American Sociological Review

Date: 1959

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Social Class and the Exercise of Parental Authority1

Much past research on the relationship between social class and the exercise of parental authority has been concerned with the question of whether or not working-class parents typically employ different techniques from those used by middle-class parents in dealing with their children’s misbehavior. Bronfenbrenner has summarized the results of twenty-five years of investigation in this area as indicating that: "In matters of discipline, working-class parents are consistently more likely to employ physical punishment, while middle-class families rely more on reasoning, isolation, appeals to guilt, and other methods involving the threat of loss of love."2

The studies to which Bronfenbrenner refers have relied primarily on parents’ generalized statements about their usual or their preferred methods of dealing with discipline problems—irrespective of what the particular problem might be. But obviously not all discipline problems evoke the same kinds of parental response. In some sense, after all, the punishment fits the crime. Under what conditions do parents of a given social class punish their children physically, reason with them, isolate them—or ignore their actions altogether?

The present study attempts to specify the practices of middle- and working-class parents in various circumstances, and from this information to develop a more general interpretation of the relationship of social class to the exercise of parental authority.


Washington, D.C.—the locus of this study—has a large proportion of people employed by government, relatively little heavy industry, few recent immigrants, a white working class drawn heavily from rural areas, and a large proportion of Negroes, particularly at lower economic levels. Generalizations based on this or any other sample of one city during one limited period of time are, of course, tentative.

Our intent in selecting the families to be studied was to secure approximately two hundred representative white working-class families and another two hundred representative white middle-class families, each family having a child within a narrowly delimited age range. We decided on fifth-grade children in order to be able to direct the interviews to relationships involving a child old enough to have a developed capacity for verbal communication.

The sampling procedure involved two steps: the first, selection of Census tracts. Tracts with 20 per cent or more Negro population were excluded, as were those in the highest quartile with respect to median income. From among the remaining tracts we then selected four with a predominantly working-class population, four predominantly middle-class, and three having large proportions of each. The final selection of tracts was based on their occupational distribution and their median income, education, rent (of rented homes), and property value (of owner-occupied homes). The second step in the sampling procedure involved selection of families. From the records made available by the public and parochial school systems, we compiled lists of all fifth-grade children whose families lived in the selected tracts. Two hundred families were then randomly selected from among those in which the father had a "white-collar" occupation and another two hundred from among those in which the father had a manual occupation.

In all four hundred families, the mothers were to be interviewed. In every fourth family we also scheduled interviews with the father and the fifth-grade child. (When a broken family fell into this sub-sample, a substitute was chosen from our overall sample, but the broken family was retained in the overall sample.)

When interviews with both parents were scheduled, two members of the staff visited the home together—a male to interview the father, a female to interview the mother. The interviews were conducted independently, in separate rooms, but with essentially identical schedules. The first person to complete his interview with the parent interviewed the child.

We secured the cooperation of 86 per cent of the families where the mother alone was to be interviewed, and 82 per cent of the families where mother, father, and child were to be interviewed. Rates of non-response do not vary by social class, type of neighborhood, or type of school. This of course does not rule out other possible selective biases introduced by the non-respondents.

Index of Social Class. Each family’s social class position was determined by the Hollingshead Index of Social Position, assigning the father’s occupational status a relative weight of 7 and his educational status a weight of 4. Here we consider Hollingshead’s Classes I, II, and III to be "middle-class," and Classes IV and V as "working-class." The middle-class sample is composed of two fairly distinct groups: Classes I and II are almost entirely professionals, proprietors, or managers, with at least some college training. Class III is made up of small shopkeepers, clerks, and salespersons, but includes a small number of foremen and skilled workers of unusually high educational status. The working-class sample is composed entirely of manual workers, but preponderantly those of higher skill levels. These families are of the "stable working class" rather than "lower class" in the sense that the men have steady jobs and in that their education, income, and skill levels are above those of the lowest socio-economic strata.


