Educational Strategies and Self-Beliefs of Lower Class Parents in Germany in the Face of Current Notions of Good Parenting

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:18
Oral Presentation
Frederick DE MOLL, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, Germany
In recent years, public and political debates on educational inequality have increasingly focused on parents’ influence on children’s academic development. Social and education policies throughout Western societies aim to promote meritocratic competition by increasing socioeconomically disadvantaged parents’ abilities to cultivate their children’s talents (Gillies, 2005): Good parenting is often characterized by typical middle class practices such as reading daily to children and enrolling them in organized activities. However, it remains unknown how lower class parents respond to such expectations. Their own perspective on the link between childrearing and educational success has rarely been studied. The present study aims to help fill this gap. Drawing on Bourdieu’s contention that social class is linked to cultural practices and people's habitus, the study first examines differences in parents’ childrearing practices and family life among the lower class in Germany. Second, the study asks under what conditions parents believe in their capacity to improve their children’s education.

The analyses draw on primary data of N = 1069 parents with elementary school children (9–12 years old) in Germany. Disadvantaged parents are identified based on income, education, and employment status. The results show that two distinct types of childrearing practices are prevalent among lower class parents: the first type can be called Active Cultivation (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2011), which is a lower-class childrearing strategy aimed at upward social mobility; the second type is characterized by children’s media use and low parental involvement in children’s academic lives. Parents who try to promote their children’s school success put high value on performance and believe in meritocracy, whereas parents who belong to the second type consider their child’s home learning opportunities to be deficient. Thus, lower class parents seem to be largely influenced by publicly held beliefs about their responsibilities and limitations in providing their children with educational experiences.