Essay 1

Julius D’Amato

English 110

6 April 2010

Concerted Cultivation and Accomplishment of Natural Growth: How Sports and the Neighborhood affect children according to Annette Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods.

Growing up, parents rear their children in many ways.  Annette Lareau in her book Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, And Family Life focuses on two different types of child upbringing; Concerted Cultivation and the Accomplishment of Natural Growth.  Many people throughout the world use these two different techniques and don’t even know them, let alone that they use them.  Annette Lareau defines Concerted Cultivation as a type of child upbringing when middle class parents have a greater presence in the lives of their children; mainly through organizing the child’s daily life. Middle class families place great importance on scheduling and participating in a variety of extracurricular activities and sports. Middle class parents also encouraged independence and for their children to ask questions.  Concerted Cultivation has the parents more involved in the lives of the children, when in Natural Growth “the neighborhood raising the child.” Annett Lareau writes:

By making certain their children have these and other experiences, middle class parents engage in a process of concerted cultivation. From this, a robust sense of entitlement plays an especially important role in institutional settings, where middle-class children learn to question adults and address them as relative equals. (Lareau 2)

When it comes to concerted cultivation parents play a very active role in their child’s life.  The parents put their children in multiple leisure activities such as; sports, learning to play instruments and many other activities.  Concerted Cultivation mainly describes me throughout my life, especially from the ages 9 and 10.  I’ve participated in many activities for as long as I can remember.  My parents put me into; Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Tennis, and even a little Football.  And I enjoyed every minute of it.  Lareau argues about a sense of entitlement, and how concerted cultivated children question adults and see them as their relative equals.  I see this in my everyday life, for example when an adult gives me a rule (parents) I try to negotiate instead of just accepting it.

Products of concerted cultivation have many benefits.  Products of concerted cultivation also achieve many useful experiences that will benefit one later on in life in the institutional setting and also in the work force when they get older.  Products of concerted cultivation with all of its experiences, gives one a better work ethic.  Annette Lareau explains this in her book. She writes:

By encouraging involvement in activities outside the home, middle class parents position their children to receive more than an education in how to play soccer, baseball, or piano.  These young sports enthusiasts and budding musicians acquire skills and dispositions that help them navigate in the institutional world.  They learn to think of themselves as special and as entitled to receive certain kinds of services from adults.  They also acquire a valuable set of white-collar work skills, including how to set priorities, manage an itinerary, shake hands with strangers, and work on a team. (Lareau 39)

Around the age of 10 years old, as a product of concerted cultivation, I really didn’t see how all of these sports would affect me in the work force.  Looking at it now I can see that it really did help just like Lareau argued.  At the age of 10 years old one really doesn’t see how sports and all these activities could help one with acquiring these skills; how to set priorities, manage an itinerary, shake hands with strangers, work on a team, etc.  All of these skills really help one in the institutional setting as one grows up.  At 10 years old, when it comes to sports one just wants to get better and do good, one really doesn’t look at the advantages it sets up for the future.

Lareau explains in her book that activities that the children take part in have great importance to the parents of that child.  This happens in any concerted cultivated family.  Since everything has a great importance, this puts extra stress on the child to do well in everything he/she does.  Lareau writes:

In middle-class homes, adults treat children’s activities seriously.  A request for help is not likely to be waved aside.  Since parents in these homes often are preoccupied with their children’s lives, things that are important to children can easily become major events for their parents as well.  This in turn increases the pressure on children to succeed. (Lareau 82)

When I was 10 years old my parents lives basically revolved around me and this continued for a very long time, even now.  Mainly because my parents always drove me and sometimes my friends to our sport games and some days we had more than one game in a day.  My family would show up to every game that I had, a great example of what Lareau argues.

Even though I consider myself mostly a product of concerted cultivation because of all the activities I was involved in, I also consider myself a product of natural growth.  To many people’s surprise I see myself as both, some find this hard to believe.  While concerted cultivation deals with the middle class, the accomplishment of natural growth focuses on the working class.  Annette Lareau defines Natural Growth as a type of child upbringing when working class parents favor letting their children play freely compared to the middle class children who had lives scheduled around extracurricular activities.  Because of money problems and other issues surrounding the working class parents have concerned themselves with providing basic needs such as food and shelter.  Family relatives have a greater presence in working class families and help to raise the children together. At home, parents speak to children with commands rather than discussions or requests.  Lareau also show the good aspects of natural growth.  She argues:

The cultural logic of the accomplishment of natural growth grants children an autonomous world, apart from adults, in which they are free to try out new experiences and develop important social competencies.  Tyrec and other working-class and poor children learn how to be members of informal peer groups.  They learn how to strategize.  Children, especially boys, learn how to negotiate open conflict during play, including how to defend themselves physically.  Boys are also given more latitude to play farther away from home than girls. (Lareau 67)

I consider myself a product of both types of child upbringing because of how Annette Lareau describes them.  Around the age of 10 years old I participated in a lot of activities, but when I didn’t have a game or a practice, basically any of my spare time, I played outside with friends from my block.  These benefits that Lareau argued made me realize that I considered myself both concerted cultivation as well as the accomplishment of natural growth.  Hanging out with friends from my block made me learn how to be in an informal peer group, I also learned how to negotiate open conflicts.  Since the age of 10 years old I started getting into more fights and learned how to defend myself physically, an example of what Lareau explains.

Concerted Cultivation and the Accomplishment of Natural Growth have many differences between them, but Language has the greatest importance.  They way that middle class uses language and the way working class and poor use language differ.  Middle class families freely share laughter, language, and affection.  In middle class families the parents rarely use physical punishment as an option in response to disobedience.  They have meaningful conversations with their children and all of this often leads to a sense of entitlement within the child, unlike the working and poor classes.  These classes basically speak to their children in short and simple sentences.  In middle class the children negotiate more, while in working and poor class negotiation occur less frequently.  Working class and poor class families use physical punishment more frequently than middle class families.  Lareau says:

Middle-class children, we found, often use their verbal skills to argue with their parents.  Rather than following parents’ directives silently, as children in the working-class and poor homes generally do, middle-class children tend to bargain, using reasoning to secure all small advantages. (Lareau 127)

In my life I see this happen frequently, but I also see a part of natural growth in me.  When my parents give me an order to do something I do try to negotiate I try not to take “no” for an answer, but nothing always goes as planned.  When I try to do something when my parents do not want me to I would do my best to get them to say “yes” instead of “no.”  Around the ages of 9-10 years old, even throughout my whole life I would try to do this all the time, but more so, on my mother.  I would always “test the waters,” as she says.  But as soon as she said “I’m going to get your father,” I shut up and did what I had to do.  As for physical violence my parents never hit me at all.  It never got to that point, I knew the “line,” and when I could or couldn’t cross it.  The worst that ever happens, has to be occasionally when my mother would take off the chancleta (slipper or flip-flop) to throw but nothing worse than that.  Again I consider myself mainly a product of concerted cultivation, but I did have some inkling of natural growth in me.

Works Cited

  • Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. Berkeley: University of California, 2003. Print.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


No Comment

Leave a Reply

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar