Among the environmental influences on human behavior and human development through the life span, social class is the most pervasive in a modern complex society. It is a powerful predictor of a whole array of behaviors and attitudes in the child as well as in the adult. After summarizing the evidence on the predictive value of social class at various points in the life span, the paper goes on to a discussion of social structure and social classes (the changing size of various classes, the changing social distance between classes, social mobility) and of some of the relations between social change and social class conflicts. Many social scientists presently face a dilemma, on the one hand, in wishing to maintain a value-free social science and to refrain from evaluations of the relative ‘goodness’ of the various social classes; and on the other hand, in wishing to contribute in practical ways to the improvement of society where, for example, they may search for ways of helping lower-class children become upwardly mobile.

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