Allowance: Is it coddling, or just culture?

When I was growing up, I never received a regular allowance. Whenever my friends sported new shoes or touted concert tickets, I always felt compelled to ask: “Did you really pay for that with your own money??” Of course, the answers erred overwhelmingly on the side of “No.” If not, I would come to learn that it was through an allowance from their parents that my peers could afford such luxuries. This always evoked a sense of jealousy in me, as my parents never chose to indulge me this way; any money that passed through my hands was earned.

Many cultures that value hard-work over coddling may see the unfounded giving of money to children as a harmful practice, as it is more likely to spoil a child than teach him or her values of earning and equity. Through the lens of Boasian anthropology, allowance could be viewed with historical particularism in mind. Instead of evaluating the phenomenon broadly, especially in comparison to other cultures that are not so pampering, it must first be considered with specific cultural context, taking into account the history of the United States. As a country we have enjoyed a remarkable level of prosperity and high living standard as compared to countless other societies and civilizations of the past. As such, the practice of giving an allowance may be more justifiable to a Boasian anthropologist, as Americans have generally lived well, with funds to spare, and have had the opportunity to lighten up to the idea of allowing their children to practice handling money at a young age.

From the viewpoint of structuralism, the notion of an allowance makes even more sense. Considered the founder of structuralism, Lévi-Strauss had several ideas about the human mind. Of those, one particularly relevant concept is that gifts bind both the giver and the recipient in a continuing social relationship. Although a parent and child already maintain an inherent relationship, the act of giving an allowance could be interpreted as the parent nurturing and enhancing his or her relationship with the child. Gifting money can easily fall into Lévi-Strauss’ concept of binary oppositions, where the allowance is conceptualized as support, and its binary opposite as negligence. Because they are considered subconscious, these patterns of thought are elemental in explaining why the practice of giving an allowance may feel so natural to many American parents.

Both Boasian anthropology and structuralism present intriguing ways of interpreting the practice of allowances. To the Boasian anthropologist, historical particularism explains why the practice has developed: Americans have enjoyed marked prosperity, and hence have been more disposed to teach their kids about how to save and spend money early on. To the structuralist, foundational ideas and binary oppositions explain why the practice of giving allowances is conducive to a positive relationship between the parent and child. In both cases, the theories seek not to judge the cultural practice at hand, but to analyze it objectively and seek understanding from within.

— Reese J.

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62 Responses to Allowance: Is it coddling, or just culture?

  1. Martha Daley says:

    I really enjoyed reading your essay! I think that allowance is a very interesting cultural phenomenon and you make some very good points. I was thinking about the analysis you made using structuralist theory, and I wonder if allowance, though it can be positive, could also be detrimental to the parent-child relationship. What if the parent uses the threat of the removal of allowance to exert power over the child or try to mold the child’s actions? What if the child is ungrateful and begins to take the parent’s gift of money for granted and the parent becomes bitter or unhappy because their gesture is not reciprocated by affection from the child? What if the parent’s only way of expressing love or affection to their child is to give them money, and they forget that their child actually needs real interaction? These examples of the use of allowance all could lead to a break-down or rift in the parent-child relationship rather than building a stronger one.

    • Abi Peters says:

      These are all the same thoughts I had! I did have an allowance growing up, but it was made incredibly clear that I would receive the same amount of allowance every weekend regardless of my behavior – good or bad. My parents and I had many conversations about how allowance was to give me independence to decide to want and buy things without them. It was also to teach me responsibility. I have always thought of allowance as a tool for teaching children responsibility. This point was brought up in the last paragraph regarding Boasian theory. I wish this had been expanded on a bit more. The United States was a very prosperous country and that likely has something to do with parents being able to provide their children with allowance. But I think there is also something to be said for the American ideals of pulling one’s self up by his or her bootstraps (this idea is also in the essay “Shouldering the Burden”). Many people came to America with very little, and turned it into a lot. By giving children a small allowance a parent might be teaching them to save it, “invest” responsibly, etc.

  2. Ashley Gates says:

    I really enjoyed your blog. I too was a child who did not have a steady allowance with the exception of getting a little if I brought in all A’s. At the time I too was a little frustrated but now that I am on my own and in “the real world” I appreciate that my parents decided to teach me that I have to work for what I want. I think we can also look at this controversial child-rearing technique through a Post-Structuralism theory view as well. Stemming off of the idea of binary opposites of support/negligence…it seems that society is controlling our bodies and how we treat our children. As a whole most of the children today are receiving some kind of allowance because society is establishing that to give an allowance is the right thing to do. Although a parent can still decide not to give their child an allowance they would be looked down on as a parent from others because they are not fitting in with the norm.

    • Sam Calahan says:

      I agree that giving children an allowance for accomplishing their goals (rather than a steady allowance regardless of merit) is a great way to prepare them for the monetary society in which we live, as well as to encourage them to pursue their goals. I also think that your point about what our society says is the “right” thing to do fits in with Culture and Personality theory. Society “is establishing that to give an allowance is the right thing to do,” as you said, for a reason – it helps meet the needs of that society. Our society needs consumers who are motivated to earn money, because money is necessary to consume anything at this point, and because our economy depends totally on infinite growth and therefore unending consumption.

