses, swim team, and so on typically take place in 6 to 8 week blocks, and participant turnover rates are relatively high. Equally important, middle-class children's commitment to organized activities generally pre-empted visits with extended family. Some did not have relatives who lived nearby,but even among those who did, children's schedules made it difficult to organize and attend regular extended-family gatherings. Many of the middle-class children visited with relatives only on major holidays.28 Similarly, middle-class parents tended to forge weak rather than strong ties. Most reported having social networks that included professionals: 93 percent of the sample of middle-class parents had a friend or relative who was a teacher, compared with 43 percent of working-class parents and 36 percent 27 During an interview, Ms. Yanelli estimated that during the previous two weeks, she had used the belt twice, but she noted that her use varied widely. Not all working-class and poor parents in the study used physical punishment, but the great majority did rely heavily on directives. 28 Interviews were open-ended; respondents' varied answers preclude summarizing the data in a single scale that would accurately measure differences in kinship ties by class. For details regarding social class and kin group contact, see Fischer (1982). This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY of poor families. For a physician friend or relative, the patternwas comparable (70 percent versus 14 percent and 18 percent, respectively).29Relationships such as these are not as deep as family ties, but they are a valuable resource when parents face a challenge in childrearing. Working-class and poor families were much less likely to include professionals in their social networks but were much more likely than their middle-class counterpartsto see or speak with kin daily. Children regularly interacted in casually assembled, heterogeneous age groups that included cousins as well as neighborhoodchildren. As others have shown (Lever 1988), we observed gender differences in children's activities. Although girls sometimes ventured outside to ride bikes and play ball games, compared with boys they were more likely to stay inside the house to play. Whether inside or outside, the girls, like the boys, played in loose coalitions of kin and neighbors and created their own activities. Interactions with representatives of major social institutions (the police, courts, schools, and government agencies) also appeared significantly shaped by social class. Members of white and black working-class and poor families offered spontaneous comments about their distrust of these officials. For example, one white working-class mother described an episode in which the police had come to her home looking for her ex-husband (a drug user). She recalled officers "breakingdown the door" and terrifying her eldest son, then only three years old. Another white working-class mother reported that her father had been arrested. Although by all accounts in good spirits, he had been found dead in the city jail, an alleged suicide. Children listened to and appeared to absorb remarks such as these. 765 Fear was a key reason for the unease with which working-class and poor families approached formal (and some informal) encounters with officials. Some parents worried that authorities would "come and take [our] kids away." One black mother on public assistance interviewed as part of the larger study was outraged that school personnel had allowed her daughter to come home from school one winter day without her coat. She noted that if she had allowed that to happen, "the school" would have reported her to Child Protective Services for child abuse. Wendy Driver's mother (white working-class) complained that she felt obligated to take Wendy to the doctor, even when she knew nothing was wrong, because Wendy had gone to see the school nurse. Ms. Driver felt she had to be extra careful because she didn't want "them" to come and take her kids away.30Strikingly, no middleclass parents mention similar fears about the power of dominant institutions. Obviously, these three dimensions of childrearing patterns-the organization of daily life, language use, and social connections-do not capture all the class advantages parents pass to their children. The middle-class children in the study enjoyed relatively privileged lives. They lived in large houses, some had swimming pools in their backyards, most had bedrooms of their own, all had many toys, and computers were common. These children also had broad horizons. They flew in airplanes, they traveled out of state for vacations, they often traveled an hour or two from home to take part in their activities, and they knew older children whose extracurricularactivities involved international travel. Still, in some important areas, variations among families did not appearto be linked to social class. Some of the middle-class children had learning problems. And, despite 29 The overall sample included 36 middleclass, 26 working-class,and 26 poor families. For the question on teachers, there were responsesfrom 31 middle-classparents,21 working-class parents,and 25 poor parents.For the questionon doctors,the responsesby class numbered26, 21, and22. Similarresultswere found for knowinga psychologist,familycounselor,or lawyer(dataavailablefromthe author).Racedid not influencethe results. 