Habitus, childrearing approach and early child development in Scotland
Wood, Tania Sheena Rachel
This thesis is concerned with childrearing approach as one of the prime sites of the reproduction of social inequality. It adopts Bourdieu’s concept of habitus as a way of explaining how social structures are reproduced through childrearing approach, and it draws on Annette Lareau’s definition of the ‘concerted cultivation’ and ‘accomplishment of natural growth’ childrearing approaches (Lareau 2003). During the latter half of the 2000s, UK and Scottish government policy placed increasing emphasis on the importance of parenting and the early years of a child’s life as factors likely to have an impact on health, education and employment outcomes. Between 2005 and 2008 - the timeframe considered by this thesis - a number of policy initiatives emerged which were intended to support ‘better parenting’. Critics of these policy initiatives argue that what was presented as a model of good parenting was in essence a model of middle class parenting which misunderstood and devalued other parenting approaches. Lareau’s typology of childrearing approach is used as a means of situating the UK parenting policy discourse within a broader theoretical context and assessing critically the extent to which this policy discourse reflects childrearing approaches in Scotland. During this period, the policy areas of parenting and neighbourhood began increasingly to overlap in the UK, both through area-based family interventions such as Sure Start and through the central role given to parents in the drive towards community empowerment, greater collective efficacy and reduced anti-social behaviour. The analysis uses data from the ‘Growing up in Scotland’ (GUS) survey to ask whether ‘concerted cultivation’ and the ‘accomplishment of natural growth’ can be observed in the childrearing approaches of Scottish mothers; it assesses whether beliefs about collective efficacy and measures of neighbourhood deprivation are associated with childrearing approach; it explores whether mothers change their childrearing approach over time and considers what factors might influence changes in childrearing approach. Finally, the thesis examines links between a mother’s childrearing approach and her child’s behavioural development at entry to primary school. This thesis builds on previous research on childrearing approach by testing Lareau’s concepts on a quantitative sample of mothers in a different geographical locale and by exploring changes in childrearing approach longitudinally. The analysis presented considers childrearing approach both at the individual and aggregate level. A narrative analysis technique is used to construct biographies for four mothers using the quantitative data in GUS. The constructed biographies inform a discussion of the ways in which childrearing may be experienced and made sense of by the individual. Latent Class Analysis is then used to explore whether patterns of childrearing practice can be discerned in the GUS sample. A typology of four childrearing approaches is presented: two approaches correspond to Lareau’s typology and two further groups are observed: working mothers and socially isolated mothers. The analysis finds that social class differences do not fully explain childrearing approach in the GUS sample. Neighbourhood measures are not found to be associated with childrearing approach when socio-economic factors are controlled for. Changes in socio-economic status are associated with changes in childrearing approach; mothers who experience fewer changes in socio-economic position tend to be those who adopt a childrearing approach similar to ‘concerted cultivation’. The children of these mothers are more likely to display pro-social behaviours at entry to primary school than the children of other childrearing approaches; the children of mothers who adopt a childrearing approach akin to ‘the accomplishment of natural growth’ are more likely to display conduct problems at entry to primary school. The discussion concludes that family policy between 2005 and 2008 did not fully reflect the variety of childrearing approaches in Scotland, and that mothers whose circumstances and childrearing approach diverged from the policy model may not have been adequately supported.