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I agree this is an issue in poor areas.

As another anecdote, my wife grew up in a poor housing estate in central Scotland, in a household with bad parents and some domestic violence. There was a fair bit of violence and drugs in the area too.

Almost everyone in the area was claiming at least some kind of benefit, and benefit fraud was absolutely rife.

I got to know the extended family quite well over time. Almost every parent seemed determined to continue the cycle of poverty, and pushed their children to sign up for a council house as soon as they were 16. Fraudulent tactics were often used to get their kids further up the waiting list, or to get their kids into newer/better housing once they had a house. One father set fire to his daughter's house with the hope she'd be moved into a better house. Another smashed in the windows of his son's house, so they could claim he was in danger from imaginary drug dealers in the area.

My wife (and indeed her brother) were however determined to get a decent education and do better, in spite of their parents.

She applied to university, but her mother hid the acceptance letter and tried to push her into a crappy low/paid job and a council house.

Thankfully my wife came across the letter my chance, and her life has been very different from that of her parents.

I've seen this effect often in various forms.

If Bob and Ted start at the same point, and Bob becomes more successful than Ted, Ted will try to undermine Bob's success. The reason is Ted blames circumstance for his failure, and Bob's success makes it hard for Ted to blame circumstance. By undermining Bob's success, Ted can comfortably continue to blame circumstance.

I have a book suggestion for you if you are interested in learning more about this. I grew up in Scotland and I am very familiar with what you are talking about.


Feel free to not respond as this might be too personal, but I'm very interested. Does your wife keep in contact with her mother? Presumably yes, as you have gotten to know them?

This all happened a long while back, but yes, she has kept in touch all that time. But they don't get on at all, and have a very turbulent relationship. I think she feels a sense of familial duty more than anything else.

It was definitely truly horrible to read that her mom hid her acceptance letter from her. What sort of thing would make someone do that? What kind of person doesn’t wish best for their children, and tries to make their life bad instead? It’s just too much.

While nowhere near GP's example, I come from a working class background where this metafor feels instantly fitting. Perhaps the middle ages made it so that groups who did not pull their peers back down died out / were killed by the ruling classes.

Really that toxic dynamic is also explained by reproductive habits - everyone not desirable for having X looks bad in comparison. It is a way deeper mental flaw in humanity along with rationalizing obviously terrible things to avoid cognitive dissonance and extra effort.

I'm in an interesting position where I come from the white-collar upper middle class, but work with a lot of 1st generation white-collars. That mentality sticks even among some of those who manage to elevate themselves.

For instance, I'm recently married and the wife and I are looking into starting a family. My co-workers know we want kids, and while about 75% are supportive, there's a couple who have marital/family issues who feed me a daily stream of [insert story about how messed up their marriage/kids are] followed by "so, you sure you still want kids?" in a half-serious tone.

It's a minor annoyance and I just commiserate with the miserable story and laugh it off. But, while I know I'm not supposed to judge as a non-parent there's a few glaringly, blindingly obvious failures of well-intentioned but horribly executed parenting/marriage handling in these stories that set my teeth on edge. Stuff even my parents for all their weaknesses would never have done. When I try to politely nudge back on some of the more egregious points I just get ignored and they keep talking, even when I'm backed up by one of the parents in my team. They seem convinced that they're doing everything the best way it could possibly be done and there's no behavior change on their part that could make it better. On a possibly related note, they're also the team members with the worst health and some of the messiest (if technically functional) code I've ever read. I always wondered where that mentality came from, reading this thread has shed some light on that, given what I know about how they grew up.

> That mentality sticks

this seems pretty entitled / clasist in this particular context - many in 'the white-collar upper middle class' are precisely the ones with arguments against having families out of personal preference and those most visibly displaying their preference for other lifestyle choices (after all, if one can afford retirement, one doesn't need a family to support them)

Well we're talking about blue-collar vs white-collar, so naturally I'm painting with broad strokes here, and this is all anecdotal. In my experience the people who have tried to hold me back from my objectives the most have come from blue-collar backgrounds. I'm not saying that everyone I've met from a blue-collar background has done so, just that of the people who have done so most have been from blue-collar backgrounds.

And come to think of it the financial reasons you mention (retirement) is probably one contributing factor from a cultural perspective. If you lack the independent wealth to look after your own interests then you must naturally pool resources with others. If others leave/do their own thing/do better than you that's saying, in a sense, that they don't want to pool resources with you, even if you'd reciprocate. That feeling probably sucks.

On the other hand if you're well off enough on your own, someone going off and doing their own thing/striving for better isn't a rejection or a denial of needed resources. So it can be supported, event celebrated.

Once again, painting with broad strokes. It is possible to point out trends without saying that everyone in a given group subscribes to said trend.

Easy, firstly being poor isn't necessarily a bad life, I see a lot more unhappy rich people than poor people. Secondly if you think the children will have a better life will force you to admit you have a bad life and you're doing things wrong. Thirdly a different life will mean your kids will be different and wont fit in so well, wont be around so much and might not like you - is that what you really want?

While being poor may not lead to an unhappy life, having high income volatility will.

And in the US, low income and high income volatility go hand in hand. You can have your hours reduced or shifted at any time, your industry can get outsourced or automated, you may be deemed to be too old or expensive.

No one is happy with volatility, and no one today should expect to go to work and punch in and out for 30 years, especially if you’re on the lower end of the pay scale. You should be looking out for better opportunities all the time, lest your cash flow suddenly stops.

> firstly being poor isn't necessarily a bad life

No, not necessarily. But at least where my wife grew up in the Scottish central belt, I think that would be the exception rather than the rule - and by a pretty wide margin.

I think a lack of education played a big part in that, but the most disappointing and frightening thing was that so many parents expected - almost bred - their children to repeat the same cycle of limited education, poverty, benefit fraud, crime, drugs and violence.

Imagine a college educated family of anti war hippies whose son applies to West Point. I don’t think you’d be shocked to hear that a parent hid the acceptance letter.

Very simply, that Family doesn’t consider a university education to be “better” for their kid, they consider it to be worse.

Man, that is sad. "You get more of what you subsidize."

If you look past the comedy, this is exactly how the show Trailer Park Boys works. Deep down, the show is about the cycle of poverty.

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