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Annette Lareau: Annotated Bibliography

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 4071 words Published: 8th Sep 2017

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Critical Annotated Bibliography of key texts focused on Annette Lareau’s reserach

Social researchers have stressed the importance of understanding the social stratification and its impact on children and parents as a whole (Lareau A, 1999). Annette Lareau is a professor of Sociology at University of Pennsylvania. She achieved her PhD in Sociology from University of California, Berkley.  Her ground- breaking research involves, investigating questions like the influence of social stratification on families.  She has done substantial fieldwork examining the lives of American people.

She has focused on the impact of social structural forces, parenting styles like concerted cultivation, educational inequalities and if they participate towards shaping vital aspects of children’s lives.  She has written many books and articles stressing on how class can make or break families’ present and future. Her work contributes to broaden our understanding towards the class system.

The body of Annette Lareau’s work that I have chosen assesses vital issues in American society, which effects children, parents and families as a whole.  It discusses vital issues like the role of class system in middle class, working class and poor families in raising their children, their daily lives, varying parenting styles and their role in children’s present and future prospects.

Lareau, A., 2011. Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life. University of California Press.

Annette Lareau’s book ‘Unequal Childhoods with an update a decade later’ is a step forward in comprehending the importance of learning and understanding the impact of class system on family lives and parenting styles in African American and White families and is an excellent effort to fill in the gap in relevant research studies. She investigated how parental practices differ among White, Black, middle class, working class and poor families and the role it plays in shaping children’s future conclusively. Annette showed that class system plays a vital role in American families’ lives and uncovered the practices involved in reproduction of inequalities in the society.

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The author performed in-depth studies with 12 different families using ‘participant observation’ as her studying approach providing detailed information about the families. Children participating in the study were aged 9-10 years old.  As part of the research, the author with the support of her assistants spent about one month with the families and gathered detailed information about them.  The research involved following the participants to afterschool activities, doctor’s visit and spent time at their homes.

A key point that Lareau’s ethnographic study showed is a particular parenting approach called ‘concerted cultivation’.  While visiting participant families, she observed that Black and White middle class families are very much involved in facilitating their children to achieve their goals.  They encourage, inspire and monitor their children’s academic achievements and play an active role in their lives. These parents were always interested in listening to their children’s voice and did not discourage them to show their opinions.  As a result, these children became more confident in speaking their minds, which helped them to develop their overall confidence, self-esteem and development.  In contrast, the rearing style of children belonging to working class and poor families in both Black and White

families were limited due to lack of resources.  They relied on schools to take care of their children and gave their children extra time to play.  She contrasted these two parenting approaches and discovered that both of these parenting styles were beneficial, but children belonging to middle class were more successful in schools. She argues that African American families face racial discrimination in many areas e.g. employment and live in racially segregated neighbourhoods but interestingly,  White and African-American middle class families follow the same parenting style and there was no observation of racial discrimination.

An exclusive point that Lareau observed was the conversational differences between parents and children e.g. children from middle class families were mostly involved in engaging conversations with adults, which helped these children to gain confidence.  Whereas, the parents of children from working and poor families showed authority and the children mostly showed compliance and rarely participated in engaging conversations with adults.  These differences show how middle class children acquire confidence and grasp the ability to demand whereas working class children are not very demanding.

In conclusion, this study showed that class matters more than race but provided limited discussion on the impact of race in children’s lives and their future and lacks the information on the role of extended families in middle class young adults. Lareau recognises that there is a gap in studying the effects of class in children’s lives, positive parenting strategies and inequality due to class and therefore calls for  in-depth research in this field.

Lareau has performed a review on her study by visiting the families again.   Children involved in the study are now young adults.  She interviewed these young adults their siblings and parents.  Lareau discovered that the importance of social class, she had observed when these children were younger (10yrs) old developed with time. Middle class parents kept playing an active role in their children’s lives despite them moving away from their homes.  These young adults continued seeking parent’s guidance. Their parents were massively involved in handling situations to increase their growth potential.

