56 up – the early effect of parents

The Up series has moved on to look at the 56 year old participants and what’s most interesting is, as always, the enduring influence that the various parents have had on their offspring.

What’s less obvious is how significant that parental support early on had. It was fairly obvious that the upper class kids would end up doing quite well but that’s not necessarily a function of them being upper class but rather that their parents were able to provide a level of support that was more difficult to provide for the less well off parents. Moreover, in the social circles in which they moved, there was the expectation that one would work hard at school, in university and in one’s life thereafter.

The effect of parental support is much more clearly seen in the different lives of Tony and Nick. Although they both started off in very much working class homes (Tony in London, Nick in the country), their lives have turned out quite differently. Where they are now and how they got there seems to reflect the different type of ambitions that their parents supported so many years ago. Nick basically started with what might be termed working-class ambitions (ie he concentrated on getting a particular job) whereas Nick looked beyond that and is now a professor in an American university (ie he concentrated on what might be possible if he worked hard).

The parents aren’t involved in the series but it seems likely that the parents of both Tony and Nick had pressure from friends and family to have their respective children stick to working-class ambitions. Nick’s parents rose above that and so did their son.

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