Albion College Sociology Two American Families Analysis

Read Coontz’s The Way We Weren’t, Lareau’s Unequal Childhoods; Class, Race, and Family Life, and watch the documentary Two American Families. The Lareau article discusses how socialization differs between working class and middle class families, and discusses how these differences influence their ability to negotiate social institutions (such as school). Coontz compares family life in the past to the modern day. The documentary provides a more specific focus on how structural changes have influenced two families (the Neumanns and the Stanleys) by repeatedly visiting and interviewing the families over the past twenty years. For your paper, please address the following questions:

  • The documentary introduces us to the lives of two American families, the Neumanns and the Stanleys. Briefly describe the two families, and the economic and social struggles they have faced. Where did they start? Where are they now? What structural and family changes influenced their trajectories?
  • How did the changing economic conditions affect the family lives of the Neumanns and Stanleys? How did it affect their marriages? How did it affect their relationships with their kids? How did it affect their kids’ lives growing up? What lessons did the children learn from their parent’s struggles growing up?
  • The Lareau article focuses on the effects of class and race on family life in several families. What is the primary difference that Lareau identifies between working and middle class families (make sure that you describe both)? What are some of the effects that these differences have on the lives of the children in these families? Based on this framework, how would Lareau describe the Neumanns and the Stanleys? Provide one or two examples from the documentary to support your argument.
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