On the contrary, parents belonging to working class and poor families considered their children now ‘grown ups’ and the young adults agreed to this view.  Extended families play an important role in shaping children belonging to working class and poor family children.

In conclusion, middle class children accomplished more educational achievements than the working class and poor family kids. Parenting styles shape children’s lives as they grow into young adults to prepare them for independent successful lives. Overall, an excellent and enlightening study.

Lareau, A., 2002. Invisible inequality: Social class and childrearing in black families and white families. American sociological review, pp.747-776.

This research studies the effects of social class, culture, race and their interaction by investigating the function and contribution of social class system in children ages of 7-10 years old. Using an ethnographic data, Lareau aims to study the associations and connections among Black and White parents, their children and distinctions in childrearing techniques.  She found that class differences are more noticeable than racial differences and that parenting styles are a way to reproduce class-based advantages. Lareau compares two different parenting approaches to learn and report their benefits and disadvantages. Middle class parents encouraged their children to be highly involved in extracurricular activities using a ‘concerted paradigm’ to stimulate and develop their talents and capabilities. On the contrary, working class parents used the childrearing method called ‘accomplishment of natural growth’ paradigm.  This method involves providing, love and care for the children, giving them a lot of freedom and unregulated recreation time and space.

As a result, Lareau observed that middle class children found it easy to adapt to the school environment, as they followed the same expectations and structured activities at home. These parents encouraged, praised and respected their children’s wishes and these positive elements were an ongoing feature of middle class families.

Lareau argues that the range of activities influence family lives. The importance of structured activities results in weak family and social bonds. The author points out that as middle class children were so busy participating in after school activities they barely had any time to visit their extended families. However, this study involved limited; discussion about children’s relationship with extended families e.g. grandparents.

Another important point that Laruea raised in this research is the use of language. She observed that middle class children engaged in healthy discussions with their parents and other professionals whereas, working class and poor families did not involve in continued discussions frequently with their parents.  All parents and children were involved in having conversations with professionals, but middle class children were more skilful in holding conversations with others.  The study shows that socioeconomic status can influence social connections. Children from working and poor family background has a wider range of social connections in compare to the middle class children. The author showed, that race does not seem to have a great impact in shaping children’s lives.  Although Black parents were increasingly worried about their children’s lives outside due to racial problems.

In conclusion, this is an enlightening ethnographical study, with expressive and illuminative data, but as it is concentrated on a small sample therefore; it is very difficult to generalise the results to public.

Lareau, A., 2000. Social class and the daily lives of children, A study from the United States. Childhood, 7(2), pp.155-171.

Laurae strived to explore the social class differences by designing and performing a detailed and comprehensive study in comparison to studies performed in the past where children’s research was limited to the contexts of schools and families.  Children’s out of school activities have a significant influence on middle class parents’ lives.  The author provides a detailed account of how parents felt when they had to make time to take their children to participate in out of school activities.

This article aims to investigate the function of social class in moulding and forming daily lives of children. This study discusses three main issues, what shapes childhood, rhythm and pace of life and to what extent parents and children’s lives interact with each other. The author collected detailed ethnographic data of children aged 7-10 years’ old.  Eighty children participated in this study from African American or White families over the period of 3 years.  The author aimed to observe the associations between children and parents in their daily lives. The study took place in North-eastern metropolis and Midwestern community in a white working class neighbourhood. The study involved interviews from all mothers and most fathers and children’s classroom observations. While observing children from middle and working class families, Lareau found that their lives are very different from each other.  Middle class boys occupied themselves in structured activities arranged by their parents/carers and focused on developing new skills.  Whereas, working class boys spent their time participating in informal activities e.g. free play, visiting kin and ‘hanging out’. Working class boys were much more social then middle class boys.   She revealed that both parenting approaches has benefits and drawbacks.  This research-studied boy in more detail than girls and some gender differences were observed e.g. girls were encouraged to participate in gymnastics rather than football.  The author states that covering aspects of race, gender and class can also show us if there is any link between these categories.