  3. Di Morse says:

    I think there are several ways to look at this. Giving allowance allows the child to learn money handling skills to avoid wasteful spending habits. Not giving allowance can cultivate a desire to work and earn, as said in the essay. I think that the negative outcomes, like feelings of entitlement or jealousy, are definitely issues on both sides of the issue. At that point, the parents should decide which values are more important, and which negative outcomes they can deal with.

    • carlyshriver says:

      I agree entirely. This essay was very good, however, it only analyzed the benefits and the repercussions of giving an allowance, when there are pros and cons to denying a child an allowance as well. The one and only significant con that comes to mind is a child’s potential jealousy of friends and peers, while the list of pros is long. I like the point you make above about cultivating a desire to work and earn one’s keep by not freely giving a child money. Not giving an allowance allows parents to avoid a number of issues as well; for example, he issue of fairness between siblings when one may receive a higher allowance because of age. Children will also not feel entitled to a certain amount of money, like you’ve mentioned above. Instead of giving children money only for the purpose of allowance, parents may opt to pay their children for doing small chores around the house, (chores that they are not already expected to do). The essay does a good job of using the theories to examine the pros and cons of giving an allowance. The pros and cons of denying an allowance are interesting too.

    • I agree. I was given an allowance as a child and I still receive one. However, if I did not do what I was asked to do I would not get any reward. This did teach me the value of hard work and rewards. I never really felt spoiled or that I was given an excess of things. I wasn’t given a smart phone until college when all my other friends had cool camera phones and they could go on the internet anywhere they were. I was of course jealous, but I appreciate that my parents made me work for what I deserved.

  4. Maiji Castro says:

    This essay makes several good points about giving children in the United States allowances. I enjoyed the ideas about earning money versus just being given it. However, I think it is important to acknowledge that now United States culture revolves around consumerism, and the majority of parents give their children allowances because they feel like that is the proper way to participate in United States culture. Also there are fewer and fewer ways for children under certain ages to earn money, especially because of all the activities they are involved in that are becoming seen as essential, there is no time to make a little money on the side. How children are being raised today is drastically different than even how the young adults entering collage this fall were raised, today’s children have smart phones and touch tablets, so compared to those costly devices, what is 20 dollars here or there?

  5. Colleen Godfrey says:

    I think that it is important to look at the children’s expectations; what is expected of them and what they expect in return. The kids watch their peers with new material possessions that they are jealous of, so they ask their parents for whatever it might be that they want. The incoming freshman may have asked for only $20 when we were younger but that $20 then is the same as an iPad now. $20 was all you needed to have a fun time when the freshmen were kids, but now children view playing together as playing on an electronic device together. Children see other families and the dynamics that take place in them and expect the same from their parents. Rarely are middle-class children expected to work because it is no longer expected of them. The norm now is to rely on their parents until they are out of college. The acceptance of allowance in American culture is an example of the continued encouragement of dependence of children on their parents.

    • Allison Kessler says:

      This is a very good point that deals with the issue of changing times and expectations. As a child I would ask for what was popular and hip so that there would be commonalities with those who had more money. The issue with an allowance is that basis on when and why it is given. There can be a large variation from a free $20 a month to children that have to do chores like unloading the dishwasher once a week and taking care of the dogs in order to earn that $20 allowance. It is highly based on the economy and what standing a family is in that grounds their own morals, giving way to the morals they want to instill in their children.

    • Teresa says:

      Your view of the extended dependence of youth on their parents that allowance encourages is interesting. I definately agree that is what the practice has devolved into but I think the original purpose was to encourage quite the opposite.
      The idea most parents have in mind when they dream up a system of allowance is to teach American values of monetary responsibility and stewardship (Culture and Personality).
      This makes complete sense if the intent matched action.

      It would be beneficial to teach a child early on of the system that they’re born into. A sort of consumerism indoctrination that teaches in return for your labor you get compensation with which you get to buy nice junk.

      However in all actuality most kids don’t get paid for their labor. Stewardship isn’t being encouraged because nothing’s being earned. More often than not the reality of allowance dialogue is “Here’s $20 just for still being here kid.” Which teaches that parents are the constant provider and can extend adolescence not teach “hard work” and independence (practice theory).

  6. Blaine Wajdowicz says:

    Maiji, you make a great point that I’d like to expand upon. If we look at money doled out by parents from a symbolic anthropological viewpoint, the money functions as an educational tool by where children can learn basics of economic participation. The difference between children who earn this money and those who are simply given the money is symbolic in itself, of the value a strong work ethic individual families have.

  7. Rachel Echsner says:

    As a child I never received an allowance either so I found this topic interesting and relatable. I found these two theories to be very accurate ways of expressing how allowance might be viewed. Just as suggested, it is very important to keep in mind that ideals and values vary between cultures while considering how allowance might be viewed in different places. In economically depressed places, families might be less likely to give their children allowance, especially if they don’t have much money to begin with. Money is very highly valued in the United States and as you touched on, parents seem to be more capable of giving allowances to their children in this country. I would find it interesting to know if allowances are likely to be given in places where money is less valued and other assets tend to have more worth. I thought this subject was interesting to read and ponder on.

