Adolescent Perception of Mothers' Parenting Strengths and Needs: A Cross-Cultural Approach to Curriculum Development for Parent Education
Beckert, Troy E., Strom, Paris S., Strom, Robert D., Adolescence
Parent and Early Adolescent Relationships
Mothers of varied racial backgrounds identify early adolescence as the developmental period that is most difficult and worrisome for them (Simpson, 2001). Parents want to help youth adjust to new challenges but often feel unprepared because they can no longer rely on their own experiences of growing up as a credible basis for giving advice (Apter, 2006). The task becomes even more complicated when experts on parenting practices disagree or present recommendations that are vague (Segrin & Flora, 2005). There is general awareness that family conflict escalates when children enter adolescence (Allison & Schultz, 2004). Most studies portray these disputes as minor issues that offer parents many opportunities to model civil methods of expressing and accepting differences of opinion (Collins & Steinberg, 2006; Hample, 2005; Rimm, 2005). Since the ways both generations interpret their arguments are usually indeterminate (McGue, Elkins, Walden, & Iacono, 2005), adults are seldom well informed about how daughters and sons judge their parenting performance. Providing feedback on how youth see maternal success and needs for growth could be a useful way to improve guidance.
Race and Parenting
Race is identified as a factor that shapes parent behavior but is seldom examined in studies of middle-class families. There are several reasons to consider race. First, middle-class minority parents do not encounter some of the obstacles in raising children that confront low-income parents of their same racial group (Bean & Stevens, 2003; Coll& Pachter, 2002; Harkness & Super, 2002). Further, middle-income minority parents experience difficulties that distinguish them from parents of other racial groups with a similar income (Baca-Zinn & Wells, 2000; Weiss, Kreider & Lopez, 2005). There may also be common challenges across racial groups that should be understood by every parent and included in education programs for them (Sciafani, 2004).
Variance within diverse populations must be acknowledged before the special challenges faced by minority parents can be fully understood (Mahalingam, 2006). For example, just 45% of Black women have ever married but the proportion of Black children being raised in a two-parent family has been increasing for over a decade (Weiss, Kreider, & Lopez, 2005). In order to support parent and adolescent development in middle-class Black, Hispanic, and White families, it could be helpful to determine how they function, discover their strengths and shortcomings, and identify concerns. Rather than seek such information only from adults, a larger view can emerge by determining how adolescents see their relationship. This strategy was applied in the present study.
Aspects of Parenting
A study designed to determine a standard for parent performance within the context of cultural diversity for mothers used six criteria to assess maternal strengths and needs (Strom, Strom, Strom, Shen, & Beckert, 2004). These same criteria can be examined from responses from culturally diverse adolescents and include maternal (a) Communication, (b) Use of Time, (c) Teaching, (d) Frustration, (e) Satisfaction, and (f) Need for Information about early adolescents.
Purpose of the Study
There is a societal expectation that mothers maintain an active role in fostering physical, cognitive, and social growth when a child reaches early adolescence. Because most parenting programs target development of young children, mothers have limited access to education programs designed to foster parenting skills unique to this stage. One of the challenges stemming from a shortage of parenting programs is the lack of specificity relative to the unique circumstances of culturally diverse families. By reviewing perceptions of the youth parents wish to influence, mothers can be given guidance about which behaviors to sustain and which to modify or abandon. This type of feedback is not possible when children are young, but early adolescents have developed a capacity to assess and articulate their views of parenting strengths and learning needs. In this framework, perceptions of early adolescents deserve careful consideration. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to discover competencies and learning needs of three groups of mothers (Black, Hispanic, and White) as appraised by their 10-to-14-year-old children.