The research reports that African American people has a fear of being subject to discrimination from White people and encouraged their children to be friends with black children which confirms the racial inequalities in the society.

The result showed that children from middle class families spent time in structured activities organised by adults.  The foundations of these activities are skill development and public performances, which may result in knowledge enhancement.  The structures of these activities were very similar to school activities; therefore, attending school was a similar but not exclusive experience for these middle children. Observing the working class children shows a different picture.  These children do not follow a structural system in their lives; they do find organised and structured activities somewhat difficult. They liked to ‘hang out’ and visit their extended families.  Lareau claims that race does not play a sufficient role but the role of class differences are clear in the daily lives of children.

Overall, this is a fantastic detailed ethnographical study, which uses only a small sample of participants from limited sides of community and the author did not mention the methods employed to examine the collected data set.

 Weininger, E.B., Lareau, A. and Conley, D., 2015. What Money Does not buy: Class Resources and Children’s Participation in Organized Extracurricular Activities. Social Forces, 94(2), pp.479-503.

In this study Lareau et al, aimed to examine an important question of significance, which is class position in the society and its effects on children’s lives. In the past researchers have concentrated on family resources and school characteristics.  The authors stepped up this research by moving towards how children spent their time in after school activities and whether race and class differences influence children’s lives.  They concentrated on the belief that middle class parents’ involvement in their children’s lives encourages them to participate in structured afterschool activities, which consequently leads to future success.

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This research deployed a large national data set to analyse the influence of class.  The sample is restricted to Black and White children.  The children participated in this study were only chosen from private or public schools.  The author employed longitudinal survey data and time diaries collected in 2002-2003 in order to get comprehensive list of children’s activities within the course of 24-hour periods.

Lareau et al aimed to investigate class differences and stated that parents from all social groups consider children’s participation in extracurricular activities vital, but some parents face challenges and constraints for example transportation or lack of time. Another key point that they revealed in this study is that parents’ approaches to childrearing are different due to social class.  Middle class parents practice concerted cultivation parenting style and encourage their children to participate in after school activities to support them to enhance their academic and career goals and aspirations. Observing the working class and poor families revealed that they prioritise their focus on their children’s’ protection and let them participate in informal play and give them space.   The study-employed good confound control to get robust results.

The Lareau et al argues that average American children are spending approximately 4 hours weekly engaging in extracurricular activities, but children from middle class engage in a lot more activities.  Their mothers are more educated and they have resources to support their children to participate in more extracurricular activities.  The study showed that children’s’ engagement in extracurricular activities are related to positive results in education and employment. The authors explored the question, whether it is just the class inequalities, which differentiates families’ decision for their children to participate in extracurricular activities or is there a link with cultural values, as well?

The authors identifies that socioeconomic status of families has a direct impact on how children spend their time after school. Due to high expenditures children’s participation in afterschool activities varied for e.g. people living in small cities and rural areas spent less money on children’s extracurricular activities less than families living in larger cities. The results of this study states that it is not just the materialistic resources, which matters maternal education, demographic characteristics e.g., gender, age, race other factors like work, labour market and cultural aspects they are all important.  The study does not discuss whether atypical children’s participation in extracurricular activities was any different from typically developing children. The study is restricted to Black and White American families.

The study reveals that socioeconomic status matters, but just removing these barriers is not a guarantee that children will enrol in extracurricular activities.  Cultural aspects also influences how much time and money parents spend on children to participate in these activities.

Weininger, E.B. and Lareau, A., 2009. Paradoxical pathways: An ethnographic extension of Kohn’s findings on class and childrearing. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71(3), pp.680-695.

Class division is a vital topic of research in family studies.  A few studies have focused on its influence on family lives.  Reflecting on detailed interviews the authors aimed to extend Melvin Kohn’s study on childrearing standards by investigating parental responsibilities to autonomy and conformity.