  8. Lucy Johnson says:

    It’s interesting to me that you chose to call upon Strauss’s idea of Binary Opposites to show what money from parents means. Personally I would have used symbolism to represent what the gifting showed. You did a good job in explaining your point, but I think there are multiple points as to what parent’s giving their child money means rather than two options. You can hand cash to your child and not support them whatsoever and vice versa. Material items cannot determine how well or poorly a parent nurtures.

    • Ashley Sanks says:

      Lucy,
      I liked that you made reference to the author’s Strauss-ian connection of Binary Opposites and a parental-child relationship. You made a point that I had generally been thinking, largely around how material items may not ‘make-or-break’ the relationship between the two. Another way I would look at this relationship goes along with Geertz’s Interpretive Theory, and that is Practice Theory. From my own personal experience, the allowance I received as a child was primarily through positive reinforcement that my parents would reward me with for doing chores or getting a good grade. But I think largely in American culture this idea may be perceived by parents as a ‘physical extension’ of how they parent to the social world. By attributing allowance as a form of nurturing, on the outside this would appear to make ‘better parenting’ and keep with the hegemony in the US of what makes a good parent. In looking at it deeper, as you and many others have pointed out, this belief in materials as what makes a good parent cracks in different familial circumstances.

  9. Alexandra Sapien says:

    I enjoyed your essay, Like another student pointed out, allowance is a cultural phenomenon. And as you pointed out using the boasian theory, a very American custom at that. I think the fact that it is such an American idea really shows the roots of the American state of mind. If you look at allowance from a very bare state we see that you do more work or a better job of work and you get more money. This teaches American children at an early age that to achieve the sense of status that comes from working you must do it better than your competitors to take away more money or praise. I enjoyed how you used the comparison between American culture and Levi-strausses concepts.

  10. lilykoral says:

    This was an interesting essay and I must say, you brought up some very interesting points. For example, I enjoyed the point about relationships being formed between parent and child through reciprocity. However, I think a theory that might have matched your argument about cultures valuing a hard-worker would have been Culture and Personality theory instead of Boasian. For instance, all of my friends growing up earned their allowances by completing chores. This taught them responsibility, independence, and how to be industrious. Each of these traits are valued in US society. By using the Culture and Personality theory you could have addressed how US society used allowances to foster these personality traits in children.

  11. Marshall Walker says:

    Interesting read. Your analyses of allowance using Boasian and structuralist anthropology do well to explain allowances within our culture. I got to thinking, how would we assess allowances through culture and personality theory? It can’t be that, as a culture, we want to teach people to expect money for nothing. Perhaps the aim is to get children used to spending money freely, a big part of our culture, without the consequences of doing so with their own money.

  12. There are multiple ways of looking at allowance. Personally I think it gives the children more responsibility, because they are learning how to handle money and not waste it all at once. However not giving an allowance can also teach a hard work ethic that you do not need to be rewarded in order to do things correct and well. I think it all ends up as pertaining to the specific parents. The way they choose to raise their kids is up to them and this applies the structuralist view, having allowance make sense with in their own culture of the home.

  13. Alyssa Ferguson says:

    It would be interesting to research spending patterns of young adults who received allowance and those who did not. Your comment about how your parents raised you and you earned your money teaches you the value of a dollar. My parents did the same thing, and I am now working my way through college. The idea that we are marking our prosperity and maybe not emphasising hard work and achievement could possibly explain why there is so much debt in this country. With credit cards and having the desire to want everything and not understanding the concept of working for what you get could explain why we have such a relaxed view on how we spend our money. Bosanian anthropology would see why this is harmful.

  14. Sophia Grenier says:

    This is a really fascinating way of looking at allowances, and I completely see both sides of it. I particularly like your discussion of Structuralism.
    When I was younger I was only given money in return for doing something out of the norm of chores for my parents. I wouldn’t get money for doing the dishes, but I would for helping my dad build a staircase. This really reinforced in me the knowledge that you have to work for your money, you can’t just expect it to be given to you. It also really confused me, because my dad was the one giving me the money, so did I REALLY earn it (parents don’t really count, do they)? This is why I find your Structuralist argument to fascinating. You mention gifts binding both the giver and the receiver in a continuing social relationship. In our society especially, the concept of allowance is culturally quite important. Overall, I think you did a fabulous job!

  15. McKenzie A says:

    I really enjoyed this article. I liked both the theories you used but especially your use of structuralism. My parents gave me a monthly allowance up until i was able to drive a car, then i was told it was up to me to provide my own source of income. Of course, good grades or something might have given me a little extra spending money. The comment on how gifts bind the giver and the receiver and how this relates to parents was interesting. I feel like parents, even though they might not think of it this way, might use allowance as a way to mold their children into ‘ideal’ citizens who work hard for their money. It was be interesting to see what an anthropologists using culture and personality theory would interpret this.