Table 1 shows the sample which consisted of Black (n = 145), Hispanic (n = 144), and White (n = 284) early adolescents. The mostly female (59%) participants were recruited through rural and urban school districts in five states in the southeastern and southwestern United States. Mothers received a letter from the principal of their child's school explaining that the purpose of the study was to identify parenting strengths and information needs so that an appropriate education program could be devised for them. Interested mothers consented to have their child complete the survey at school. All respondents were between the ages of 10-12 years (48%) and 13-14 years (52%). Of the invited families, 82.6% elected to participate. Adolescents were assured that their answers would never be shared with their mother and that individual names and identities would not be revealed in any reports.
The Parent Success Indicator (PSI) identifies favorable qualities of parents of 10- to 14-year old children and notes behaviors that indicate a potential for further learning (Strom & Strom, 1998). Reliability and validity for the constructs of the PSI have been supportive (Beckert, Strom, Strom, Yang, & Singh, in press; Collinsworth, Strom, & Strom, 1996). For the current study the very favorable (Henson, 2001) overall alpha coefficients were .93 for Black respondents, .92 for Hispanic respondents, and .94 for White respondents.
There are two versions of the PSI. For the current study only the adolescent version was used. For this version, adolescents describe their observations of their mothers. Such assessments of parents encourage better adult decisions about self-improvement when perceptions of the age group they wish to influence are taken into account. Parents can identify some of their own strengths and learning needs. However, if these self-perceived strengths and needs serve as the only source of judgment about their effectiveness, certain assets as well as shortcomings can be overlooked. Parent performance is evaluated by 60 Likert-type items which are divided into six scales that emphasize separate aspects of development (Strom & Strom, 1998):
1. Communication Scale--skills of advising children and learning from them;
2. Use of Time Scale---making decisions about the ways time is used;
3. Teaching Scale--the scope of guidance and instruction expected of parents;
4. Frustration Scale--attitudes and behaviors of children that bother parents;
5. Satisfaction Scale--aspects of the parent role that bring satisfaction;
6. Information Needs Scale--things parents need to know about their child.
Scoring and Feedback
The optional responses for all items are Always, Of Len, Seldom, or Never. By assigning a numerical value of 4, 3, 2, or 1 to all 60 items, 4 is indicative of greatest parental strength. Item mean scores of 2.5 and higher are considered favorable and identified as strengths; specifically, 2.50 to 2.99 are slightly favorable, and 3.00 to 4.00 are highly favorable. Item mean scores of 2.49 and below are unfavorable; specifically, 2.00 to 2.49 are slightly unfavorable, and 1.00 to 1.99 are highly unfavorable (Strom & Strom, 1998).
Independent variables for this study included the race of respondents, gender, amount of time the adolescent reported interacting with the mother (grouped as 0-5 hours or more than 5 hours per week), and presence of an adult at home when the adolescent returns from school (grouped as always/often or seldom/never). Dependent variables consisted of the six scales that comprise the Parent Success Indicator (PSI). Descriptive analyses to determine maternal strengths and needs included mean scores and standard deviations on each of the six scales and for each item within the scales. Inferential statistics included Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) and follow up univariate-F tests and Tukey post-hoc comparisons.
Influence of Race and Gender
Independent variables of race and gender were first analyzed using Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA). There were significant main effects for race, Wilks's Lambda = .90, F(12, 1,124) = 5.13, p < .00. Follow-up univariate F tests determined that three of the scales significantly differed by race. These included Use of Time, F(2, 571) = 4.60, p = .01; Frustration, F(2, 571) = 13.41, p = .00; and Information Needs, F(2, 571) = 13.26, p = .00. Examination of the' mean scores (see Table 2) using a Tukey post-hoc comparison indicated that White respondents rated their mothers significantly higher than did Black and Hispanic respondents (Black M = 3.02, SD = 0.61; Hispanic M = 2.98, SD = 0.52; White M = 3.13, SD = 0.50) in assessing maternal use of parenting time. For both maternal frustration in parenting (Black M = 2.75, SD = 0.73; Hispanic M = 2.98, SD = 0.59; White M = 3.10, SD = 0.54) and need for additional parenting information (Black M = 2.73, SD = 0.90; Hispanic M = 2.99, SD = 0.79; White M = 3.18, SD = 0.74). Black adolescents indicated significantly lower scores for their mothers than did either of the other racial groups.
