Variations in Parenting Practices: Gender- and Age-Related Differences in African Adolescents
Mboya, Mzobanzi M., Adolescence
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.
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. All testing was conducted by the author of the study. The questionnaire was administered to intact classes during regular scheduled class periods. Participants were assured that their responses would remain anonymous in all documentation of results. Standardized instructions were read aloud to students, and all questions were answered before students completed the questionnaire.
The Perceived Parent Behavior Inventory (PPBI). The PPBI (Mboya, 1993) is a multidimensional instrument designed to measure students' perceptions of parental behaviors. Students respond to statements on a scale which varies between "5 = I Agree Very Much" and "1 = I Disagree Very Much." [TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED] Three dimensions of perceived parental behavior are considered in this measure: support, interest, and encouragement; expectations; and participation. A brief description of the PPBI scales and examples follows:
Support, Interest and Encouragement (STCT): Examples of students' perceptions of their parents as being helpful, supportive, and a source of encouragement are: "My parents support me in the things I do," "My parents are concerned about what I do," and "At home my parents praise me for trying, even if I do not succeed."
Expectations (PTTN): Examples of students' perceptions of their parents' expectations are: "My parents believe that my education is very important," "My parents want me to work hard at school," and "My parents think I can do well at school."
Participation (PTPN): Examples of students' perceptions of their parents spending time and sharing activities with them are: "Most of the time my parents look at my schoolwork," "My parents encourage me to complete my schoolwork," and "When I am doing homework, my parents do not allow other things to interfere with it."
In a preliminary analysis, a repeated measures ANOVA was performed across all three scales to determine the effects of gender and age. Across the three scales, the gender-by-age interaction was not statistically significant. However, the effects of gender and age each varied with the particular scale. Consequently, separate ANOVAs were conducted to determine the effect of gender and age on each of the PPBI scales. As in the overall analysis, the gender-by-age interaction failed to reach statistical significance in any of these separate ANOVAs.
Gender differences are statistically significant for all three scales (Table 2). For the three scales and the sum of the three scales, the PPBI scores are higher for girls than for boys (STCT, F(1, 221) = 7.16, p = .007; PTTN, F1, 83) = 4.63, p = .03; PTPN, F(1, 68) = 3.05, p = .08; PPBI Tot, F(1, 1036) = 7.64, p = .006).
Table 2 shows that age differences are statistically significant for two of the PPBI scales and the sum of the three scales. For the two scales and the total score there is a decline with age (STCT, F(4, 67) = 2.17, p = .07; PTPN, F(4, 115) = 5.16, p = .005; PPBI Tot, F(4, 480), = 3.53, p = .008). For the PTTN scale the effect of age is not statistically significant.
[TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 2 OMITTED]
The results of this study have important implications for developmental issues in African adolescents. That there were significant differences in perceived parental behaviors among these African boys and girls confirms what prior researchers have reported in Western societies. The present finding is consistent with those of Becker (1964), Bell and Carver (1980), Douvan and Gold (1966), Parke and Sawin (1976) and Sidorowicz and Lunney (1980) who noted that parents act differently toward their children depending on the gender of the child. Such behaviors results in girls showing a greater association with parents than is the case with boys as demonstrated in the present study. This suggests that, for African adolescents, competence in issues related to social interaction may be a more significant factor for girls. Such differences in perceived parental practices between the sexes, such as those found here, can be attributed to parental differential socialization practices of boys and girls (Bem, 1974; Caldwell & Peplau, 1982; Clark-Stewart, Friedman, & Koch, 1985; Carlson, 1971; McClintock & Moskowitz, 1976, Spence & Helmreich, 1978; Weller, Shlomi, & Zimlot, 1976).
The results suggest that among the African adolescents studied, the level of perceived parental behaviors, as measured by the Perceived Parent Behavior inventory, decreases with age. This is similar to observations in other cultures (Baldwin, 1946; Clarke-Stewart & Hevey, 1981; Jacob, 1974; Kagan & Moss, 1962; Russell & Russell, 1987; Schaefer & Bayley, 1963; Steinberg, 1981). The implications of the present study are that the younger the adolescents, the closer the association with their parents. The older they become, the more the distance and independence they want from their parents. A study that considers variations in teacher behaviors and how they relate to gender- and age-related differences in the African context would be of value.
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Publication information: Article title: Variations in Parenting Practices: Gender- and Age-Related Differences in African Adolescents. Contributors: Mboya, Mzobanzi M. - Author. Journal title: Adolescence. Volume: 30. Issue: 120 Publication date: Winter 1995. Page number: 955+. © 1999 Libra Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 1995 Gale Group.
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