  16. Dakota Mendrick says:

    I can relate to this article because when I was a child I did receive an allowance, but only if I did my chores around the house that week. I would have to clean my room, feed my dogs, and help my mom with the dishes in order to get my weekly allowance. Also, if I received an A in a class I would get a bonus. I think this was my parents way of showing me responsibility and, like many other people have already commented, how you have to work for your money. This relates to your point about structuralism because it does develop an enhanced relationship between the parent and child. My mom was always the one to give me my allowance, and that definitely made our relationship stronger because I felt like I was really helping her out around the house. I also had friends who never got an allowance even though they would have to do chores or got good grades. They were jealous and complained about it not being fair so I can definitely see how it can be good and bad for a child to receive an allowance. Overall, I thought this was a compelling essay because it was very easy for me to relate to!

    • Steve Goddard says:

      I think Dakota’s experience of having to work for his allowance is something that is fairly common in many households. Rather than viewing it as coddling vs hard work, I think it can be perceived as a means to teach children what it means to earn something for your hard work. It is a great way to teach children about how to handle cash and provide them a head-start in dealing with real world situations. One might argue that helping out around the house is reciprocal enough for being provided a house and food, but I think that if done correctly allowance can be extremely beneficial in teaching children about life. I think that Practice theory would be a really important theory to evaluate this type of topic. Each family will view and enforce allowance differently. One child might be spoiled by not having to work, while another has to work strenuously for a meager allowance. I think it would be interesting to evaluate allowance across the spectrum of economic status in the United States. Nice topic!

  17. Stephen Fleming says:

    Like the Author, my childhood allowance wasnt just given to me when I asked for it. For a majority of my childhood my two siblings and I had set chores around the house. If all of our weekly chores were completed within the week we would receive our full allowance, an allowance which also included “a roof over our heads, clothes on our back, and food in our belly” a joke that from a young age taught us responsibility and the value of money. the chores were as simple as getting the mail for a quarter, to organizing and cleaning the living room for 10$.
    i do like the American culture of allowance and teaching the value of money from a young age. But while not every college student had an allowance that allowed them luxuries like new shoes or concert tickets. But the amount of students that struggled with financial scholarships or had to take loans and had to learn to budget their money. while the kids that mommy and daddy are giving the college experience to their children for free are learning the hardships of squeezing a dollar.

  18. Hannah Hilden-Reid says:

    Overall the essay was very well structured and brought up some very important points. I think there is some legitimacy to Abi’s comment however surrounding the concept of seeing allowance as an opportunity to learn responsibility rather than a result or method of coddling. For me having a set amount of money, given to me under the correct circumstances ( was well behaved, did my chores, etc) , allowed me to learn the right and wrong ways to handle money. I may have made some poor investments but learned from them later. Now I feel I have a grasp on how my relationship with money is which I believe is crucial within this society. This is one of the ways that allowance could be seen in a positive light.

  19. Annika Sandberg says:

    This is a very interesting essay. I think it would also be interesting to examine parents giving money to their children or an allowance past the young age associated with it. My parents give me money every month so I can eat and I think it would be interesting to do an analysis comparing the allowance in a young age for what seems to be wants (like clothes or concert tickets) and needs in an older age (like rent or food). I think the two differ and it would be interesting to see if opinion changes.

  20. Scott MacDonald says:

    I really enjoyed this read! I’m with you too on never receiving any allowance. Though I may have been bitter growing up, I am very thankful to have never had a constant flow of allowance. I think my parents always viewed hard work without reward as a huge factor in raising me and that’s a huge part to who I am today. I think it teaches responsibility and hard work and to be more passionate about getting something done rather than solely on the reward you may receive from your hard work. I would be interested to see a comparison between those who received an allowance growing up and those who didn’t and their corresponding grades, which ones went to college, and which ones hold jobs. Get some scientific data behind this!

  21. Christopher McKeown says:

    Great topic. I also was never given an allowance as a child, but my Father would always say “there’s 20$ sitting on the lawn out there, you just have to use the lawnmower to pick it all up.” So completely relatable when an unconscious sense of jealousy would come up as friends flaunt their new shoes, and expensive clothes to match their fancy car, use to happen all the time. The one line in this essay that really resonated with me though was “[these] theories seek not to judge the cultural practice at hand, but to analyze it objectively and seek understanding from within.” This is an excellent overviewing observation that really speaks Reese’s reasonings for writing this paper. He uses these theories to his advantage by not allowing them complicate the image at hand, but by breaking down the many components in order to understand these consistently adapting outcomes.

    • carlyshriver says:

      Your father reminds me of my parents, although my $20 was “sitting” somewhere in a clean kitchen or bathroom. I had that familiar sense of jealousy when my friends would show up to school with the newest phone, clothes, or car. However, I also had a sense of self-respect when I could pay for the new phone with money I’d earned. My parents were generous about not forcing me to miss out on opportunities because I didn’t get an allowance. If my friends and I wanted to see a movie they’d gladly spot me the seven bucks. Which made the jealousy less of a problem because it was directed at material things that I knew I wasn’t entitled to but that I could work hard for. The theories the author uses could objectively analyze the pros and cons and lessons that parents teach through denying a child an allowance. Parents can teach their son or daughter the value of hard work alongside the importance of smart spending, when that $20 was always out on the lawn.

  22. Lana Porter says:

    I think a marxist anthologist might have an interesting perspective on this topic. Considering that we are a capitalist society, one may consider how this american system of allowance in some ways aligns with socialism. Allowance creates social ownership of the child by the parent, not just biological or political ownership. This perpetuates the social dominance of the parent over the child and creates a hierarchical system. Though a child is economically dependent on their parents, the extra money that a parent allows their child can be used to enforce power by threatening to take it away, or by encouraging the child to be good for a raised allowance.

  23. Lauren Wahl says:

    Like many people who have commented on this essay, I didn’t have an allowance as a child because my parents raised me learning to work for my money, with the exception of birthdays and Christmas. I’m glad that someone wrote an essay on the topic of allowance because it’s relatable. I never enjoyed watching my friends as kid and even now in college flaunt their expensive clothes and other things because it belittled me. But now I’m not ashamed of having to work for my keep, because it makes me that much more appreciative of every penny I earn. Reading about this subject from a Boasian perspective and a structuralist perspective also helped me understand this essay even better, so overall an excellent job.

  24. Kait Bashford says:

    Interesting essay topic! I like how allowance (or lack of) is such a heated issue. While I know that this essay was written before we explored Economic Anthropology, I think it is important to bring up the fact that giving children money teaches them how to participate within our social structure. Americans are known for consumption and material lifestyles, so it is unsurprising to me that many kids were given money in order to gain responsibility and have an understanding of how production, distribution, and consumption of resources across cultures varies. It looks like this also varies across class or personal beliefs since many kids did not receive allowance for specific reasons (need to take pride in earning money, perhaps the parents did not have cash to spare). I completely agree with your Boasian Theory comparison because not all cultures have the same views on money or raising children.

  25. Patrick Curtin says:

    I loved reading this post; I thought I was the only kid who never received an allowance! In my opinion it’s better to learn early on the value of a dollar and how far it’s able to stretch. I thought Structuralism was a perfect way to explain the idea of an allowance and how it affects the child/parent relationship. I think you also could have looked at allowance through symbolism and what the money means to both the child and adult. I think your essay was very well written and brought up many ideas I hadn’t thought of before I especially liked the part about the binary opposites as support and negligence. Overall this was a good blog that I felt like I could really connect with.

  26. Jon Mastman says:

    I thought that this was a very enlightening essay. Personally, I never got an allowance either, all of the money I received to spend on toys not during the holiday season or my birthday was through neighborhood jobs such as watering plants and dog sitting. Though I would have liked to see a method offered in this reading to suggest that an allowance might be harmful besides what it quickly states about cultures that value hard work. All things considered, I believe that the author’s Boasian point makes a lot of sense. Providing young children with free cash would continue America’s commitment to creating more luxurious and comfortable living conditions.

  27. Kyle Santi says:

    I never really thought about allowance in that way before. It does make sense in that it is used to teach kids how to manage their funds effectively at an early age which is always good to teach. I am intrigued by the idea that allowance is just another way for a parent to support his or her children, and that makes sense in our society that relies on currency. Without money, none of us can survive, and it makes sense to instill that into children at an early age with an allowance. I know that allowance helped me understand the value of money as I learned that I can only do so much with, say, $10. Great article!

  28. Martin Golibart says:

    I think it would be interesting to look at allowance through practice theory. In our society, it is established structure for parents to support their children. In this society, as well as supplying with food, shelter, and safety, some parents support their children with allowance. Money is a huge part of our society, and allowance is one of the ways young people can learn about saving, spending, and just taking care of money. Because our society is so dependent on money, parents give children allowance. Our society is structured around money, and parents react to this by teaching their children about money by giving them an allowance.

  29. Claire Cohen says:

    Although I agree that many parents blindly hand their children money for nothing at all (even still in college, which amazes me), I think that the concept of an allowance can be beneficial to a child. Rewarding a child for the work that she completes around the home instills a good work ethic, and also teaches children that they should expect to be held accountable for their actions. For example, by setting up a small weekly allowance for doing a few tasks around the home, parents can teach their children that in order to be rewarded, they must earn it by putting in enough effort. If a child neglects to complete her assigned chores, then she does not receive her allowance. This can be a way for parents to transition their children into holding a job by giving them the experience of earning their own money.

  30. Stephanie Grossart says:

    I am what you call a “daddys girl”. I completely agree with the structuralist view. My relationship with my father is extremely close. He does support me and I believe that money adds to our bond. The money he gives me shows me that he can and wants to support me. Although I am very grateful that my dad is so generous but I did not have a real sense of money until a couple of years ago. When I goat job at Steve Madden and realized the amount of work one puts in for the amount of money received is crazy. Clearly my dad has a better job than a sales associate at Steve Madden but I came to know what the true value of money really is. I don’t believe giving an allowance is a bad thing but children need to learn how to support themselves.