The relationship between gender and adolescent scores on the PSI subscales was not significant, Wilks' Lambda = .99, F (6, 562) = .67, p > .05. There were no significant differences for sons and daughters on any scale on the PSI. Likewise there were no significant interactions between gender of the respondents and their race. Areas of significance for race were further examined to determine which items within the scales accounted for differences. Item significance is not reported in this section. However, the information was used to formulate the parenting curriculum topics for each group of mothers.
Influence of Time Together and Adult at Home
Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was also used to examine the relationship between reported amount of time a mother spends with the adolescent each week (0-5 hours or more than 5 hours), the presence of an adult at home when the adolescent returns from school (always/often or seldom/never), and six scales on the PSI. To remove the effects of race, the three racial categories were assigned a dummy code and then entered as covariates in the analysis. There were significant main effects for time spent together, Wilks' Lambda = .91, F (6, 562) = 9.12, p < .00. Follow up univariate F tests determined that all six of the scales differed significantly in the amount of time the adolescents reported spending with their mothers. These included Communication, F(1, 572) = 40.22, p = .00; Use of Time, F(1, 572) = 25.70, p = .00; Teaching, F(1, 572) = 12.83, p = .00; Frustration, F(1, 572) = 20.92, p = .00; Satisfaction, F(1, 572) = 14.91, p = .00; and Information Needs, F(1, 572) = 11.30, p = .00. Examination of the mean scores as illustrated in Table 3 confirms that in each case early adolescents who indicated spending more time with their mother gave significantly higher scores than those who indicated that they spent less time with their mother each week.
There were also significant main effects for the presence of an adult at home when the adolescent returned from school, Wilks' Lambda = .96, F(6,562) = 4.42, p < .00. Follow up univariate F tests determined that four of the six scales differed significantly by the presence of an adult at home when the adolescent returned from school. These included Communication, F(1, 572) = 19.82, p = .00; Use of Time, F(1, 572) = 4.44,p = .04, Teaching, F(1, 572) = 15.78,p = .00; and Satisfaction, F(1, 572) = 18.24, p = .00. Examination of these mean scores, also illustrated in Table 3, reveals that in each area of parenting where statistical significance was reached, early adolescents who had an adult at home when they returned from school most of the time gave more favorable scores to their mothers. The interaction between time spent with mother and the presence of an adult after school was not significant.
Group mean scores for all three groups indicated strength (group mean scores of 2.50 or greater) for each of the six scales of the PSI (see Table 2). To gain a more detailed look at specific areas of strength and learning needs, item mean scores were examined for each respondent group. Those items receiving the five highest group mean scores are reported in this section. Those items receiving the five lowest group mean scores are reported in the next section.
Two items received very favorable ratings from all three groups. The first noted the mother's ability to teach the child a sense of right and wrong (Black M = 3.80, SD = 0.48; Hispanic M = 3.55, SD = 0.78; White M = 3.80, SD = 0.44). The second reflected an overall feeling of satisfaction in the relationship indicated by adolescents' rating of the degree to which the mother likes being with them (Black M = 3.59, SD = 0.66; Hispanic M = 3.67, SD = 0.67; White M = 3.65, SD = 0.57). Both Black and White adolescents agreed that their mothers excel at teaching them to care about others' feelings (Black M = 3.58, SD = 0.71; White M = 3.65, SD = 0.56). Similarly White and Hispanic respondents felt very favorably about their mothers' ability to be honest in expressing feelings to them (Hispanic M = 3.54, SD = 0.78; White M = 3.51, SD = 0.73).
Unique aspects of strength indicated by each racial group included Black respondents' indication of two items that implicate their mothers' ability to teach. These youth rated their mothers highly favorably at teaching them that effort is the key to success (M = 3.62, SD = 0.67) and being religious by setting a good example (M = 3.55, SD = 0.73). Hispanic youth gave their mothers high marks for communication, including ability to discipline in a fair way (M = 3.54, SD = 0.72), and to listen to them (M = 3.52, SD = 0.71). White respondents felt that their mothers were highly satisfied with the way they got along with friends (M = 3.52, SD = 0.60).