The context for our study of parents’ reactions to specific disciplinary situations is provided by a cursory examination of three general aspects of authority: the relative role of mother and father in making family decisions, the relative role of mother and father in setting limits upon the children’s freedom of movement or activity, and the frequency with which mother and father resort to physical punishment to enforce obedience. From none of these perspectives do we find any appreciable difference between middle- and working-class families. Middle-class parents’ and children’s evaluations of the extent to which each parent participates in the making of day-to-day decisions, major family decisions, and the decisions that affect the fifth-grade child most directly, are quite similar to those of working-class parents and children. Nor is there any appreciable difference between the social classes in mothers’, fathers’, or children’s evaluations of which parent is stricter, more likely to restrict the children’s freedom, "lay down the law" when the child misbehaves, or dominate the child. Finally, middle-class parents report that they make use of physical punishment about as frequently as do working-class parents.

Nevertheless, there are distinct differences in the conditions under which middle-and working-class parents resort to physical punishment. We shall see that parents of both social classes reserve physical punishment for fairly extreme circumstances. But even in these extreme circumstances, some actions that are intolerable to working-class parents are not punished by middle-class parents, and other actions intolerable to middle-class parents are not punished by working-class parents.

In attempting to specify the conditions under which middle- and working-class parents use physical punishment, we rely here on parent’s reported reactions to eight types of situation: the child’s wild play, fighting with his brothers or sisters, fighting with other children, really losing his temper, refusing to do what his parent tells him to do, "swiping" something from home or from other children, smoking cigarettes, and using language his parent doesn’t want him to use.

Parents were questioned in some detail about each of these situations. We asked, for example, whether or not the fifth-grade child ever loses his temper; precisely what he does when he loses his temper; what the parent "generally does when he acts this way"; whether he "ever finds it necessary to do anything else" and, if so, "under what circumstances" and what else he does.

Parents’ reports on their reactions to their children’s behavior were classified according to the following scheme:

1. Ignore: not doing anything about it.

2. Scold, admonish to be good, demand that he stop, inquire into causes of behavior, scream at him, threaten to punish him. (It has proved impossible to differentiate these several verbal reactions reliably from interview material. We could not determine, for example, whether or not a parent’s reported attempt to discover the causes of a fight was in fact a scolding. Therefore we have reluctantly decided to treat these several responses as a single category.)

3. Separate from other children or divert attention: removing the child from the situation or providing alternative activities.

4. Punish or coerce: (a) Punish physically—everything from a slap to a spanking. (b) Isolate—confining child alone for a period of time, for example, sending him to bed during the day. (c) Restrict usual activities—limiting his freedom of movement or activity short of isolation, for example, not letting him play outside.


Most mothers in both social classes—report that their usual response in the eight situations about which we inquired is to ignore the child’s actions altogether, or at most to admonish him. Few mothers isolate or restrict their children at this stage of things, and virtually none punishes them physically. One can not conclude that mothers of either social class are especially quick to resort to physical punishment or to other forms of coercion.

But when their children persist in wild play, fighting with their brothers or sisters, or displays of temper, both middle- and working-class mothers are apt to turn to one or another form of punishment. Working-class mothers are more likely than are middle-class mothers to do so in the case of their sons’ prolonged loss of temper; middle-class mothers, on the other hand, are more likely to punish their sons for refusing to do as they are told.

Working-class mothers are more likely than are middle-class mothers to resort to physical punishment when their sons persist in wild play or fighting with brothers or sisters, or when their daughters fight with other children. There may be in addition a general, albeit slight, greater tendency for working-class mothers to resort to physical punishment no matter what the situation. (In thirteen of sixteen comparisons, a somewhat larger proportion of working-class than of middle-class mothers report using physical punishment, although only in the three comparisons noted above is the difference large enough for us to be confident that it is not simply a chance occurrence.) But we previously noted that middle-class mothers say they use physical punishment about as frequently as do working-class mothers. Therefore, it is not likely that working-class mothers’ propensity to use physical punishment is sufficiently greater than that of middle-class mothers to be of serious import. A more important difference lies in the conditions under which mothers of the two social classes punish their children physically.