  31. Ellis Hughes says:

    Very relatable subject to discuss! Going back to the idea that Martha brought up, of allowance as a vehicle of power and discipline, this was very much how it was used by my mother growing up. I only got things either on my birthday or Christmas (or very rare occasions of generosity). Any other time that I wanted something, she would respond with “buy it yourself.” Now I only got allowance as long as I did my chores and helped around the house — so I would often go a couple weeks without allowance — but this taught me the value of working for an income as well as saving money so that I can afford my video games. As a result, by 7th grade I bought my first iPod with all of the allowance and Christmas/Birthday money I saved up! It is very much a significant aspect of poststructuralism as well as the reciprocity discussed through structuralism — whether or not I did my chores determined whether or not I received a weekly allowance.

  32. Brianna Dascher says:

    I think practice theory might be an interesting way to look at this. It seems in theory, an allowance is meant to teach the value of a dollar. It’s meant to be a kid’s only source of money, so they can learn how to manage it themselves. In practice, as many brought up, it can be more of a crutch, achieving the opposite – kids have no idea how to balance money. I think this is probably a result of parents giving kids whatever else they ask for in addition to the allowance – so it seems like casual spending money instead.

  33. John Cooper says:

    I think you are missing the most applicable part of Boasian anthropology. You don’t mention cultural relativism. Each way of supporting children(which when it come down to it is what allowance is) is culturally significant and equal in its own way. The Boasian view and the hole essay for the matter came across as very one sided to me. There was no real mention of alliterative cultural practices or how they were relevant. It seemed like it was either your parents make you do chores or just give you money. What about the kids who worked around the house because if they didn’t nobody would.

  34. Danielle Maxey says:

    I really enjoyed your essay and I thought it was very well written. Allowance is a very interesting topic to cover and I thought your use of the theories really covered it. I think that there is a fine line between allowance coddling and allowing you to understand how to handle money at a young age. While I agree an excessive amount could be hindering the growth of children, smaller amounts for doing things around the house can help a child figure out how to spend their money wisely and save it when needed.

  35. Alyssa Janssen says:

    I really enjoyed this essay and how you viewed the cultural practice of allowance. I thought you’re Boasian analysis was on point considering our history as a wealthy society that is largely based on consumerism. The structuralist interpretation was also good, however, I think the binaries imposed by allowance are much more ambiguous than stated. I do believe allowance can be a way to show support, however, I think allowances are often extravagant, undermining the money’s value and it’s ability to create a meaningful relationship. I grew up with an allowance of five dollars a week and any extra money had to be made through chores. I appreciated the money my parents gave me but I also learned early on that I had to work hard and save up for the things I wanted. Conversely, a seven-year-old kid I babysit for just got $80. What can a seven-year-old do with eighty dollars?! Hell, I could use eighty dollars. I believe a low allowance teaches children fiscal responsibility, but it seems that the norm has become overindulgence, which in turn undermines the benefits of support, teaching responsibility, and learning to work for your money. Throwing money at you’re child seems to me to be a reckless parenting technique, one that instills materialism and the belief that everything will be handed to you on a silver platter rather the values of hard-work and responsibility.

    • Kayla Clancy says:

      Alyssa,
      I agree with your argument that allowances instills materialism rather than hard work. Adding onto that, our recent history has been based on consumerism, but the U.S. was originally not like that. Americans also had children that started working as a young age, but as parents began to make enough money, children had to work less. So letting children grow up slower and not have to work as soon in life is something particular to U.S. history. Having an allowance has become a normality of American lives, and because of that the problems that arise from it are often ignored. If a parent in Tanzania started giving their children an allowance, the practice would be very strange and criticized since it is not a normal practice in Tanzania. Just as if a parent from the 19th century U.S. did that, it would be unaccepted. The problems of the practice would come out. Although there are critiques of allowances, it is still an acceptable practice due to our history, and may be not as analyzed and re-evaluated as it should be. Cultural norms sometimes are not re-evaluated at an objective viewpoint because growing up with them does not lead to skepticism.

  36. Kelsey Stimson says:

    I think you did a very nice job expanding on your ideas on allowance in societies and bringing it full circle. I get exactly where you’re coming from about the jealousy thing. Growing up, I did receive an allowance. However, it was MUCH smaller then the 100 dollars my friends were getting. (This was in Middle School!!). I agree completely with the idea that allowance can be a good thing. It can teach children value and the importance of saving money. (Still have trouble doing this to this day LOL). One example from which I have seen first hand which expands on the value of hard work in children would be the Maasai children I was so blessed to meet while studying in Tanzania. These children, starting right when they can walk (about age 2) begin to work for their parents. Herding the cattle, and getting water, these children are put to work immediately. I think its interesting to think about how children in American rely completely on their parents until about the age of 18 (in most cases) and in Tanzania, the parents rely completely on their children to get the physical labor done in order to make ends meet. I think it would be nice if children in developed countries understood how well off they are at a much earlier age. I think that allowance can be a great tool but can also be extremely bad to the development of a child’s work drive. I cant stand anything more than a trust fund baby, blowing through thousands of dollars on insignificant wants, while children in Tanzania are put to work at 2 and most do not have the opportunity to go to school.

