Factors Influencing the Formation of a Child: Family, Religion, Extracurricular Activities and Others

In the article, “Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childrearing in Black Families and White Families” by Annette Lareau it becomes apparent how multiple factors are present on the impact of a child’s life chances. She acknowledges the studies that have been done previously, which also give insight on how multiple factors can impact the study of understanding families. Factors such as race, religion, family income, and several others have been thought to have some sort of significance to a child’s upbringing.

In this particular research article, Lareau gives attention on how social class in black and white families are involved in a child’s life. It is stated that data collected from previous studies is unsatisfactory on providing accurate information on how well family life transfers to a child’s advantages.

Lareau discovers key findings in this study that show an improvement in this type of research. In both working class and poor families, parents established limits for their children. Children were then given the freedom to discover their own pastimes within the boundaries the parents had set forth. Another key finding that has been discovered was among these families, children’s frequent interaction with relatives compared to acquaintances or strangers created a greater divide between the social settings of their family and the outside world. The children within these families were also noticed to absorb the adults emotional tendencies when it came to powerlessness among institutional relationships.

Through the course of this article, I was thoroughly intrigued by the research done and the discoveries made. Until recently, I have not put much effort into the thought of how complex childrearing could be. What I found the most intriguing was the discussion between the Williams family and the McAllister family. The Williams family was considered to be a middle-class family and with a son, Alexander. Alexanders parents made sure that he was involved in extracurricular activities including sports, music, and social life such as school plays.

The parents had successful careers and although busy, were able to maintain a stable schedule for Alexander to attend all of his activities. There were certain points in time where certain activities would overlap but it was not on a regular basis. Although all of the organized activities that Alexander’s parents had done for him, it did seem to show that his leisure or informal activities were limited or restricted.

Ms. Williams made a statement that she did not want Alexander to be too involved with watching television and instead involved him in music lessons on Saturday mornings. I appreciated the compassion and awareness Alexander’s parents gave to his future success by involving him in multiple organized activities, but I also feel as if a child is restricted from typical leisure activities it can also negatively impact their childrearing.

As for the second family, the McAllister’s are a poor African American family living in an apartment considered to be in the projects. At all times there is a minimum of four children in the apartment that Ms. McAllister watches over. Two of Ms. McAllister’s children typically live with their grandmother but come and stay at the apartment on occasion along with cousins. Harold is one of Ms. McAllister’s four children and is involved in the research study. Harold is described to be a young, stocky boy with a big smile. The only adult organized activity that Harold participates in is an occasional bible study in the neighbor’s house and a week long bible camp.

Since Harold comes from a poor or low-income family, he is viewed to have a lot of informal activities such as visiting relatives, playing with local kids in the neighborhood, and watching television and videos. Although it appeared that Harold did not have much involvement in organized activities that could benefit his future in societies eyes, he was learning valuable lessons through his kin sharing with family members and in the outside world as well.

The comparison between the Williams and McAllister families was very compelling to me. I felt as if coming from an outside perspective, I would view and expect the Williams child to have a better quality of life and future compared to the McAllister’s child. After reading the article I believe that to be untrue.

Although Alexander Williams is graciously exposed to extracurricular activities that will improve him as an individual for future success, it did not take away the quality of life that Harold McAllister possessed for his current and future self. I felt that even though the two came from very different social classes, it did not take away from the lessons they were learning. Although each child will obtain skills that the other might not, it is as if they are learning the same fundamental skills just from different approaches.

As for the study itself, I believe it was executed in an accurate and proactive manner. Lareau was able to improve the strength of this study by including more than just one division. Lareau was able to break down categories involving black and white families into different social classes including middle-class, working-class, and poor unlike other studies where only one factor or category was observed at a time.

With the discovery of accurate information, Lareau has opened a door for more proactive research studies to be performed. The only part of the study that left me with a vague understanding was the duration of each phase and how they all varied. When it came to the beginning phases of her study they didn’t seem to follow any trend. One school observation lasted two months while another lasted six months and so forth. Although there is logical reasoning behind doing such, it did leave me wondering if it had any impact on the strength of the study.

As for my personal experience, I came from a working to middle-class family that lived in a rural area just 20-minutes west of Norman, Oklahoma. My childrearing experience was very similar to the Williams and McAllister’s. We were not always the most financially set at times, but my parents were always able to have my brother and I in extracurriculars while also leaving us leisure time to have informal activities.

In relation to the Williams family, I personally was involved in organized activities my parents had me in such as Girl Scouts, church youth group, and competitive cheer. In contrast to the Williams family but in similarity to the McAllister’s, my parents believed in letting us experience quality leisure time. They expressed this by letting my brother and I enjoy cartoons whenever we were home, playing outside with the other kids down the street, and visiting with relatives. My parents were able to display the positives of both organized and leisure activities during my childhood which have led me to where I am today.

The take-away information I have learned from this study is that there is a genuine invisible inequality among social class and race in families across the nation. It is not quite clear on the surface the exact advantages and disadvantages the groups involved in this study face. Ultimately, children gain important life lessons that give them some form of advantage in continuing through adolescence no matter the social class or race.

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