Variations in Parenting Practices: Gender- and Age-Related Differences in African Adolescents

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Parental influence on child or adolescent behavior and development has been of paramount interest to developmental psychologists for decades (Adams, 1980; Amato, 1986; Baumrind, 1977; Bishop & Ingersoll, 1989; Brody & Schaefer, 1982; Cheung & Lau, 1985; Collins & Kuczaj, 1991; Demo, Small, & Savin-Williams, 1987; Gecas & Schwalbe, 1986; Hess & Holloway, 1984; Maccoby & Martin, 1983; MacDonald & Parke, 1984; Moos, 1976: Parish, 1988; Sameroff, 1983). There is, however, a growing body of research on parental socialization practices which suggests that the gender of individuals affect patterns of parent-child interaction. In other words, parents act differently toward their children depending on the gender of the child (Becker, 1964; Bell & Carver, 1980; Douvan & Gold, 1966; Droppelman & Schaefer, 1963; Lamb, 1977; Martin, Maccoby, & Jacklin, 1981; Murphy & Moriarty, 1976; Parke & Sawin, 1976; Sidorowicz & Lunney, 1980).

Studies of gender-differentiated parental socialization behaviors generally report that girls are more concerned with interpersonal relationships (Clarke-Stewart, Friedman, & Koch, 1985; Stewart, 1982), and that girls are more concerned with physical appearance, an important attribute in interpersonal attraction (Bersheid & Walster, 1969; Dodge, 1983). In other studies it has been demonstrated that girls are often found to be more affected in their development by the quality of relations with others; they are higher in their need for affection and affiliation; seek to satisfy their affection need more from adults (parents), and place greater importance on adult evaluations (Bem, 1974; Caldwell & Peplau, 1982; Carlson, 1971; McClintock & Moskowitz, 1976; Spence & Helmreich, 1978; Weller, Shlomi, & Zimlot, 1976). It would thus be reasonable to expect that girls' relations with parents may be greater than that of boys. Although the area of socialization of African children and adolescents has been articulated (see Kenyatta, 1938) from an anthropological or sociological perspective, there is little empirical information about the extent to which parental practices play significant roles in the development of adolescent boys and girls.

Second, few empirical studies have examined parenting practices as a function of age of child or adolescent (Baldwin, 1946; Clark-Stewart & Hevey, 1981; Jacob, 1974; Kagan & Moss, 1962; Russell & Russell, 1987; Schaefer & Bayley, 1963; Steinberg, 1981). In Africa, the study of parent-child relationships over time has received little attention in the empirical research. There is a clear need for more information on variations in parenting practice beyond infancy and into adolescence. The present study represents a preliminary attempt to redress these shortcomings by examining variations in parenting practices as a function of the gender and age of African adolescents. It is hoped that the results of this investigation will reveal specific dimensions of parenting worthy of consideration in subsequent research on childrearing practices in the African context.

METHOD

Sample and Procedures

The sample consisted of 274 students attending a coeducational public high school in Langa, Cape Town. Areas served by this school represent mostly economically deprived working-class communities. Standards in this school, as in most high schools in South Africa, range from 6 to 10 (ages 14 through 18).

Although Xhosa is the students' first language, their knowledge of English, which is the medium of instruction for all subjects, except Xhosa and Afrikaans, is good. They experienced no problems in responding to the English version of the questionnaire. Demographic information for students in each standard level, gender combination and across the total sample, is shown in Table 1.

Permission to administer the questionnaire was secured from the principal, teachers, and students. …