The Conditions under Which Working-Class Mothers Punish Their Sons Physically. Working-class mothers are apt to resort to physical punishment when the immediate consequences of their sons’ disobedient acts are most extreme, and to refrain from using punishment when its use might provoke an even greater disturbance.

We have noted two actions for which working-class mothers are more likely than are middle-class mothers to punish their sons physically: wild play and fighting with their brothers or sisters. In either situation, the more extreme their sons’ actions, the more likely are working-class mothers to use physical punishment. Those whose descriptions of their sons’ wild play indicate that it is nothing more than boisterousness or running around are no more apt to resort to physical punishment than are middle-class mothers in the same circumstances. But those whose descriptions of wild play include elements that we see as aggression or destruction are far more likely than are middle-class mothers to employ physical punishment. Similarly, working-class mothers are not appreciably more likely than are middle-class mothers to punish their sons physically for fights with brothers or sisters when the "fights" are no more than arguments, but they are more likely to resort to physical punishment when the fights involve physical combat.

This suggests that the more extreme forms of wild play and fighting are particularly intolerable to working-class mothers, and less so to middle-class mothers. This impression is sustained by the fact that those working-class mothers who consider themselves unusually strict and "ready to lay down the law" are especially likely to punish their sons physically for physical combat with brothers or sisters. And those working-class mothers who describe themselves as easily angered by their sons’ actions or unwilling to "give in" to them are especially likely to use physical punishment for aggressively wild play. They cannot or will not tolerate these forms of aggressive behavior.

But working-class mothers do not find all aggressive behavior intolerable. They are far less likely to punish their sons physically for fights with friends or neighbors than for equally serious fights with brothers or sisters. It would appear that it is not for aggressive behavior as such, but for the disturbances arising out of aggressive behavior, that working-class boys are punished. Their mothers seem unwilling or unable to tolerate the immediate consequences of their sons’ aggressive acts.

The responsiveness of working-class mothers to immediate consequences is demonstrated anew by a consideration of the conditions under which they do not punish their sons. They shun punishment if it might provoke a disturbance more serious than that already underway.

There is ample evidence presented above that working-class mothers are prone to punish their sons physically for acts of disobedience. Furthermore, they are more likely than are middle-class mothers to report that on the last occasion they used physical punishment it was invoked in response to disobedience. But there is a world of difference between punishing a boy for violating a negative injunction and punishing him for not doing something he is positively enjoined to do. Working-class mothers appear to be far more likely to punish their sons for the former type of disobedience than for the latter. In fact, they are less likely than are middle-class mothers to punish their sons for refusing to do things they have been told to do.

The immediate consequences of acquiescing to a son’s refusal may be trivial—often nothing more than doing a minor household chore when he will not comply. However, under some conditions—specifically, when the boy is adamant about his refusal—the consequences of forcing him to do as he is told may be serious. Working-class mothers are highly unlikely to punish their sons—physically or in any other way—in such circumstances. No working-class mother who described her son’s refusals as prolonged delays under conditions where he had unquestionably heard the order, or as an act of outright defiance, told us that she punished him physically, restricted his activities, or isolated him. They were more likely than were middle-class mothers to tell us that they took no action at all under these circumstances. Nor does this indicate indifference. The interview reports indicate that these mothers do make an attempt to secure compliance, but then back down. This is especially true of those who say they are "easily upset" by their sons’ actions. They seem unable to bring themselves to take strong action, but are hardly indifferent.