30 How misguided parents' suspicions might be is hard to assess. The counselor at Lower Richmond, who regularly reported children to the Department of Human Services as victims of neglect, maintained that she did so only in the gravest cases and only after repeated interventions had failed. The working-class and poor parents, however, generally saw "the school's actions" as swift, capricious, and arbitrary. This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 766 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW their relatively privileged social-class position, neither middle-class children nor their parents were insulated from the realities of serious illness and premature death among family and friends. In addition, some elements of family life seemed relatively immune to social class, including how orderly and tidy the households were. In one white middle-class family, the house was regularly in a state of disarray.The house was cleaned and tidied for a ChristmasEve gathering, but it returnedto its normal state shortly thereafter. By contrast, a black middle-class family's home was always extremely tidy, as were some, but not all, of the working-class and poor homes. Nor did certain aspects of parenting, particularly the degree to which mothers appearedto "mean what they said," seem linked to social class. Families also differed with respect to the presence or absence of a sense of humor among individual members, levels of anxiety, and signs of stressrelatedillnesses they exhibited. Finally, there were significant differences in temperament and disposition among children in the same family. These variations are useful reminders that social class is not fully a determinant of the characterof children's lives. IMPACT OF CHILDREARING STRATEGIES ON INTERACTIONS WITH INSTITUTIONS Social scientists sometimes emphasize the importance of reshaping parenting practices to improve children's chances of success. Explicitly and implicitly, the literature exhorts parents to comply with the views of professionals (Bronfenbrenner1966; Epstein 2001; Heimer and Staffen 1998). Such calls for compliance do not, however, reconcile professionals' judgments regarding the intrinsic value of current childrearing standards with the evidence of the historical record, which shows regular shifts in such standards over time (Aries 1962; Wrigley 1989; Zelizer 1985). Nor are the stratified, and limited, possibilities for success in the broader society examined. I now follow the families out of their homes and into encounters with representatives of dominant institutions-institutions that are directed by middle-class professionals. Again, I focus on Alexander Williams and Harold McAllister. (Institutionalexperiences are summarizedin Table 2.) Across all social classes, parents and children interacted with teachers and school officials, healthcare professionals, and assorted government officials. Although they often addressed similar problems (e.g., learning disabilities, asthma, traffic violations), they typically did not achieve similar resolutions. The patternof concerted cultivation fostered an emerging sense of entitlement in the life of Alexander Williams and other middleclass children. By contrast, the commitment to nurturing children's natural growth fostered an emerging sense of constraint in the life of Harold McAllister and other workingclass or poor children. (These consequences of childrearing practices are summarized in Table 2.) Both parents and children drew on the resources associated with these two childrearing approaches during their interactions with officials. Middle-class parents and children often customized these interactions; working-class and poor parents were more likely to have a "generic" relationship. When faced with problems, middle-class parents also appearedbetter equipped to exert influence over other adults compared with working-class and poor parents. Nor did middle-class parents or children display the intimidation or confusion we witnessed among many working-class and poor families when they faced a problem in their children's school experience. EMERGING SIGNS OF ENTITLEMENT Alexander Williams's mother, like many middle-class mothers, explicitly teaches her son to be an informed, assertive client in interactions with professionals. For example, as she drives Alexander to a routine doctor's appointment, she coaches him in the art of communicating effectively in healthcare settings: Alexanderasks if he needs to get any shots today at the doctor's. Ms. Williams says he'll need to ask the doctor... . As we enter Park Lane, Mom says quietly to Alex: "Alexander,you shouldbe thinkingof questions you mightwantto ask the doctor.You can ask him anythingyou want. Don't be shy. You can ask anything." This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY Alex thinks for a minute, then: "I have some bumps under my arms from my deodorant." Mom: "Really? You mean from your new deodorant?" Alex: "Yes." Mom: "Well, you should ask the doctor." Alexander learns that he has the right to speak up (e.g., "don't be shy") and that he should prepare for an encounter with a person in a position of authority by gathering his thoughts in advance. These class resources are subsequently activated in the encounter with the doctor (a jovial white man in his late thirties or early forties). The examination begins this way: Doctor: "Okay, as usual, I'd like to go through the routine questions with you. And if you have any questions for me, just fire away." Doctor examines Alex's chart: "Height-wise, as usual, Alexander's in the ninety-fifth percentile." Although the physician is talking to Ms. Williams, Alexander interruptshim: Alex: "I'm in the what?" Doctor: "It means that you're taller than more than ninety-five out of a hundred young men when they're, uh, ten years old." Alex: "I'm not ten." Doctor: "Well, they graphed you at ten ... they usually take the closest year to get that graph." Alex: "Alright." Alexander's "Alright" reveals that he feels entitled to weigh-in with his own judgment. A few minutes later, the exam is interrupted when the doctor is asked to provide an emergency consultation by telephone. Alexander listens to the doctor's conversation and then uses what he has overheard as the basis for a clear directive: Doctor: "The stitches are on the eyelids themselves, the laceration?... Um ... I don't suture eyelids . . . um. . .. Absolutely not! . . . Don't even touch them. That was very bad judgment on the camp's part.... [Hangs up.] I'm sorry about the interruption." Alex: "Stay away from my eyelids!" 767 Alexander's comment, which draws laughter from the adults, reflects this fourth grader's tremendous ease interacting with a physician. Later,Ms. Williams and the doctor discuss Alexander's diet. Ms. Williams freely admits that they do not always follow nutritional guidelines. Her honesty is a form of capital because it gives the doctor accurateinformation on which to base a diagnosis. Feeling no need for deception positions mother and son to receive better care: Doctor: Let's start with appetite. Do you get three meals a day?" Alex: "Yeah." Doctor: "And here's the importantquestion: Do you get your fruits and vegetables too?" Alex: "Yeah." Mom, high-pitched: "Ooooo... Doctor: "I see I have a second opinion." [laughter] Alex, voice rising: "You give me bananas and all in my lunch every day. And I had cabbage for dinner last night." Doctor: "Do you get at least one or two fruits, one or two vegetables every day?" Alex: "Yeah." Doctor: "Marginally?" Mom: "Ninety-eight percent of the time he eats pretty well." Doctor: "OK, I can live with that... Class resources are again activated when Alexander's mother reveals she "gave up" on a medication. The doctor pleasantly but clearly instructs her to continue the medication. Again, though, he receives accurate information ratherthan facing silent resistance or defiance, as occurred in encounters between healthcare professionals and other (primarily working-class and poor) families. The doctor acknowledges Ms. Williams's relative power: He "arguesfor" continuation rather than directing her to execute a medically necessary action: Mom: "His allergies have just been, just acted up again. One time this summer and I had to bring him in." Doctor: "I see a note here from Dr. Svennson that she put him on Vancinace and Benadryl. Did it seem to help him?" This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 768 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW Mom: "Just, not really. So, I used it for about a week and I just gave up." Doctor, sitting forward in his chair: "OK, I'm actually going to argue for not giving up. If he needs it, Vancinace is a very effective drug. But it takes at least a week to start...." Mom: "Oh. OK...." Doctor: "I'd rather have him use that than heavy oral medications. You have to give it a few weeks...." A similar pattern of give and take and questioning characterizesAlexander's interaction with the doctor, as the following excerpt illustrates: Doctor: "The only thing that you really need besides my checking you, um, is to have, um, your eyes checked downstairs." Alex: "Yes! I love that, I love that!" Doctor laughs: "Well, now the most important question. Do you have any questions you want to ask me before I do your physical?" only one. I've been getting Alex: "Um.... some bumps on my arms, right around here [indicates underarm]." Doctor: "Underneath?" Alex: "Yeah." Doctor: "OK... .Do they hurt or itch?" Alex: "No, they're just there." Doctor: "OK, I'll take a look at those bumps for you. Um, what about you-um..." Alex: "They're barely any left." Doctor: "OK, well, I'll take a peek.... Any questions or worries on your part? [Looking at the mother] Mom: "No. . . . He seems to be coming along very nicely." 31 Alexander's mother's last comment reflects her view of him as a project, one that is progressing "very nicely." Throughoutthe visit, she signals her ease and her perception of the exam as an exchange between peers (with Alexander a legitimate participant), 31 Not all professionals accommodated children's participation. Regardless of these adults' overt attitudes, though, we routinely observed that middle-class mothers monitor and intervene in their children's interactions with professionals. rather than a communication from a person in authority to his subordinates. Other middle-class parents seemed similarly comfortable. During Garrett Tallinger's exam, for example, his mother took off her sandals and tucked her legs up under her as she sat in the examination room. She also joked casually with the doctor. Middle-class parents and children were also very assertive in situations at the public elementary school most of the middle-class children in the study attended. There were numerousconflicts duringthe