Essential Assistance’ versus ‘Concerted Cultivation’: Theorising Class-Based Patterns of Parenting in Britain

Sharon Wheeler

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The family is recognised by academics as a key site for the (re)production of class inequalities in several contexts, with parenting being subject to increasing scrutiny and research. Much of the research hitherto has been primarily deductive in nature – academics have tended to test and explore existing theories and the significance of particular family processes and parenting variables. This article presents a grounded theory of class-specific patterns of parenting in relation to children’s education and leisure, which was produced on the basis of 90 interviews with a case study of families from a small city in the north-west of England. Two main social classes formed the case study – a poor-working-class and a middle-class divided into three fractions. The parents from the poor-working-class and middle-class families had distinct mentalities and practices that marked two patterns of parenting, conceptualised as ‘essential assistance’ and ‘concerted cultivation’ (the latter coined by Lareau (2003)) respectively.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPedagogy, Culture and Society
Early online date13 Nov 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Nov 2017


  • concerted cultivation
  • essential assistance
  • grounded theory
  • parenting
  • social class


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