Parent Learning Needs
Extensive learning needs were identified by group mean scores under 2.50. Only three items among all the groups met the requirement to be considered an extensive learning need. Black adolescents felt their mothers needed more information about what to expect of a child at this age (M = 2.42, SD = 1.19). Hispanic respondents also noted this need for information as one of their lowest items (M = 2.70, SD = 1.24). Black and White adolescents also felt that their mothers were sometimes frustrated with the way they did their household chores (Black M = 2.46, SD = 1.01; White M = 2.68, SD = 0.95). All of the adolescents, especially the Hispanics, felt that their mothers could improve in discussing their dating concerns (Black M = 2.63, SD = 1.16; Hispanic M = 2.37, SD = 1.27; White M = 2.68, SD = 1.16). White and Hispanic youth felt that their moody behavior was sometimes frustrating to their mothers (Hispanic M = 2.75, SD = 0.94; White M = 2.76, SD = 0.93), while Black and Hispanic adolescents expressed a desire for their mother to gain additional information about how to help them in career exploration (Black M = 2.57, SD = 1.09; Hispanic M = 2.75, SD = 1.01) and how to succeed in school (Black M = 2.58, SD = 1.11; Hispanic M = 2.74, SD = 1.00).
Unique areas of concern included White adolescents noting that their mothers had difficulty arranging leisure time for themselves (M = 2.69, SD = 0.95), and accepting criticism from them (M = 2.67, SD = 1.00). Black respondents felt their mothers were frustrated with their study habits (M = 2.55, SD = 1.07).
The purpose of this study was to examine the views of early adolescents about their mothers to identify areas of maternal strength and learning needs. The sample of respondents consisted of Black, Hispanic, and White boys and girls. The use of adolescent daughters and sons as a reliable source of evaluation has seldom been examined, even though feedback from this source might motivate more change in parent behavior than feedback from adults. One of the approaches in this study was to illuminate and accentuate the value of a cross-cultural, gender specific approach to curriculum development for parents. Accordingly, maternal strengths and learning needs as perceived by three groups of racially diverse adolescents, were identified. Racially unique and potentially important elements of parent strengths and learning needs specific to each group of mothers were also identified.
The overall performance ratings of each group of mothers were satisfactory; all three groups gave positive reviews of mothers' parenting as measured by this instrument. Providing this feedback to mothers, especially group consensus of adolescents, might help mothers take pride in their influence on children in this sensitive age group. Noteworthy for the mothers of these adolescents might be the lack of significant differences between sons and daughters. There is a tendency for greater closeness of mothers to daughters than to sons in early adolescence (Larson, Moneta, Richards, & Wilson, 2002). While young girls may engage in more emotional exchanges with mothers, alerting these mothers to the equally positive regard of sons could help increase their efforts to connect with both genders equally. A curriculum for each group of mothers should also highlight areas of difference between races.
Some Black families involved in this study may represent a first generation of intact, affluent, two-parent households, often living in predominately White neighborhoods. It is common for these families to have overcome significant obstacles in reaching their socioeconomic status and to feel strongly about motivating their children to succeed. One of the greatest needs indicated by these Black adolescents was for their mothers to acquire more information about helping them succeed at school. Success is a shared construct for affluent parents who grew up in low-income neighborhoods where they often observed diverse examples of family development (Smetana, Metzger, & Compione-Barr, 2004; Thernstrom & Thernstrom, 2003). Furthermore, Black and Hispanic children identified specific needs for information as indicated by their lowest score for three of the five lowest scored items. Addressing these needs in a curriculum designed specifically for them would include topics based on these low-score items such as success at school, career exploration, and learning what to expect of a child at this age.
