Adolescent Perception of Mothers' Parenting Strengths and Needs: A Cross-Cultural Approach to Curriculum Development for Parent Education

By Beckert, Troy E.; Strom, Paris S. et al. | Adolescence, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

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. …

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