The Conditions under Which Middle-Class Mothers Punish Their Sons Physically. It is clear that middle-class and working-class mothers make different discriminations in their use of physical punishment. Middle-class mothers seem to punish or refrain from punishing on the basis of their interpretation of the child’s intent. Most indicative of this are their responses to wild play and loss of temper. They are not likely to punish their sons physically for wild play, however serious it may be. Nor are they particularly likely to punish them physically for loss of temper when it is manifested only as pouting, yelling, or sulking. But a violent or aggressive outburst of temper is far more likely to elicit physical punishment. In these circumstances, middle-class mothers are as prone as their working-class counterparts to punish their sons physically.

The descriptions of temper-loss classified here as "a violent or aggressive outburst" are quite similar to the descriptions of wild play classified as "willful aggression or destruction." Working-class mothers respond to the one much as they do to the other. But middle-class mothers are far more likely to punish their sons physically for what they call loss of temper than for behavior defined as wild play. They appear to find the child’s loss of temper, but not his wild play, particularly intolerable.

There is one salient respect in which an outburst of temper may be quite different from wild play: the outburst may be directed against the mother herself. Short of a frontal assault, however, this is largely a matter of the mother’s interpretation. The interview reports indicate that the distinction between wild play and loss of temper was most often made in terms of the child’s presumed intent, as judged by his preceding actions. If in the course of play he became very excited, this was not judged to be loss of temper however extreme his actions. But if his actions seemed to stem from the frustration of not having his own way, they were judged to indicate loss of temper. The overt behavior in the two types of situation might be, and often was, nearly identical.

The Conditions under Which Mothers Punish Their Daughters. Middle-class mothers appear to respond to their daughters’ actions much as they do to their sons’. But working-class mothers are more likely to use physical punishment when their sons play wildly or fight with brothers or sisters than when their daughters do so. This tendency, however, reflects the fact that boys’ wild play and fighting are more apt to be extreme. Daughters are only slightly less likely to be punished physically for behavior which is actually similar. They are, in fact, more likely to be punished physically when they swipe something or fight with children other than brothers or sisters. (Nevertheless, working-class mothers are far less likely to punish their daughters physically for fights with friends than for equally serious fights with brothers or sisters. In this crucial respect, their treatment of boys and of girls is much the same.)

The most dramatic difference in the working-class mothers’ response to boys and to girls occurs when the child defiantly refuses to do as he is told: boys are permitted to have their own way, while girls are punished physically. Something more is expected of a girl than of a boy—she must not only refrain from doing what she’s not supposed to do, but must also carry out actions her mother wants her to do.

There is no indication in these data that working-class mothers are more prone to examine their daughters’ than their sons’ intent, but clearly, the actions are evaluated differently. We shall return to the question of why this is so.

Hypothetical Reactions. Whenever a mother told us that her child had not performed an action about which we inquired, we asked her what she thought she would do if the situation did occur. Middle-class mothers who said that a given situation had not occurred thought that they would probably respond in ways almost identical to those noted by mothers who said that it had taken place. This is not the case for working-class mothers. Although no working-class mother who declared that her son had swiped something, smoked, or defiantly refused to carry out an order reported punishing him physically, roughly one-fifth of those who said that their sons had not done these things expected to use this sanction if the situation were to occur.

It is possible, of course, that those working-class mothers who are most prone to use physical punishment are unwilling to admit that their sons misbehave, or have somehow forestalled their sons’ misbehavior. This does not seem likely, however, for in circumstances when working-class mothers are quite likely to use physical punishment—when their sons engage in aggressively wild play—those who say that they have not faced the situation are quite unlikely to predict that they would resort to physical punishment. (Roughly one-fifth of such mothers think that they would do so—about the same proportion as those who think that they would punish their sons physically for swiping something, smoking, or being defiant.)

It seems, then, that working-class mothers are unable to envisage either the conditions under which they would be very likely to use physical punishment or the conditions under which they would be very unlikely to do so. Considering the degree to which they are responsive to immediate circumstances, this conclusion should not be surprising.


