Parental Involvement Promotes Rural African American Youths' Self-Pride and Sexual Self-Concepts

Article excerpt

This study, an evaluation of the Strong African American Families Program, was designed to determine whether intervention-induced changes in targeted parenting behaviors were associated with young adolescents' development of racial pride, self-esteem, and sexual identity. Participants were 332 African American mothers and their 11-year-old children in 9 rural Georgia counties. Families were randomly assigned to a control group or an intervention group. Unlike those in the control families, mothers in the intervention group reported increases in targeted parenting behaviors, which promoted self-esteem, positive racial identity, and positive sexual selfconcepts among their children. These findings expand the study of African American youths' identity development by including broader domains of identity and parenting processes other than racial socialization.

Key Words: African Americans, family-based prevention, identity development, parenting, rural.

Identity development during adolescence is widely considered to be an important foundation for subsequent development, including the transition to adulthood. In addition to the developmental tasks associated with identity development with which all youths must deal, youths in racial or ethnic minority populations confront multiple expectations and obligations from both the minority and majority cultures (Adams, 2001; Sellers, Rowley, Chavous, Shelton, & Smith, 1997) in a society that frequently devalues them and their families. Despite a plethora of studies on racial identity, social scientists still know little about the mechanisms and contextual processes that influence identity development among African American youths in general and rural African American youths in particular. Knowledge about this process could be enhanced by longitudinal investigations that can identify causal links between contextual processes and identity development.

The present study focused on two specific aims. First, we examined the role of parenting practices on rural African American youths' identity development. Second, we tested theories about identity development via a preventive intervention, the Strong African American Families Program, which was based on extensive basic research with the targeted population. In family and developmental science, intervention research is one of the only means through which variables can be manipulated. Thus, we designed our study to determine whether intervention-induced changes in the targeted parenting behaviors would impact youths' identity development. The parenting behaviors on which we focused were involvement, which included nurturance, monitoring, and consistent inductive discipline; as well as socialization that transmits norms, values, and expectations regarding alcohol use, sexual behavior, and race-related issues. The youth outcomes that we examined included racial identity, self-esteem, and sexual self-concept. We hypothesized that, compared with control group families, those participating in the Strong African American Families Program would demonstrate higher levels of targeted parenting behaviors as indicated by mothers' reports and that these behaviors would promote positive self-pride (i.e., positive racial identity and self-esteem) and positive sexual self-concept (i.e., positive body image and less reliance on sexual social comparison). The conceptual model that guided this study is presented in Figure 1.

THE STRONG AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILIES PROGRAM ORIGIN

The Strong African American Families Program was conceived and designed using findings from 11 years of basic theoretical and empirical research conducted in rural African American communities by investigators at the Center for Family Research. Brody and Murry's longitudinal studies, along with Gibbons and Gerrard's cognitive model of adolescent health risk behavior (Gibbons & Gerrard, 1997; Gibbons, Gerrard, & Lane, 2003), were applied in developing the Strong African American Families Program. …