How does social class affect socialisation within the family?

Congratulations to Tess Pearce, one of our blog competition winners! Tess used IBSS to explore the effect of class on the socialisation of children, and how this influences them as they move into adulthood.

The family is one of the most vital factors for primary socialisation and secondary socialisation for children. Class socialisation refers to the everyday experiences associated with a person’s class location and beliefs and attitudes. So does the family’s social class affect the child’s socialisation? Sociologists argue this matter some agreeing and suggesting that your social class does affect the norms and values you possess.

Children of the upper class and middle class have mannerisms and values that are distinct from those of other social classes. Upper class children are socialised into high culture, for example, being taken to the opera or playing a musical instrument. This contrasts to the popular culture of the working class who might watch celebrity television programs or have a McDonald’s meal. Even their speech has diversity as the middle class speak with an ‘elaborated code,’ in contrast to the ‘restricted code,’ the working class use according to Bernstein.

A social class research by Diana Kendall showed how the family continues to pass on cultural and economic capital. Kendall also showed that member of social classes have different lifestyle from and educational outcomes. From the IBSS website I found that the working class is associated with single parenthood, then it is likely that children within that class will also become a single parent. Recent surveys have also shown that Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rates. These teenage pregnancies are often linked to the working class. In addition to this, the rising divorce rates in contemporary society are often related to poverty – to low income and reliance on state benefits.

A study by Joann Miller and Ted. M Brimeyer looks at class socialisation and how it effects student’s aspirations. The research showed how studying the past, present and anticipated or aspired future class locations is necessary for understanding the attitude and beliefs associated with class. Obviously, depending on whether you are born into a privileged class location or a working class network provides different material resources. These will directly and indirectly shape their ideas on beliefs and values. In 1996 a survey showed how a number of first-year students, coming from families with a modest income, didn’t feel the need to get a job to pay for college. Smith and Powell (1990) saw how students from advantaged families may inaccurately assume that they will be better off financially after college than what they are likely to experience. In comparison, only 22.3 percent of working class students said that feel secure about future employment. However, they tended to anticipate occupations that rank higher in status than their parents’ occupations.

With today’s economic crisis, it is likely that the working class family structure will move to extended. This supplies extra role models for children whilst also providing more emotional support. These additional members within the family are unlikely to appear in an upper class family unit.

There is often a very close relationship between social class and life chances. The higher the class position of a child’s parents, the more likely the child is to attain high educational qualifications and a well paid, high status job. Research from Reay shows how middle class mothers are able to influence their children’s primary schooling more than the working class mothers. This research shows how demands of the working class mothers affect their time to devote to the children. Therefore the children will miss out on important socialisation with their mothers.

In contemporary society it is clear to see that social class does affect the socialisation of children. The working class families often lack role models and quality time with their parents, creating a vicious circle of teenage pregnancies, which is a big issue today. The upper and middle class also create norms, values and expectations that pass down through generations. Even though class divisions are getting more blurred, socialisation between these families is still very much present.

Tess has found some really useful material in the IBSS database. It is also possible to generate more specific search results. For example, searching the database with the keywords ‘class’ and ‘ socialisation’ gives 231 results. You can specify which subject area you want your results to come from, so if you select ‘sociology’ you get 173 results, and if you select ‘anthropology’ you get 45 results. There are also 58 articles written from a ‘politics’ perspective. Another useful feature of IBSS is that you can narrow your searches by geographical area. For example, there are 17 articles about class and socialization in the United Kingdom, and 8 about the same topic in Germany.

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