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Learning about Work at Dinnertime: Language Socialization in Dual-Earner American Families

Amy Paugh

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 22


The interrelationships between work and family have become a topic of research and analysis in many disciplines. Yet, few studies have examined the everyday lives of children and how they are learning about working family life through routine social interaction with family members. This paper attempts to draw the lives of children more fully into the literature on work and family through a language socialization approach. It reviews language socialization theory and methodology, and discusses its potential for enriching the work and family literature. It then analyzes video-recorded dinnertime conversation among 16 American middle-class families to illustrate how children are socialized to understand and talk about work through interaction with working parents. The paper suggests that, regardless of adult awareness, children acquire work-related values and ideologies as well as related linguistic and analytical skills through taking part in and overhearing their caregiversí conversations about work.

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