BEYOND STRUCTURE VERSUS CULTURE: CLASS-SPECIFIC PARENTING PRACTICES IN HONG KONG

  • The authors:
    Lee Trevor Tsz-lok
  • Issue: July 24-26th, 2019
  • Pages: 656-665
  • Section: EDUCATIONAL MOBILITY AND SOCIAL INEQUALITY
  • URL: http://conference-ifl.rudn.ru/656-665/
  • DOI:
    10.22363/09669-2019-656-665

Abstract. Growing inequality within and across the advanced capitalist
countries has been among the top concerns of both social scientists and
politicians today. An extensive literature on class stratification shows that
parental influence on child outcomes is crucial for sustaining class
inequality. However, the mechanism underlying the class effects is far from
conclusive. One main debate in the existing literature centers on a question
of whether class-specific parenting practices in reproducing inequalities is
cultural or structural-the ‘cultural logic of childrearing’ (Lareau, 2011) or
class resources play a pivotal role in the class disparities. Alternatively, this
study adopts Sewell’s (1992) concept of the multiplicity of structures to
understand how both cultural and structural elements of the class processes
are interrelated. In addition, the class difference of parenting in the context
of Hong Kong has been under-researched. Notably characterized by the
hyper-competitive and hybrid cultural educational context, and the deeply
unequal society, the Hong Kong case can be an analytical leverage for the
cross-cultural comparison of class-specific parenting practices. Drawing on
semi-structured interviews with 15 Chinese parents in Hong Kong,
therefore, the present study is to analyze complex processes in which social
class shapes parenting values and practices.
The preliminary findings of this on-going study point to the subtle
differences of parental values and practices in relation to class positions.
Regardless of class backgrounds, all the parent respondents emphasized the
intensive parenting to greater or lesser degree. Their values in parenting
were rather ambivalent. On the one hand, they had high aspirations for their
children’s future educational attainment (at least completing a university
education). As a result, both middle-class parents and parents from the
lower class tended to use a similar set of intensive parenting strategies to
foster their children’s cognitive and noncognitive development. On the other
hand, they also valued a fulfilling and happy life for their children. At times,
these two types of values are conflicting with each other when being put
into practice. Middle-class parents were more likely to see them as a matter
of choice between a more intensive parenting and a more hands-off one.
Conversely, due to the resources limitation, most lower-class parents were
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DOI: 10.22363/09669-2019-656-665
struggling with the academic demands of intensive parenting strategies.
When they found that they failed to have the desired impact on their
children’s academic outcomes, they tended to interpret that as a ‘fate’ or as
a result of placing a high value on child’s happiness. In other words, despite
that they may be similar in their attempts to foster their children in an
intensive parenting style, middle-class parents and lower-class parents from
the lower class tended to have different ways to make sense of their
parenting experiences and struggles.
Keywords: parenting; social class; inequality; Hong Kong

Lee Trevor Tsz-lok
The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong,
e-mail: lee.trevor@gmail.com
ORCID ID: 0000-0002-8081-720X

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