Lareau said the differences between classes is most prominent in how they interact with institutions. Middle-class parents try to foresee and forestall potential problems and enhance experiences, while working-class parents are not proactive in working with institutions such as school or a sports team.
Lareau described Wendy Driver, from a white, working-class family, as believing her parents were awesome and very active in her life.
Lareau said her follow-up study suggests that while Driver’s parents were very active in ascertaining the commitment of Driver’s fiancee, planning her wedding and providing transportation and child care, they weren’t active in her interaction with institutions.
Lareau said when Driver went to community college and had a problem concerning her classes, she never thought to ask her parents.
“At 18, Wendy said, ‘I’m 18. I’m old enough to make my own decisions.’ This is very similar to when Wendy was in third grade and the school discussed putting her in a different class due to a learning disability and her mother was cautious and did not want to step in to the discussion,” she said.
At the end of her second study, Lareau said no one from her original study who was from a working-class family was upwardly mobile.
Lareau said resistance to studies of social class persist because most Americans consider themselves to be middle class and more attention is placed on racial cleavages, but her studies have proven class difference has a lasting impact.
“Class remains important in child rearing, and we need to have more conversations about the differences in class,” Lareau said.
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