14 SES 04 A, Parent Engagement in Schools and Communities
The paper investigates differences in childrearing practices between parents from different social classes in Germany and Japan with a special focus on elementary school children’s involvement in afterschool activities. Comparative educational studies for Germany and Japan have a long tradition in education research (e.g., comparisons of curricula, teacher education, student’s motivation). However, little research has been done that compares differences in parenting styles, and how social class influences children’s daily lives. Since Lareau (2003) published her seminal work on social class differences in parenting styles, researchers in the United States (e.g., Bodovski & Farkas, 2008) and Great Britain (e.g., Irwin & Elley, 2011) have examined how the concept of concerted cultivation works in large quantitative data sets. Yet, only a few studies have asked if concerted cultivation is also present in Non-English speaking highly industrialized and classed societies such as Germany and Japan, and how concerted cultivation might differ due to national culture and features of the education system.
Drawing on the work of Lareau (2011) and using the theoretical framework of Pierre Bourdieu (1986), the present study addresses two main research questions: The first question asks whether there are social class differences in family life with elementary school children in Germany and Japan. Family life is conceptualized as involving parenting practices as well as children’s own practices. The first research question follows Lareau’s assertion that variation in how children grow up largely depends on the family’s social class background. While middle-class children are expected to be more involved in organized activities, we assume that lower-class children more frequently participate in activities that are less structured and supervised by adults such as peer cultural activities and media use.
The second question is concerned with how parenting practices and children’s out-of-school activities differ between families in Germany and Japan that are similarly positioned in the social class system. The hypothesis is that cultural differences, as well as dissimilarities between the education systems of both countries, influence how middle-class parents approach childrearing and how children’s daily lives are organized. For example, the Japanese tradition of shadow education is assumed to play a major role in how families set up their children’s education. However, similar strategies should be found regarding children’s participation in afterschool activities that are geared towards children’s talent and skill development. Prior research shows that time spent on learning in Japanese families and in private tutoring is shaped by socioeconomic status and positively linked to school performance in elementary school (Shinogaya & Akabayashi, 2012). For Germany, de Moll and Betz (2016) focused on social class differences in children’s organization of daily life and found profound inequalities not only in regard to parent-child activities but also regarding activities that children do when their parents are not present. The present study adds to these studies by going into more detail regarding children's organization of daily life, thereby drawing a more complete picture of family life, and by adding a comparative perspective.
The study draws on two large data sets from Germany and Japan, which allow for a thorough examination of family processes and their effects on child outcomes. To answer the research questions for the German sample, we analyze data from the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS). For the Japanese part, the analyses make use of the Japanese Longitudinal Survey of Babies in the 21st century, which gives rich insights into family life and childrearing practices. The study focuses on families with children who attend elementary school, and thus, cross-sectional data sets are used. In addition to variables on parenting and children’s out-of-school activities, the analyses include control variables such as child’s gender and immigrant status.
Preliminary results show that parenting practices that resemble key characteristics of concerted cultivation are prevalent in German middle-class families. For example, children from middle-class families are enrolled in multiple afternoon activities such as music and athletics. Middle-class parents more frequently engage in their child’s school than less privileged parents and more often involve their children in school-related activities like reading. Japanese middle-class parents also enrol their children in various out-of-school activities. However, children’s activities differ in content and the traditional participation in shadow education is not present in the German sample to the same extent. The results support the notion of class-based cultural logics of family life in both countries. At the same time, culture influences how concerted cultivation is practised in each country. This finding relates to Bourdieu’s assertion that the accumulation and transmission of cultural capital is universal among the middle-classes in classed societies, whereas differences stem from how cultural capital is shaped in a specific society. For example, children’s participation in out-of-school activities that are more or less directly related to school (e.g., additional language training, reading/writing) is not common among German middle-class families, while parents in Japan tend to put more emphasis on such activities and try to pass on educational advantages in less subtle ways. Further studies should examine how the organization of children’s lives in each country relate to school success and therefore help explain educational inequalities.
de Moll, F. & Betz, T. (2016). Accounting for children’s agency in research on educational inequality: the influence of children’s own practices on their academic habitus in elementary school. In F. Esser, M.S. Baader, T. Betz & B. Hungerland (Eds.), Reconceptualising Agency and Childhood (p. 271–289). New York: Routledge. Bodovski, K., & Farkas, G. (2008). “Concerted Cultivation” and unequal achievement in elementary school. Social Science Research, 37(3), 903–919. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). Greenwood Press. Irwin, S., & Elley, S. (2011). Concerted Cultivation? Parenting Values, Education and Class Diversity. Sociology, 45(3), 480–495. Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal childhoods: class, race, and family life (with an update a decade later). Berkeley: University of California Press. Shinogaya, K., & Akabayashi, H. (2012). The structure of the effects of family background on children’s academic ability-An investigation using hierarchical multiple regression analysis and structural equation modeling. Tokyo: Panel Data Research Center at Keio University, SDP2012-007.
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