Summary: Several generations of sociological researchers discovered parenting styles vary by social class. Post World War II, Melvin Kohn ( 1977) found middle-class parents stress self-mastery and creativity in their children; working-class parents focus on instilling conformity and making their children obedient to authority. At the turn of the century, Annette Lareau’s ( 2011) research found working-class parents focus on providing basic necessities for their children while largely leaving their kids alone to socialize themselves; middle- and upper-class parents focus on instilling self-mastery in their children, often through activities, constructive interactions with others, and the learning of making choices and actions to bring about desirable outcomes. More recently, Jessica McCrory Calarco (2014) found classed parenting styles influence education, as there is a positive relationship between class status and a student’s likelihood of taking a proactive role in their learning. These cross-class parenting styles and their influence on education is depicted in this edited clip from the movie Clueless (1995), where a wealthy and powerful father encourages his daughter to achieve high academic marks not through hard work and study, but through creative negotiation and maybe even the outright manipulation of teachers. According to generations of research on cross-class parenting styles, it would be unlikely working-class parents would emphasize negotiation as a life skill, perhaps because these fathers and mothers often feel powerless themselves. Thus, alongside the economic resources that are especially important to intergenerational mobility, middle- and upper-class parents also pass along a form of social capital to their child that offers advantages in modern workplaces that do not reward subordination to authority, but rather incentivize the ability to bend and manipulate authorities towards one’s own interests and desires.
Submitted By: Jason T. Eastman