year over matters small and large. For example, parents complained to one another and to the teachers about the amount of homework the children were assigned. A black middle-class mother whose daughters had not tested into the school's gifted program negotiated with officials to have the girls' (higher) results from a private testing company accepted instead. The parentsof a fourth-gradeboy drew the school superintendentinto a battle over religious lyrics in a song scheduled to be sung as part of the holiday program.The superintendent consulted the district lawyer and ultimately "counseled" the principal to be more sensitive, and the song was dropped. Children, too, asserted themselves at school. Examples include requesting that the classroom's blinds be lowered so the sun wasn't in their eyes, badgering the teacher for permission to retake a math test for a higher grade, and demanding to know why no cupcake had been saved when an absence prevented attendanceat a classroom party.In these encounters, children were not simply complying with adults' requests or asking for a repeat of an earlier experience. They were displaying an emerging sense of entitlement by urging adults to permit a customized accommodation of institutional processes to suit their preferences. Of course, some children (and parents) were more forceful than others in their dealings with teachers, and some were more successful than others. Melanie Handlon's mother, for example, took a very "hands-on" approach to her daughter's learning problems, coaching Melanie through her homework day after day. Instead of improved grades, however, the only result was a deteriorating home environment marked by tension and tears. This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions INVISIBLE INEQUALITY EMERGING SIGNS OF CONSTRAINT The interactions the research assistants and I observed between professionals and working-class and poor parents frequently seemed cautious and constrained. This unease is evident, for example, during a physical Harold McAllister has before going to Bible camp. Harold's mother, normally boisterous and talkative at home, is quiet. Unlike Ms. Williams, she seems wary of supplying the doctor with accurate information: Doctor: "Does he eat something each dayeither fish, meat, or egg?" Mom, response is low and muffled: "Yes." Doctor, attempting to make eye contact but mom stares intently at paper: "A yellow vegetable?" Mom, still no eye contact, looking at the floor: "Yeah." Doctor: "A green vegetable?" Mom, looking at the doctor: "Not all the time." [Fieldworker has not seen any of the children eat a green or yellow vegetable since visits began.] Doctor: "No. Fruit or juice?" Mom, low voice, little or no eye contact, looks at the doctor's scribbles on the paper he is filling out: "Ummh humn." Doctor: "Does he drink milk everyday?" Mom, abruptly, in considerably louder voice: "Yeah." Doctor: "Cereal, bread, rice, potato, anything like that?" Mom, shakes her head: "Yes, definitely." [Looks at doctor.] Ms. McAllister's knowledge of developmental events in Harold's life is uneven. She is not sure when he learned to walk and cannot recall the name of his previous doctor. And when the doctor asks, "When was the last time he had a tetanus shot?" she counters, gruffly, "What's a tetanus shot?" Unlike Ms. Williams, who urged Alexander to share information with the doctor, Ms. McAllister squelches eight-year-old Alexis's overtures: Doctor: "Any birth mark?" Mom looks at doctor, shakes her head no. Alexis, raising her left arm, says excitedly: "I have a birth mark under my arm!" 769 Mom, raising her voice and looking stern: "Will you cool out a minute?" Mom, again answering the doctor's question: "No." Despite Ms. McAllister's tension and the marked change in her everyday demeanor, Harold's whole exam is not uncomfortable. There are moments of laughter. Moreover, Harold's mother is not consistently shy or passive. Before the visit begins, the doctor comes into the waiting room and calls Harold's and Alexis's names. In response, the McAllisters (and the fieldworker) stand. Ms. McAllister then beckons for her nephew Tyrice (who is about Harold's age) to come along before she clears this with the doctor. Later, she sends Tyrice down the hall to observe Harold being weighed; she relies on her nephew's report rather than asking for this information from the healthcare professionals. Still, neither Harold nor his mother seemed as comfortable as Alexander had been. Alexander was used to extensive conversation at home; with the doctor, he was at ease initiating questions. Harold, who was used to responding to directives at home, primarily answered questions from the doctor, rather than posing his own. Alexander, encouraged by his mother, was assertive and confident with the doctor. Harold was reserved. Absorbing his mother's apparent need to conceal the truth about the range of foods he ate, he appeared cautious, displaying an emerging sense of constraint. We observed a similar pattern in school interactions. Overall, the working-class and poor adults had much more distance or separation from the school than their middleclass counterparts. Ms. McAllister, for example, could be quite assertive in some settings (e.g., at the start of family observations, she visited the local drug dealer, warning him not to "mess with" the black male fieldworker).32 But throughout the fourthgrade parent-teacher conference, she kept her winter jacket zipped up, sat hunched over in her chair, and spoke in barely audible tones. She was stunned when the teacher said that Harold did not do homework. 