  37. Wilson Riphenburg says:

    I enjoyed your topic choice and found your explanation utilizing historical particularism compelling. I’ve never really looked at allowance as a culturally specific phenomenon; however, you make a great point by contextually relating it to the success and prosperity of the United States. The notion of receiving an allowance from one’s parents while living under their roof is inconceivable in more impoverished parts of the world. Also, after having considered the historical associations of allowance and culture in this country, a more modern analysis of this practice may further elucidate the possible rationales behind it. With this in mind, it may be interesting to investigate lower socioeconomic neighborhoods around the US to discover if their exists any correlation between household income and the prevalence of allowance giving.

  38. Daniel Greer says:

    I’d like to suggest that allowance is not a means of coddling children, but a recognition of maturity and an outpouring of respect. I never received an allowance, but amongst my friends the practice didn’t begin until middle school. Before middle school, children are completely reliant on their parents. If you have friends over, for instance, it is the obligation of the hosting parents to pay for movies, food, Dairy Queen, etc., for all of the children. Once you reach adolescence, the rules change. Parents no longer mediate the flow of money in the same way. This is the age where individuals begin to fraternize without involving parents. They might drop you off at a movie, or give you an allowance, but their involvement ends there. This is the age where children begin to assert an incipient independence, and an allowance is both an acknowledgment of that independence and an endorsement of it. An allowance conveys parental trust. In giving money, no strings attached, parents demonstrate their belief in the maturity of their children—however misguided that belief may be.

  39. Neil Tobiasen says:

    Great topic to choose for one of these blog essays. Creating an allowance is one of the biggest problems for parents nowadays who don’t know how much is enough to make their child learn the value of a dollar. I agree with you that yes Americans have enjoyed marked prosperity and want to share the wealth with their children so that they will start understanding the value of saving money. But, in today’s society, that marked prosperity has undergone a great change and has turned into young children getting spoiled. Many parents today just throw money at their kids for completing senseless tasks around the house every week. $20 a week is not a very reasonable allowance for a 6 year old to learn the value of a dollar for doing chores around the house. If the parents would start lower and increase the allowance with age, then maybe the process of saving money and spending it on something very well deserved will play a major role in the mind of that child. You will never be able to understand why a parent decides to spoil their children, but because of this you will be able to understand the adult they are raised to be.

  40. Hayley Dardick says:

    I would be curious to examine how an anthropologist from the culture and personality school specifically would look at allowances. America values self-made, hard working individuals. This seems to go against the author’s notion that allowances are just a hand-out from parent to child. In my family, however, my siblings and I only received an allowance if we consistently kept up with chores and helped around the house. This meant taking out the recycling, making our beds, keeping our rooms clean, etc. While these weren’t huge tasks, they taught us the value of responsibility. And with responsibility and work, we learned that one is rewarded. My meager $5 allowance better aligns with my argument that, as America values earning money through hard work, many parents chose to raise their children instilling this as well.

  41. Michaela Quinlan says:

    I found this discussion to be very thought-provoking in that the theories used were very interesting. First off, I completely agree with the Boasian theory discussion in regards to historical particularism. Though, I believe along with the thought that the United States is very well off, the concept of Capitalism is strongly influential in our daily lives. The physical handling of money, and the practice of an exchange of money is highly class based as well as politically influenced. I know growing up many friends of mine were given allowances for doing weekly chores; this is very reflective of the Protestant work-ethic (a historically prevalent phenomenon in the US); work hard and you will be rewarded. Secondly, I thought the Structuralist analysis was tastefully done. The comparison of the binary opposites was really interesting and made me wonder what the binary opposites would be for a child who isn’t given an allowance. Whether this be a child who is given what the parent believes to be deserved, or if the family is financially unable to support a solid allowance, or if the kid is down right spoiled, how would this effect this support/negligence relationship?

  42. shelly kim says:

    interesting subject and well written essay! as i was growing up, my dad was all about giving children money but my mom thought it was way to spoil kids so my weekly allowance was from my dad, hiding it from my mom. i really liked the way you explain this act of giving money using Boasian theory and structuralism theory. well organized and explained!

  43. Matt Kiriazis says:

    Great essay! It’s interesting how the structuralist perspective was interpreted to use a binary of support versus negligence. How do you think it might be interpreted differently using the same structuralist perspective if you consider the allowance as a wage in exchange for performing well in school or chores, etc.? Reward vs. Punishment is what I would tend to imagine.

