Parental education, income, and occupation have significant effects on the environment of the child. The socioeconomic status of families is not always easy to determine, but it is possible to classify a majority of individuals into higher and lower SES levels. Surprisingly, it is hard to find definitive studies that summarize recent data. However, Maccoby has presented some of the findings that appear more consistently in the literature. In 1970, Hess did a comprehensive review of the SES studies before that time. Extreme caution must be used when presenting these generalizations because: 1) SES levels are not clearly definable (for example, a graduate student’s familyhigh education and little income); 2) there are a large number of familial differences within the groupings; 3) the studies are correlational and cannot prove causation; (4) the long-term effects of child-care practices are not known; and, 5) most of the studies were performed by middle-class researchers who have a middle-class bias. The following have been consistent differences between high¬ and low-SES families. According to Maccoby, these generalizations have been found across races and cultures.
1. Contrary to the stereotype of noncaring, unstructured child-rearing practices among lower-SES parents, studies indicate “that lower-SES parents tend to stress obedience, respect, neatness, cleanliness, and staying out of trouble.” In comparison, the higher-SES parents tend to emphasize “happiness, creativity, ambition, independence, curiosity, and self-control.”
2. “Lower-SES parents are more controlling, power-assertive, authoritarian, and arbitrary in their discipline, and they are more likely to use physical punishment. Higher-SES parents are more democratic and tend to be either permissive or authoritative (to use Baumrind’s terms). They are more likely to use inductionand to be aware of and responsive to their children’s perspectives.”
3. “Higher-SES parents talk to their children more, reason with them more, and use complex language.” (This is especially true with middle-class mothers and daughters.)
4. “Higher-SES parents tend to show more warmth and affection toward children.”
We should be careful about making value judgments about these child-rearing differences. These practices may be a result of different stresses, problems, injustices, and situational expectations rather than parental caring or skill. It has been speculated that, given the situations the lower-SES families find themselves in, their child-rearing methods are not only realistic but also preferred. The main concern is that, in our highly technological, education-oriented society where individual success is stressed, certain child-rearing practices limit the children’s opportunities and flexibility.
Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the foregoing generalizations about SES.
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