How Money Changes Your Parenting Style

While social status and wealth can afford children opportunities, letting children struggle and providing them time to bond with friends and family is also a valuable parenting style.

In her research ‘Unequal Childhoods’, sociologist Annette Lareau discusses how different parenting styles from the middle class and working class create social inequality between children.

Parenting Styles Based on Social Class: Concerted Cultivation and Natural Growth Parenting

Middle class families can typically afford to spend more time and money on their children: After-school activities, organized sports, more time reading to their children, and imparting their knowledge and skills. By providing their children opportunities that are not taught in school, middle class parents ultimately positively influence school performance and future job opportunities.

Lareau called this parenting style Concerted Cultivation. By concentrating resources on their children, middle class parents cultivate their children’s competencies and expand their skills and talents.

In contrast, working class families have less time and disposable income for child rearing. Called the Natural Growth style of parenting, it favors unstructured play with more involvement of extended family in childrearing. Working class parents tend not to “overschedule” their children’s time or care much about cultivating their children’s talents and interests. They tend to be authoritarian, with children following commands without negotiation.

Lareau argues this difference in parenting style creates social inequality. Because working class children have less access to social skills and opportunities for talent development, they are generally less adept in navigating middle class and upper class society, are less prepared for school and the job market, and can develop negative perceptions for authority.

The effect leaves working class children raised under the Natural Growth style of parenting severely unprepared for adulthood compared to middle class children raised with Concerted Cultivation.

Disadvantages of Too Much

But it turns out too much affluence, overscheduling, and “advantage” may negate many of the positive effects of Concerted Cultivation.

While the advantages of Concerted Cultivation are evident, the disadvantages are less obvious. In her book ‘Price of Privilege,’ child psychologist Madeline Levine discusses research showing privileged teens are experiencing epidemic rates of depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse – at rates higher than any other socioeconomic group of young people in this country.

Materialism, pressure to achieve, perfectionism, and disconnection are creating a crisis in America’s youth that is directly linked to having too much access to wealth and privilege.

The Natural Growth parenting style of the working class also produces several advantages. With less organized activities and more free time for play, children develop more social interactions with other children in the neighborhood, and more independence and responsibility. A lack of financial advantage actually leads children to naturally develop their own problem solving and social skills including:

  • More innovative, creative ways of thinking
  • Closer family bonds with both extended family and siblings
  • Better independent thinking
  • Increased cooperation skills with peers

Similarities between Natural Growth and Slow Parenting Styles

Natural Growth parenting shares many similarities to the Slow Parenting style that many affluent families are now adopting. Allowing children to struggle and solve problems own their own is linked to raising more resilient, independent children.

When considering your own parenting style, try finding a balance between providing children too much and providing them too little. The “best” parenting is likely in between.

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Lareau, Annette. (2003). Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. ISBN 0520239504