In considering fathers’ reactions to their children’s behavior, we rely on interviews both with a sub-sample of eighty-two fathers and the much larger sample of mothers. The small number of interviews with fathers limits us severely in attempting to take account of the sex of the child and the father’s description of the child’s behavior. Thus we are forced to interweave the analysis of fathers’ self-reports with wives’ reports on their behavior. This procedure is not entirely satisfactory, for reasons presented in the next section.

Working-class fathers are appreciably less likely than are their wives to say that they punish their sons physically for wild play. In fact, they are no more likely than are middle-class fathers to report using physical punishment in this situation. This reflects the fact that few working-class fathers describe their sons’ wild play as anything more than boisterousness—for which they are most unlikely to punish boys physically. However, those few working-class mothers who indicate that their husbands are exposed to aggressively wild play are far more likely than are middle-class mothers to report that in these extreme circumstances their husbands resort to physical punishment. It would appear that working-class fathers respond in two ways: if the child’s behavior does not compel their attention, they are apt to ignore it; but if it is sufficiently disruptive, they are very likely to use physical punishment. They may be even more responsive to immediate consequences than are their wives.

Middle-class fathers apparently are a good deal more likely than are their wives to punish sons physically for fighting with their brothers or sisters. This seems to be true however serious the fights. Thus, middle-class fathers are as likely as are working-class fathers to resort to physical punishment when their sons fight. Nevertheless, working-class fathers are somewhat more likely to report using physical punishment, and considerably more likely to report using isolation or restriction, when their sons’ fights are serious. The wives’ reports lead to the same conclusion.

In other respects as well, our information indicates that the major conclusions about the conditions under which mothers of the two social classes punish their children physically, noted above, also apply to fathers. In particular, middle-class mothers say that their husbands are far more likely to punish their sons physically for severe loss of temper than for aggressively wild play. (The small number of fathers’ reports on reactions to severe loss of temper prevents our determining whether or not fathers agree.) Working-class mothers, furthermore, tell us that their husbands are not likely to punish their sons’ defiant refusals to do as they are told, but are likely to punish their daughters physically for similar behavior. (The few fathers’ reports relevant to this issue are consistent with this finding.)


Although we have reports from all three relevant persons in a representative sub-sample of these families, there remains the question as to whether or not disinterested observers would present similar descriptions. Moreover, interview responses are in their nature limited: we cannot differentiate reliably among various types of verbal behavior; we cannot tell whether or not a parent expresses his displeasure by grouchiness, assuming an air of martyrdom, or simply "acting differently;" and we do not know to what degree any of a parent’s actions may be interpreted by his child as a withdrawal of love.

Each respondent has summarized a number of his own and another’s actions. We do not know how frequently situations of a given type have occurred,3 or how consistent a parent’s reactions have been. Nor can we, for example, assume from a parent’s description of his child’s fights as arguments, that the child never fights physically.

On the other hand, the parents’ ability to differentiate between what they generally do and what they do in more pressing circumstances gives reason for confidence in the findings. So does the fact that the relationships we have found between social class and mothers’ reactions are not appreciably modified by controlling other relevant variables (including mother’s age, size of the family, ordinal position of the child in the family, length of time the family has lived in the neighborhood, the socio-economic status of the neighborhood, whether or not the mother has a job, and if so what type of job, whether or not she has been socially mobile or feels socially mobile, her social class identification, her level of education, her religious background, whether her background is rural or urban, whether or not she reads popular literature on child-rearing, and whether or not her husband works for the government.)

Furthermore, the information provided by the sub-sample of fathers and children enables us to check some of the inferences we have drawn from mothers’ reports. We asked each father, for example, "What does your wife generally do when [child] fights with his brothers or sisters?" Although the question parallels "What do you generally do …?", it was put immediately after we asked him what he does in circumstances other than those that usually prevail. Most parents seem to have answered with the latter circumstances in mind. This precludes a comparison of what fathers say they do with what they say their wives do in exactly the same circumstances. But it does give us some basis for judging whether or not our inferences about social class differences in the conditions under which mothers use physical punishment are supported by what husbands tell us.

