“Dolls that look like us”: An Object-Based Analysis of Latina Mothers Practicing Concerted Cultivation

Migration research cluster

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1131 SS&H (Gold Conference Room) | UC Davis

Research has overlooked the importance of social identity in concerted cultivation, especially with regards to the purposeful fostering in children as a central goal of this parenting style. Through analysis of eighteen ethnographic interviews with middle class Latina mothers in Austin, Texas and Sacramento, California, this study explores the role of social identity in concerted cultivation, offering a more complete understanding of how the racial, ethnic, and gender identities of both mothers and daughters interact with the social realities of their broader communities to affect the concerted cultivation process. Interviews focused on dolls, which Christine Williams (2006) identifies as objects used in parenting practices. Findings reveal that mothers attempt to provide their daughters with dolls that encourage a social identity based on either a socially fluid group membership or an explicitly Latino group membership, tailoring their cultivation efforts according to their own racial, ethnic, and gendered identities, as well as those of their daughters. Mothers' efforts are often thwarted by a limited doll market, peer/family pressures, and their daughters own, oftentimes conflicting doll preferences. These findings highlight the need for more intersectional research on concerted cultivation, especially for mixed race individuals and immigrant groups.

Lauren Acosta
Lauren Acosta
Ph.D. Student, Department of Sociology, UC Davis

Acosta is a graduate student in the sociology department at UC Davis. Her research interests include the inter-generational transmission of culture, as well as racial and ethnic identity and identity management among middle-class Latino immigrants. Her current research uses dolls as a mechanism for understanding how middle-class Latina mothers practice concerted cultivation with regards to their daughters.



Kristin McCarty 
Comments by Kristin McCarty 
PhD Student, Sociology, UC Davis

Through analysis of original data, eighteen interviews with middle-class Latina mothers, this paper seeks to highlight the deficiencies in Annette Lareau’s highly regarded concept of concerted cultivation. By situating herself nicely amongst existing research and theory, Acosta argues for a more intersectional approach to studying the intergenerational transmission of social class and social identity using cultural objects, namely “dolls that look like us.”

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Rachel Nickens
Comments by Rachel Nickens
PhD Candidate, Sociology, UC Davis

In this promising paper, Nickens explores the attitudes that middle-class Latina mothers hold about dolls and their daughters’ doll play. This paper asks how Latina mothers seek to foster advantageous social identities in their daughters through their parenting practices, or more specifically, how Latina mothers manage and think about their daughter’s doll access. This provides a lens through which to explore how race, gender, and ethnicity interact in shaping parenting decisions.

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