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family structure and children’s life chances
family structure and children’s life chances

Additional Sociology Flashcards




Blibarz and Raftery 1999

effect of family structure has been constant over the last 30 years
single parent households, children do worse
findings consistent with parent investments


From a very macro perspective, Biblarz and Raftery conclude that the negative effect of children living in a single parent household has been constant over
time (although the the proportion of single parent households has increased).


They find that children from both single father and single mother households are disadvantaged, which runs contrary to Moynihan's hypothesis that single
mother households are particularly disadvantageous.


They argue that their findings, that the effect of growing up in a single parent household is constant
over time and that a step parent is not particularly advantageous for a child's development, to be supporting the evolutionary theory of parent investment.

An important note about Biblarz and Raftery's analysis, is that it cannot directly test the mechanisms implicit in the evolutionary theory of the family.


Specically, they make conclusions based on the experiences of step-parents but alternatives, such as the outcomes of adopted children, are not specically excluded.

Thus, they cannot truly speak to biology as driving outcomes. They also do not have measures of parental investment which seems problematic for
adjudicating which theory drives their substantive ndings about the constant negative effect of alternative household structures over time.

Edin (Promises I can keep)

poor women choose to have children outside of marriage rather than choosing to marry unwisely

they believe good mothering is about beign there
women believe baby can solve anything
they talk about childbearing as an in wtf?
talks about not really planning but no active prevention
trivializes abortion, women say it is the easy way out
pregnancy as a reverse
poor owmen see marriage as too permanent, hold it to a higher standard
fear marriage will shift the balance of power in relationship
being there standard for single women diers from laruaeu's conclusions
motherd don't want fathers dealing drugs, perceptions of legitimacy, frailty




Edin and colleagues describe norms in poor neighborhoods conducive
to early childbearing and limiting sexual abstinence, contraceptive use, and
abortion. Edin interviews mothers living in a number of low-income high risk
neighborhoods around Philadelphia. She nds in talking to these women that,
as Gerson discussed somewhat last week, childbearing is increasingly being decoupled
from marriage. She highlights a trend in fertility that is not planned
but not unplanned. This incomplete planning for a child can result in complex
situations during the pregnancy and after the child is born. Mothers are subject
to a new set of expectations while men are not similarly constrained.
In addition to not having to experience the biological constraints of pregnancy,
men also have more available sexual partners without similar commitment.
Women also come to have new expectations for men which they cannot
or may not be prepared to meet and because of unbalanced sex ratios, men may
have additional opportunities to form new unions. She also notes that some
women feel having a child somehow saves them from reckless behaviors. These
women, once they become mothers, often prioritize the role.
I found this book really o-putting. Edin had this rather annoying habit of
juxtaposing the behaviors and perception of women in her sample with those of
the middle class relying on popular stereotypes she felt middle class individuals
had about single parenthood and at some points abortion without providing
evidence to ground these statements. She also frequently spoke of the attitudes
of young poor women without qualifying, at least enough for my liking, that she
was speaking about her small sample in Philadelphia. I object to the way Edin
made comparisons because I thought that her question was interesting, why do
many young women growing up in disadvantaged areas become young, single
mothers and how do they feel about motherhood? However, her approach of
interviewing only the mothers seemed a bit one-sided. I am somewhat skeptical
of ndings when a researcher only samples on the dependent variable (single
motherhood) when other perspectives that are available and relevant to the
research question are ignored. Specically, from my understanding she only
interviewed women who had or were already pregnant with children and didn't
seem to make an eort to understand how young women might have felt before
pregnancy nor any perspectives of men that are relevant in this decision-making.

Lareau 2001

Unequal childhoods.


concerted cultivation vs. natural growth

middle class parents throuch activities make concerted effort to develop their children's abilities
lower ses do not cultivate allow socialization  natural growth cultivation in middle class breeds entitlement,


lower class may feel isolated professionals have known set of cultural repetoires passed to middle class but not lower, middle class children trained in rules of game


working class children and lower class grow up in social systems, they are shaped by them but mostly not in control of them working class neighborhood is


lower richmond, decent school, mid level access
to stores but school while pretty safe is short on supplies teachers about half students in school reading below grade level, black students face
discrimination (or it is a concern)