The only respect in which the fathers’ reports of their wives’ reactions raise a question about the inferences we have drawn is that two of the nine working-class fathers who say that their sons defiantly refuse to do as they are told also report that their wives punish the boys. Perhaps, then, we have overstated the case in concluding that working-class mothers are singularly unlikely to punish their sons for defiance.

Concerning the fathers’ reactions, it appears that interviews with fathers and with mothers yield much the same conclusions. This holds even for the conclusion that working-class fathers are unlikely to punish their sons for a defiant refusal.

The children, too, were asked about their parents’ reactions in three of the situations: fights with brothers and sisters, fights with other children, and loss of temper. The information provided by middle-class children, although based on few interviews, is entirely consistent with their parents’ reports. But working-class boys are rather unlikely to tell us that their mothers punish them physically for fighting with brothers or sisters or for loss of temper. They acknowledge that their fathers do so, but they report that their mothers isolate or restrict them for such actions.


Neither middle- nor working-class parents resort to punishment as a first recourse when their children misbehave. It seems, instead, that parents of both social classes initially post limits for their children. But children sometimes persist in their misbehavior despite their parents’ attempts to forestall them. At this juncture, parents may turn to physical punishment.

The conditions under which they punish their children physically, or refrain from doing so, appear to be quite different for the two social classes. Working-class parents are more likely to respond in terms of the immediate consequences of the child’s actions, middle-class parents in terms of their interpretation of the child’s intent in acting as he does. This should not be interpreted to imply that while middle-class parents act on the basis of long-range goals for their children’s development, working-class parents do not. On the contrary, we believe that parents of both social classes act on the basis of long-range goals—but that the goals are quite different.

In an earlier study we have examined the relation of social class to the values parents most wish to see incorporated into their children’s behavior.4 We concluded that parents are most likely to accord high priority to those values which seem both important, in the sense that failure to achieve them would affect the child’s future adversely, and problematic, in the sense that they are difficult to achieve. For working-class parents, the "important but problematic" centers around qualities that assure respectability; for middle-class parents, it centers around internalized standards of conduct. In the first instance, desirable behavior consists essentially of not violating proscriptions; in the second, of acting according to the dictates of one’s own principles. Here the act becomes less important than the actor’s intent.

We believe that the reactions of parents of both social classes to their children’s undesired behavior are entirely appropriate to their values. To say that working-class parents are particularly responsive to consequences and relatively unconcerned about intent, is equivalent to saying that their efforts are directed to enjoining disobedient, disreputable acts. To say that middle-class parents are more concerned about intent is equivalent to saying that their efforts are directed to encouraging their children to develop internalized standards and to act on the basis of these standards rather than externally imposed rules.

To see parents’ reactions to their children’s misbehavior as a function of their values helps to answer several questions which otherwise may be perplexing.

First, why are working-class parents so much more likely to punish their children physically for fighting than for arguing with their brothers or sisters?—or for aggressively wild play than for boisterousness? The answer seems to be that dis-reputability is defined in terms of consequences: the measure of disreputability is the degree to which the act transgresses rules of propriety. Fighting and wild play are disobedient, disreputable behaviors only when sufficiently extreme to be seen as transgressions of rules.

Second, why are working-class parents more likely to administer physical punishment when their daughters fight with friends, swipe something, or defiantly refuse to do as they are told than when their sons act in these ways? The answer seems to lie in different conceptions of what is right and proper for boys and for girls. What may be taken as acceptable behavior (perhaps even as an assertion of manliness) in a pre-adolescent boy may be thought thoroughly unlady-like in a young girl. Working-class parents differentiate quite clearly between the qualities they regard as desirable for their daughters (happiness, manners, neatness, and cleanliness) and those they hold out for their sons (dependability, being a good student, and ambition). They want their daughters to be "little ladies" (a term that kept recurring in the interviews) and their sons to be manly. This being the case, the criteria of disobedience are necessarily different for boys and for girls. Obedience is valued highly for both. But working-class mothers who value obedience most highly punish their daughters physically for refusing to carry out parental requests and orders, while they are much less likely to take any action when their sons do so.

