Wednesday, March 05, 2014

How we live now

Hyperparenting and the upper-middle (striver) class. This essay is about the book The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World by Alison Wolf.

See also Kids these days and Having it all.
NYBooks: ... What most differentiates them is their total absorption in two things—their careers and their children. They devote extremely long hours to their professions, which often require them to be electronically available at almost all hours. According to Wolf’s data, upper-middle-class couples now work on average more hours per day than the rest of the population, and unlike the lower classes, they have no more leisure time now than they did in the 1960s. Contrary to what one might expect, upper-middle-class women usually return to work full-time after childbirth, whereas other women more often stop paid work at least temporarily or return only part-time. As Wolf points out, for upper-middle-class women to interrupt their careers means large sacrifices of opportunity. Moreover, their income is usually sufficient to cover the considerable expense of hiring nannies or other forms of child care. But even more important than the money is the fact that for these women, their sense of identity is tied to their professions. They are full participants in what James Surowiecki recently called “the cult of overwork.”

The commitment of power couples to their professions is outweighed only by their extraordinary involvement with their children. Wolf titles a section on children “Willing Slaves,” and begins with a one-sentence paragraph, “And then there are the children.” The next paragraph starts, “Young children dominate the lives of their parents not just emotionally but by completely upturning their lives.” Against all logic, as documented by Wolf, upper-middle-class couples somehow manage to spend more interactive time (not just being in the same room) with their children than any group in history—with or without careers, rich or poor.

True, they have fewer children; in fact, their fertility rate is so low that they don’t even replace themselves. But the few children they have are at the center of their lives, and fathers are often just as much involved as mothers. They spend enormous amounts of money on them, and employ a vast network of experts to help—beginning with childbirth classes and lactation consultants, and continuing through tutors to help them get into the best schools, athletic coaches to help the children make the team, teachers to help them develop their musical and dramatic talents, and so forth. Nannies alone cost on the order of tens of thousands of dollars per year. Children are also incorporated into their parents’ social lives ...

... The consequences of hyperparenting are unknown, since the phenomenon is only a few decades old. My views are shaped largely by observing my own family and friends, and that is not much to rely on, but I will speculate anyway. I see great advantages for the children, but also some warning signs. Young upper-middle-class children are, indeed, remarkably precocious. Since they have been exposed to adult conversations almost constantly from birth, they are much more articulate and broadly knowledgeable than children were a generation ago. They are also remarkably at ease with other people, both adults and children, because they are with them so much—with their parents’ friends, in early preschool, and in playgroups often organized among nannies. And having endured little frustration or isolation, they seem to me happier and more affectionate than children were in earlier generations. They love being with their parents (and why not?). They don’t go “up the street” to do “nothing,” as my friends and I did. They stick close to home, and their best friends are their parents.

[ Italics mine ]


chartreuse1737 said...

yes. even though this may make no difference in their children's iq it will most certainly make a difference in the "success" of their children. as david brooks correctly commented the stereotypical amy chua, chinese/korean mother/parent is really just the same as the upmc white parent.

needless to say the hereditist ideology militates for "benign neglect" and is most common among "the wrong sort of white people".

chartreuse1737 said...

misdreavus is a meth addict and homsexual.

5371 said...

This is the sort of rubbish you produce when you believe every word that people answer to surveys that strongly engage their self-esteem. But then the aim was never to investigate the truth but to pat herself and her friends on the back.

Bobdisqus said...

Steve your income is top 5%, what are the UMC parameters that include you?

botti said...

This was pretty much the point Bryan Caplan made in his book 'Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids'. He cited all the classic twin/adoption studies to make his case.

The Guardian newspaper brought him and Amy Chua together to discuss their respective parenting books, some excerpts:

"BC: Two passages stuck with me. You write about how your husband was raised in a very liberal way, and yet you describe this parenting as "doomed to fail". It didn't fail with your husband – he is a professor and bestselling author.

AC: Some people are just self-motivated – my husband was. I also believe there are many children for whom parental involvement is key. I had academic parents and I was a good student, but when I was 14, I got into a bad crowd, my grades starting falling. My father used some tough language on me, and now, as an adult, I am so grateful. Some people don't need parental commitment, they will still come out great, but for others, parents can be critical in providing moral and academic guidance.

BC: Most of my book is based on a summary of 40 years of adoption and twin studies – the usual result is parents just don't have much effect on their kids. In your book you have lots of great stories about how you influenced your kids, and I believe you did for a while, but what the adoption and twin evidence says is that the feeling that parents are changing their kids is based on an illusion. There is a big short-run effect, but the long-run effect is very different…

BC: I have three sons – eight-year-old identical twins and a baby. I'm not permissive, we do have discipline, but the point is to make sure they treat people decently. Once my kids were born, I realised that all these things that people say about parenting are wrong according to the best science. Parents seem to think their kids are like clay, that you mould them into the right shape when they're wet. A better metaphor is that kids are like flexible plastic – they respond to pressure, but when you release the pressure they tend to pop back to their original shape. I don't know Amy and her kids, but from my reading of the book the mother-daughter relationship seemed strained for many years, and that's sad.

AC: I instilled a sense of respect and discipline that will last them a lifetime. I don't think just by doing fun things and praising kids all the time that they develop that inner strength. When my kids wanted to give up on things, I wouldn't let them, and those are lifelong lessons. The reason my daughters say they would be strict parents themselves is because that represents a mother who loved her children more than anything...

BobSykes said...

Wolf gets the class wrong, especially for academics. According to the definitions used by the BLS, they are solidly upper class, which begins at the upper 20% percentile. Actually, most academics, especially those in STEM, are in the upper 10% of the income distribution, and our beloved Dean Hsu is undoubtedly in the upper 5%. I had a colleague who combined family income put him in the upper 1%.

Wolf's article must relate to Charles Murray's observations about class in whites, too.

chartreuse1737 said...

those who are born smart will do better ceteris paribus, and those born dumb can't be made smart even by amy chua. BUT, there is still enormous (near that of the population variance) variance in the accomplishment, status, etc. for any given iq or other measured trait or combination of traits. parenting DOES explain part of this residual variance, but not all of it.

chartreuse1737 said...

upper class in britain means titled even if you drive a cab or work as a gardener, and there is one duke who does. on the cosby show phylicia rashad's character said, "we work for our money. rich people's money works for them." the multigeneration rich in america generally do work but at fairly trivial things. the american self-made rich do not think of themselves as upper class because their parents weren't.

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