  44. carlyshriver says:

    I think it is incredibly helpful to analyze an allowance using Practice Theory as well. The author’s structuralist examination establishes that giving an allowance is based on a parent’s support of their child. It is possible, using Levi-Strauss’ perspective, to organize the act of giving an allowance as supporting a child while denying an allowance as neglecting a child. Of course parents in American culture want to support their children. Being close with a child and supporting him or her are characteristics our society values greatly. While negligence of children is a serious crime and firmly rejected by society. It is essential, when incorporating practice theory to look at what members of society are supposed to do and what they actually do. In American society parents are supposed to nourish, care for, and support their children. However, they can do so in different ways. First, by providing an allowance, in a society in which it may be difficult for children to earn their own money, in order to teach safe spending and money management. Second, by denying a child allowance and teaching them to earn their own money in different ways, letting them learn the value of the dollar through hard work. Parents practice giving an allowance or not giving an allowance based on how they’ve grown up, how they value their finances today, and what decision they’ve made through the partnership of their marriage. Wether giving or denying an allowance is right or wrong, support or negligence is a matter of what people actually do for their kids in a culture where they are supposed to support them in one way or another.

  45. Drake Williams says:

    I think you bring up a good point in coddling when a child is given an allowance. To play devils advocate for a moment, couldn’t there be a biased analysis of an allowance based on the writers own upbringing. I did receive an allowance growing up but I had 5 am practices 3 mornings a week and two parents who worked 13 hour days 6 days a week. The allowance I received was to pay for what I needed as far as school lunches, if I wanted to have that money for something else it meant I had to wake up that much earlier to make my own lunch. This idea fits in with your structuralist analysis of support/negligence, but because of my own background in this issue I am inclined to say that (for some) allowance is a sort of financial institution for some parents to make sure their children get what they need if they don’t have the proper resources to do it themselves.

  46. Stephanie Sanchez says:

    This is a very interesting topic! I work with children and most them are so excited that they have an allowance or receive money from their parents for chores. I think parents who pay their kids for doing chores it is gearing them up for the work force. It promotes hard work and a positive (the money). I think it makes kids happy to earn money and spend it on things they want. I enjoyed the Boasian anthropology side because we do have more money around and will use it to our advantage to get work done i/e kids = cheap labor! Also, the idea of structuralism brings up many points. While it may be binary opposites but is it really considered negligence? Some parents don’t give their kids allowance and they aren’t neglected.

  47. Colton Erickson says:

    I think that you picked a great topic! Your Analysis of allowance from the Boasian perspective was very well done and you did a nice job of explaining how America’s economic history has influenced our culture. Allowance, however, in the sense in which it was discussed in the piece, is not a reward for work and does not make reference to being paid for chores or housework. If that were the case, being rewarded for housework might not be seen as coddling so much as encouraging responsibility and work ethic. Also, besides structuralism, the theory of culture and personality would have been a good way to look at the idea of allowance from another perspective. The practice of providing a child with allowance could be viewed as something within our culture that leads to a self perpetuating ideal that becomes imbedded within the minds and personalities of the next generation.

  48. Jacklynn Sanchez says:

    I never had an allowance until I was about 16 and by that time I was ready to get my first job. I think allowance all depends on the family you come from and how your parents raise you. Before getting an allowance when I needed/wanted money I would ask and I would usually get it. With that being said, there was no need for an allowance. I never thought about earning money and how much more valuable it is to you when you have to work for it. I think that if you’re brought up in a family that gives you allowance at a young age, makes you seem more entitled to things in life OR as you said it makes individuals more knowledgable about earning, saving and spending money.

  49. Nick Young says:

    When I was a kid, allowance and chores were connected. I would never get money unless it was earned. My family struggled financially for a while when I was younger, so there was not a lot of money to go around. At the same time, my parents understood that I needed to be taught how to handle money at a young age. Being an American, it is very important to be introduced to the capitalist economy and culture, and by making me earn my money, I feel that my parents raised me in a good way.

  50. Amanda B says:

    I thought it was very interesting how you mentioned the US as being a unique culture in how it is an accepted tradition to give children allowances, unlike many other cultures. Practice theory could have also been used in comparing children in the US who were given allowances vs those who weren’t. Does society generally condone giving allowances? There is still enough variation within the country that certain areas may not find it practical to give allowances to children. Or is it an arbitrary issue that depends on each nuclear family? The structuralist analysis also seems very fitting when you mention enhancing the parent-child relation, especially if the parent wants to not build a stronger relationship by giving money, but pass on the parent’s knowledge of budgeting wisely and learning to use money efficiently.

  51. Miles Agan says:

    Very interesting essay. I think structuralism and boasian anthropology were great theories to analyze regarding allowance. I think allowance is a good way to teach kids to manage money at a young age. It’s also a good way for parents to give their kids a limit on what they can buy rather than buying them whatever they want at the store. Allowance should be earned though, not just given to a child. I also think this phenomenon is most relevant in the United State’s culture because of our high standard of living. If someone has the funds to provide their child with a weekly or monthly allowance, then I think it is beneficial to a child’s economic understanding.

  52. Gabe DuPont says:

    This is an interesting cultural phenomenon to take on. I myself was given an allowance, but a meager one at that. I too was often jealous of my friends who were given 20+ dollars a week for doing basically nothing. Today though, I feel as if it was prolly a good thing that my parents didn’t give me that much money. As I often saw with my friends in Middle / High School, the majority of that money went to things that would end up being pointless, superficial, or all around bad for these kids. The anthropological perspectives you used were intriguing and had me thinking about this cultural phenomenon in a different light than I had previously. Good job!

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