Conflicted cultivation: Parenting, privilege, and moral worth in wealthy New York families

Original Article

Abstract

Recent research on parenting and social class has identified cultivation strategies that focus on expanding children’s skills and advantages, but such work has not looked specifically at parenting among elites. Drawing on 50 in-depth interviews, this article investigates the childrearing strategies and discourses of wealthy and affluent parents living in and around New York City. Concerned about raising “entitled” children, elite parents employ strategies of constraint (on behavioral and material entitlements) and exposure (to less advantaged social others) to produce morally “good people.” However, these strategies stand in tension with another significant parental concern: the expansion of both children’s selfhood and their opportunities. Ultimately, though not quite intentionally, parents cultivate an appropriate habitus of privilege, rather than significantly limit their children’s material or experiential advantages. Parents’ discourses about constituting not-entitled subjects are important for two reasons. One, they illuminate the struggles of liberal elites to be morally worthy in an environment marked by extreme inequality, challenging assumptions about the instrumentality of their action. Two, they reveal the affective and behavioral bases of legitimate entitlement more generally: what matters is how people act and how they feel, not what they have.

Keywords

entitlement habitus inequality morality parenting social class 

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyNew School for Social ResearchNew YorkUSA

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