The study provided effective theoretical and empirical background of Melvin Kohn’s research studies on social stratification.  Using a secondary data, which involved 88 children aged 8-10 years old selected randomly. The participants were children from two elementary school classrooms.  The study-involved even number of American Black and White children but only involved a small number of Hispanics and Asians.  Although, it would have been useful to employ even number of all races as Hispanics and Asians are important part of American society.

Lareau et al found that parents from middle class families encouraged their children to have self-control and self-direction and the results are consistent with Kohn’s research. It is difficult to conclude a general connection between class, self-direction and conformity

The author raised the issue of variation in parental values on extracurricular activities for children. The author observed variation in values across different economic class of the families.  Middle class families were keen to expose their children to successful life chances and options while keeping them under supervision, which enhanced children’s self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth and helped them to do well in their present and future.  Working and poor class families on the other hand did not give much importance to send their children for leisure activities.  They used their resources to provide and protect their children and they let their children develop naturally. The study shows a complicated picture of child rearing and emphasizes the need to understand parental values and parental behaviours in detail. It will be a step forward to continue to study the influence of social stratification on families.


Annette Lareau has contributed immensely in the field of sociology.  She has ingrained herself researching American families in order to investigate how social inequality continue to sustain itself and is passed on generation after generation. The key texts are current and are grounded in sociology and psychology. The common thread in these studies are the impact of class and the role of parenting in children’s lives.

There are commonalities among the texts such as middle class parents use concerted parenting styles by providing opportunities, supervised learning experiences to their children for their best interest, and do well. She has worked hard with American, families to show how class differences and children rearing techniques differ from working class to middle class and poor families and the impact of these differences on children’s future prospects. She showed that parenting is not as simple as saying that bad parents raise their children ineffectively and good parents raise children who are successful in their lives. It is much more complex.

While investigating the class inequalities in American families Lareau study regarding working-class families is very influential.  Her research with working class reveals that class reflects cultural and economic variations.  Lareau’s approaches of researching with children and families are very ambitious and effective.  She employed both qualitative and quantitative approaches in her research for the results to be robust.  Her research helps us to understand the effects of class and race on children in middle, working and poor class families.

These studies show new light to sociologists, social scientists, and anthropologists, a new direction towards learning how race, culture and parenting fuse together and play a role in shaping children’s lives.  The author identifies the importance of both parenting styles but the author does not describe which one is more effective, when it interacts with race. These studies raise an important question. Do middle class parents work harder in supporting their children in school and teach them how to deal with racism than working and poor families?  Race and class inequalities can make children’s lives much more difficult and their future insecure. Social scientists can carry her research forward by focusing on which parental approach is more beneficial for children and how class and race interacts.


  1. Lareau, A., 2011. Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life. Univ of California Press.
  2. Lareau, A., 2002. Invisible inequality: Social class and childrearing in black families and white families. American sociological review, pp.747-776.
  3. Lareau, A., 2000. Social class and the daily lives of children, A study from the United States. Childhood, 7(2), pp.155-171.
  4. Lareau, A. and Horvat, E.M., 1999. Moments of social inclusion and exclusion race, class, and cultural capital in family-school relationships. Sociology of education, pp.37-53.
  5. Weininger, E.B., Lareau, A. and Conley, D., 2015. What Money Does not buy: Class Resources and Children’s Participation in Organized Extracurricular Activities. Social Forces, 94(2), pp.479-503.
  6. Weininger, E.B., and Lareau, A., 2009. Paradoxical pathways: An ethnographic extension of Kohn’s findings on class and childrearing. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71(3), pp.680-695.
  7. http://currents.ucsc.edu/05-06/11-28/lareau.asp

Education and Stratification in Developing Countries: A Review of Theories and Research

Annual Review of Sociology

Vol.27:1-504 (Volume publication date August 2001)
DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.27.1.77

Education and Stratification in Developing Countries: A Review of Theories and Research

Annual Review of Sociology

Vol.27:1-504 (Volume publication date August 2001)
DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.27.1.77


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