White adolescents, on the other hand, assigned one of their lowest scores to mothers' ability to arrange leisure time for themselves. The failure to schedule discretionary time has an impact on many aspects of parenting. Middle school children today face challenges such as stress, making choices, and feeling out of control (Rosenfeld & Wise, 2000). Mothers can be instrumental in assisting their children to deal with these pressures by learning to cope with these problems themselves (Apter, 2006). All groups of adolescent respondents identified a need for their mothers to understand current dating practices. Knowledge about sexuality and dating could benefit these mothers.
This study utilized two nontraditional variables. While controlling for race, both the amount of time a mother spends with her child and the presence of an adult at home when the child returns from school were strongly expressed in the adolescents' responses. Spending more time together and having access to an adult after school resulted in much higher ratings for mothers on most areas of parenting assessed by the instrument. As seen in Table 1, demographically, the racial groups differed somewhat in each of these areas. Traditionally, spending time and monitoring after-school activities have differed racially (Noam, Miller, & Barry, 2002). Providing information to parents from different racial groups at the same time might foster a cultural exchange of ideas about how to spend more time with children, particularly when managing dual careers.
In terms of the study limitations, it is unknown whether the findings would generalize to mothers outside the sample populations. Different aspects of parenting assessed by other instruments could also account for variance in parenting success. This descriptive design represents a first step in exploring this type of approach to curriculum development that is specific for differing groups of mothers. Future educational interventions implementing the recommended areas of need would help determine the causal relationships between variables.
Most education programs for mothers focus on infancy and early childhood. Possible assumptions associated with this narrow focus are that during adolescence, parental influence will decrease in importance and/or the skills needed to raise a small child are the same as those for adolescents. As more understanding of the dynamic changes associated with adolescent development emerge, the need for parent education about this age group becomes more evident. The current study points to areas that should be addressed in assisting parents with this phase of their teaching obligation.
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Troy E. Beckert, Assistant Professor, Utah State University, Logan. Paris S. Strom, Associate Professor, Auburn University, Alabama. Send reprint requests to Robert Strom, Professor, Arizona State University, Box 870611, Tempe, AZ 85287-0611. Email email@example.com
Table 1. Frequencies and Percents of Early Adolescents Representing Each Demographic Category Black (n = 145) Hispanic (n = 144) Identification Variables Frequency Percent Frequency Percent Child Gender Boy 70 48.3 75 52.1 Girl 75 51.7 69 47.9 Child Age 10-12 Years 82 56.6 48 33.3 13-14 Years 63 43.4 96 66.7 Parent Age 39 Years or Less 99 68.3 89 61.8 Over 39 Years 46 31.7 55 38.2 Child School Grades Above Average 51 35.2 50 34.7 Average 90 62 90 62.5 Below Average 4 2.8 4 2.8 Adult at home after school Always/Often 114 78.6 137 95.1 Seldom/Never 31 21.4 7 4.9 Time Spent Together 5 Hours or less 77 