Swan school, upper ses, safe, no fences, very near stores/other resources, highly regarded parents have exaggerated sense of child accomplishments teachers across schools support cultivating efforts by parents
teachers encourage activities and reading through reasoning not directives want involved but deferential parents

both institutions have same demands, different supply of resources


middle class families adult leisure spent at children activities


working class more leisure but more economic strain but gender of child and race also mattered
for middle class, more activities led to more hostility within family and weaker family ties but they had more white collar skills like how to be on a team and meet strangers

parents have invisible work of balancing hectic schedule

mothers have more burden of child care and sacrafices

older sibling activities dictate actions of younger sibs


only in middle class families does sibling hatred seem common

activities are expensive but not mentioned in front of children, not mentioning money conveys entitlement


for working class kids scheduled activities were an interruption

for working class kids activities not as age specic organized activities in working class families occur as a result of a child's request


working and lower class kids showed greater independence and creativity


in middle class households, child's requests are treated seriously


in working class homes, child requests are often ignored, or treated as role of children


ongoing interactions between structure and context



middle class families use words in daily life, take pleasure and negotiate life through them versus poor/middle class families where directives and functionality of language is emphasized when parents issue directives in middle class families, they are accompanied by explantion

interrupting person of authority characterizes middle class children

children in middle class families expect institutions to be tailored to them, this is partly due to parental investment

middle class parents have more informal access to institutions

concludes black middle class families have to do more work to avoid exclusion based on race


cites middle class failure when parents don't engage with institutions

while middle class parents engage, working class parents defer

aspects of family intersected by social class better understanding


working class natural growth too requries effort to allow children time in unstructured activities


suggested that for both classes of families these methods of child-rearing were natural


how did concerted cultivation arise?
once philosophy of natural growth mcdonaldization, rationalization of society and childrearing problem of intervention is social segregation


followup and reaction

most miiddle class did well and found value to their activities



Lareau does intensive observations
and interviews on focal children aged 9 to 10 growing up in families that she
identies as middle class, working class, and poor. Laraeu argues that middle
class households follow practices of concerted cultivation where the parents are
actively involved in shaping their child whereas working and lower class house-
holds follow practices of natural growth where parental interference is limited
and less rigidly structured.1 Laraeu cites dierences in household behaviors, language
use, and interactions with institutions in highlighting these dierences.
When Laraeu follows-up with these families 10 years later, the middle class
children have obtained a greater level of education and social standing compared
to those of working or poor origins. An important argument (I thought)
came out of this book is NOT that practices of concerted cultivation are better
for children, but rather that the middle class children are raised in a manner
aligned with the dominant cultural paradigm. Parents of middle class children
recognize the dominant standards, have practices largely aligned with them,
can use their resources to adjust institutions to suit their children, and raise
children who believe they are entitled to such institutions. In contrast, children
born to working and middle class parents are often alienated or raised to be
hostile to the dominant institutions and parents defer to them. Some of this
argument drew on theoretical work by Bourdieu in suggesting that individuals
have a particular social position which is associated with particular strategies
and opportunities for social advancement.
An alternative model for explaining why inequality dierentials exist is presented
by both Raftery and Hout and Goldthorpe and Hope. I'd argue that both
models are based on the rational choice decision making paradigm. Raftery and
Hout are fairly loose in their formulation of this paradigm (whereas Goldthorpe
and Hope are more formal). Raftery and Hout suggests that dierences in
educational attainment might be explained by dierences in the cost benet
structure. Goldthorpe and Hope specify these dierences as having three dimensions
which they parameterize: 1. dierences in perceived costs/benets
2. dierences in perceived abilities 3. dierences in resources. While Laureau
seems to focus on dierences in culture, she does also note that dierences in
the perception of costs/benets, abilities, and resources do play a role in shaping
the dierent lives of middle class children vs. working/lower class. Here
she also seems to cite less knowledge and certainty about education in shaping
the decisions of the working class and poor. For example, one of the working
class kids, Tyrec, joins a football program and while his mother encourages this,
she does not perceive football having an important benet whereas middle class
1I had a certain sense of unease in reading this ethnography, and I'm not sure where else to
describe my criticism/issue with Lareau's characterization of dierenting parenting styles. An
issue that I had was that Laraeau was not very clear on how she denes the classes which she
calls categorically dierent. Her appendix A did not suciently satisfy my question of how
these denitions came to be. What I was thinking about specically is that the middle class
families were those that adhered to dominant paradigms of what the family should be (married
individuals, nuclear household, home ownership, suburbs I am thinking like in the sociology
of family lit) while the working and lower class were often in violation of these dominant social
expectations. My question then is, well if families adhere to or violate dominant social norms,
how would one expect the childrearing behaviors to not fracture along these same lines. Does
she mean for class to like this, or is class a question of income and education which correlate
but are not perfectly associated with dominant norms? Moreover if Lareau means for class
to be the latter denition, why didn't she include any families which had sucient levels of
income and education but did not conform to dominant social standards (like for example a
divorced single parent working in a white collar job)?

encourage these activities and see them as important for cultivating
characteristics in their children. In other words, the cultural and rational choice
explanations for why there are class dierences in educational attainment may
not be mutually exclusive.

Kaljimin 1994

increase in economic homogamy relative to cultural homogamy


When at a societal level, individuals come to select partners more on shared educational
and economic characteristics as opposed to cultural ones (see Kaljimin),
inequality across households can be expected to increase.

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