Middle-class parents make little or no distinction between what they regard as desirable for boys and for girls—the issue for both sexes is whether or not the child acts in accord with internalized principles. Therefore, the conduct of both boys and girls should be judged by the same criterion: intent. Our evidence supports this interpretation.

Finally, why do middle-class parents react so differently to aggressively wild play and to outbursts of temper? Why do they interpret these overtly similar behaviors as implying radically different intent? The answer is provided by the fundamental importance they attach to internal standards for governing one’s relationships with other people and, in the final analysis, with one’s self.

Wild play, however extreme, does not necessarily represent a loss of self-control, although it may indicate that the parent has lost control over the child. It may be regarded as a childish form of emotional expression—unpleasant, but bearable, since there are virtues in allowing its free expression in a ten- or eleven-year old. This is evidenced by the fact that those middle-class mothers who accord highest priority in their scheme of values to their children’s happiness are least likely to punish wild play. An outburst of temper, however, may signal serious difficulty in the child’s efforts at self-mastery; it is the type of behavior most likely to distress the parent who has tried to inculcate in his child the virtue of maintaining self-control. Again, the evidence supports the interpretation: those parents who value self-control most highly are most likely to punish their children for loss of temper.

If middle-class parents are to act in accord with their values, they must take explicit account of subjective and emotional factors, including the possible effects of punishment. They give considerable evidence that they so do. For example, when asked if there are any ways in which they would prefer to act differently toward the child, they are likely to cite the desirability of fuller understanding. When the child does poorly in school, they often try to be supportive, while working-class parents are likely to respond negatively. Of course, parents can rationalize. It is easy to believe that behavior which is at the moment infuriating ought to be punished. One gains the impression, however, that although middle-class parents may punish when angry, they try to restrain themselves—as they apparently do when they believe their children’s actions to be wild play.

The working-class orientation, on the other hand, excludes or minimizes considerations of subjective intent, and places few restraints on the impulse to punish the child when his behavior is out of bounds. Instead, it provides a positive rationale for punishing the child in precisely those circumstances when one might most like to do so.

1 From , 1959, 24:352–366. By permission.

2 Urie Bronfenbrenner, "Socialization and Social Class Through Time and Space," in Eleanor E. Maccoby, Theodore M. Newcomb, and Eugene L. Hartley, editors, Readings in Social Psychology, New York: Holt, 1958, p. 424. This article provides a fine analytic summary of past research on class and family, as well as a bibliography of the major studies in this field.

3 It is primarily for this reason that one cannot draw from our data on parents’ reactions to specific types of situations the inference that working-class parents use physical punishment more often than do middle-class parents.

4 Melvin L. Kohn, "Social Class and Parental Values," American Journal of Sociology, 64 (January, 1959), pp. 337–351.


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Chicago: "Social Class and the Exercise of Parental Authority1," American Sociological Review in Principles of Sociology: A Reader in Theory and Research, ed. Young, Kimball, and Mack, Raymond W. (New York: American Book Company, 1962), Original Sources, accessed December 2, 2023,

MLA: . "Social Class and the Exercise of Parental Authority1." American Sociological Review, Vol. 24, in Principles of Sociology: A Reader in Theory and Research, edited by Young, Kimball, and Mack, Raymond W., New York, American Book Company, 1962, Original Sources. 2 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Social Class and the Exercise of Parental Authority1' in American Sociological Review. cited in 1962, Principles of Sociology: A Reader in Theory and Research, ed. , American Book Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 2 December 2023, from