53.1 83 57.6 More than 5 Hours 68 46.9 61 42A Parent Employment Part-time 20 13.8 33 22.9 Full-time 108 74.5 44 30.6 Unemployed 17 11.7 67 46.5 White (n = 284) Identification Variables Frequency Percent Child Gender Boy 90 31.7 Girl 194 68.3 Child Age 10-12 Years 154 54.2 13-14 Years 130 45.8 Parent Age 39 Years or Less 185 65.1 Over 39 Years 99 34.9 Child School Grades Above Average 160 56.3 Average 118 41.5 Below Average 6 2.2 Adult at home after school Always/Often 226 79.6 Seldom/Never 58 20.4 Time Spent Together 5 Hours or less 87 30.6 More than 5 Hours 197 69.4 Parent Employment Part-time 70 24.6 Full-time 154 54.2 Unemployed 60 21.2 Table 2. Means and Standard Deviations for PSI Scales by Race and Gender. Communication Time Teaching Race Gender n Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD White Boy 90 3.13 0.59 3.17 0.48 3.39 0.50 Girl 194 3.16 0.50 3.11 0.51 3.33 0.56 Total 284 3.15 0.53 3.13 0.50 3.35 0.54 Black Boy 70 3.14 0.48 3.01 0.61 3.40 0.50 Girl 75 3.10 0.56 3.02 0.60 3.43 0.51 Total 145 3.12 0.52 3.02 0.61 3.41 0.50 Hispanic Boy 75 3.20 0.51 2.94 0.52 3.38 0.54 Girl 69 3.16 0.53 3.03 0.52 3.19 0.69 Total 144 3.18 0.52 2.98 0.52 3.29 0.62 Total Boy 235 3.15 0.53 3.05 0.54 3.39 0.51 Girl 338 3.15 0.52 3.08 0.53 3.32 0.58 Total 573 115 0.52 3.06 0.54 3.35 0.55 Information Frustration Satisfaction Needs Race Gender Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD White Boy 3.06 0.52 3.32 0.45 3.12 0.73 Girl 3.11 0.55 3.33 0.46 3.21 0.75 Total 3.10 0.54 3.33 0.45 3.18 0.74 Black Boy 2.83 0.72 3.22 49 2.78 0.91 Girl 2.68 0.75 3.30 0.49 2.68 0.90 Total 2.75 0.73 3.26 0.49 2.73 0.90 Hispanic Boy 2.97 0.61 3.37 0.50 2.94 0.83 Girl 3.00 0.57 3.21 0.52 3.05 0.75 Total 2.98 0.59 3.29 0.52 2.99 0.79 Total Boy 2.96 0.62 3.31 0.48 2.96 0.83 Girl 2.99 0.63 3.30 0.48 3.06 0.81 Total 198 0.62 3.30 0.48 3.02 0.82 Table 3 Means and Standard Deviations for each PSI Scale for Time Spent Together and Adult at Home. After School Parent & Child Communication Time Teaching Time Spent Adult at Together Home n Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD 0-5 Always/ Hours Often 203 3.01 0.50 2.93 0.56 3.26 0.56 Seldom/ Never 44 2.73 0.61 2.77 0.54 3.06 0.61 Total 247 2.96 0.53 2.90 0.56 3.22 0.57 More than Always/ 5 Hours Often 274 3.33 0.44 3.20 0.50 3.49 0.50 Seldom/ Never 52 3.08 0.53 3.14 0.44 3.23 0.56 Total 326 3.29 0.46 3.19 0.49 3.45 0.52 Total Always/ Often 477 3.20 0.49 3.08 0.54 3.39 0.54 Seldom/ Never 96 2.92 0.59 2.97 0.52 3.15 0.59 Total 573 3.15 0.52 3.06 0.54 3.35 0.55 Parent & Information Child Frustration Satisfaction Needs Time Spent Adult at Together Home Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD 0-5 Always/ Hours Often 2.81 0.64 3.21 0.52 2.89 0.84 Seldom/ Never 2.67 0.53 3.00 0.53 2.68 0.78 Total 2.79 0.62 3.18 0.53 2.85 0.83 More than Always/ 5 Hours Often 3.14 0.58 3.44 0.40 3.13 0.81 Seldom/ Never 3.06 0.61 3.20 0.45 3.22 0.67 Total 3.13 0.58 3.40 0.42 3.15 0.79 Total Always/ Often 3.00 0.62 3.34 0.47 3.03 0.83 Seldom/ Never 2.88 0.60 3.11 0.49 2.97 0.77 Total 2.98 0.62 3.30 0.48 3.02 0.82…
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Publication information: Article title: Adolescent Perception of Mothers' Parenting Strengths and Needs: A Cross-Cultural Approach to Curriculum Development for Parent Education. Contributors: Beckert, Troy E. - Author, Strom, Paris S. - Author, Strom, Robert D. - Author. Journal title: Adolescence. Volume: 42. Issue: 167 Publication date: Fall 2007. Page number: 487+. © 1999 Libra Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.