32 Ms. McAllister told me about this visit; we did not observe it. It is striking that she perceived only the black male fieldworker as being at risk. This content downloaded from on Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:46:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 770 AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL REVIEW Sounding dumbfounded, she said, "He does it at home." The teacher denied it and continued talking. Ms. McAllister made no further comments and did not probe for more information,except about a letter the teacher said he had mailed home and that she had not received. The conference ended, having yielded Ms. McAllister few insights into Harold's educational experience.33 Other working-class and poor parents also appeared baffled, intimidated, and subdued in parent-teacher conferences. Ms. Driver, who was extremely worried abouther fourthgrader'sinability to read, kept these concerns to herself. She explained to us, "I don't want to jump into anything and find it is the wrong thing."When working-class and poor parents did try to intervene in their children's educational experiences, they often felt ineffectual. Billy Yanelli's mother appearedrelaxed and chatty in many of her interactions with other adults. With "the school," however, she was very apprehensive.She distrustedschool personnel. She felt bullied and powerless. Hoping to resolve a problem involving her son, she tried to prepare her ideas in advance. Still, as she recounted during an interview, she failed to make school officials see Billy as vulnerable: Working-class and poor children seemed aware of their parents' frustration and witnessed their powerlessness. Billy Yanelli, for example, asserted in an interview that his mother "hate[d]"school officials. At times, these parents encouraged their children to resist school officials' authority. The Yanellis told Billy to "beat up" a boy who was bothering him. Wendy Driver's mother advised her to punch a male classmate who pestered her and pulled her ponytail. Ms. Driver's boyfriend added, "Hit him when the teacher isn't looking." In classroom observations, working-class and poor children could be quite lively and energetic, but we did not observe them try to customize their environments. They tended to react to adults' offers or, at times, to plead with educators to repeat previous experiences, such as reading a particular story, watching a movie, or going to the computer room. Compared to middle-class classroom interactions, the boundaries between adults and children seemed firmer and clearer. Although the children often resisted and tested school rules, they did not seem to be seeking to get educators to accommodate their own individual preferences. Overall, then, the behavior of workingclass and poor parents cannot be explained as a manifestation of their temperaments or of overall passivity; parents were quite energetic in intervening in their children's lives in other spheres. Rather, working-class and poor parents generally appeared to depend on the school (Lareau 2000a), even as they were dubious of the trustworthiness of the professionals. This suspicion of professionals in dominant institutions is, at least in some instances, a reasonable response.34The unequal level of trust, as well as differences in the amount and quality of information divulged, can yield unequal profits during an historical moment when professionals applaud assertiveness and reject passivity as an inappropriate parenting strategy (Epstein 2001). Middle-class children and parents often (but not always) accrued advantages or profits from their efforts. Alexander Williams succeeded in having the doctor take his medical concerns seriously. Ms. Marshall's children ended up in the gifted program, even though they did not technically qualify. Middle-class children expect institutions to be responsive to them and to accommodate 33 Middle-classparentssometimes appeared slightly anxious during parent-teacherconferences, but overall, they spoke more and asked educatorsmorequestionsthandid working-class andpoorparents. 34 The higher levels of institutional reports of child neglect, child abuse, and other family difficulties among poor families may reflect this group's greater vulnerability to institutional intervention (e.g., see L. Gordon 1989). Ms. Yanelli:I founda notein his schoolbag one morningand it said, "I'mgoing to kill you ... you'rea deadmother-f-er...." So, I startedshaking.I was all readyto go over there.[I was]preparedfor the counselor.... Theysaidthe reasonthey [theotherkids]do what they do is becauseBilly makesthem do it. So they hadan answerfor eve...
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Explanation & Answer


Weekly Strategic Reading Report
1. Citation
Annette, L. (2002).Invisible Inequality and Childbearing in Black And White
Families.American Sociological Review 67(5)747- 776
2. What is the main argument the author makes in this paper? (in one sentence
and in your own words)
The mainargument ofthe author is that there are differences in childrearing
strategies are one way in which produce class – based advantages.
3. Identify and def...

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