Comparing Black, Hispanic, and White Mothers with a National Standard of Parenting
Strom, Robert D., Strom, Paris S., Beckert, Troy E., Adolescence
Parenting practices are typically studied in relation to particular subcultures. The prevailing assumption is that identifying attributes of subcultures can foster preservation of valued characteristics, guide acculturation, and promote inter-group respect. On the other hand, this narrow focus excludes the benefits that could emerge from comparisons if data from subcultures are combined to reveal common expectations and behaviors of parents across the society. When subcultures are explored independently, shortcomings are overlooked because there is no external standard for contrast. The parents' environment can become their normative reference and might be accepted without questioning whether it supports success in the broader society. Using a larger lens to view how parents perform could present a more accurate impression of their strengths and learning needs (Baker & LeTendre, 2006; Diller, 2007).
Construction of a National Standard
Significant demographic shifts are anticipated. By 2050 the Hispanic proportion of the national population will increase from the current 12% to 24% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004). Such changes should be accompanied by parent awareness of normative expectations for bringing up children. In an interdependent society, everyone has some stake in the well-being of other people's children and every family should fulfill their unique responsibility for providing appropriate education in the home. Efforts toward conceptualizing a national standard for expectations of parent behavior must take into account the observation that, for the past two generations, middle class White parents have been portrayed as exemplars to prevent children from becoming disadvantaged. However, during the Internet era, since youth from every background can more readily be exposed to risk, no particular parent group is identified as a model for all to follow.
Representative sampling offers a more respectful basis for parents to determine how they, as individuals and as members of ethnic groups, accord with or depart from a national standard of expectation for parent behavior. Previous steps to explore building a national standard for parent success as perceived by two generations resulted in mother and adolsecent norms regarding maternal strengths and learning needs (Strom, Strom, Strom, Shen, & Beckert, 2004). Selected aspects of parent behavior were examined for Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites that together comprise 95% of the total national population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). A weighing method corresponding with the current ethnic proportions was applied to establish a standard for comparative reference. While the data were drawn from different ethnic groups, the purpose was to examine them collectively to formulate a composite image of mothers of adolescents.
This strategy assures that combining the views of these groups to create a national reference standard produces a more accurate representation of American mothers than is currently available. The trial standard also makes it possible to compare the strengths and shortcomings of each ethnic group in comparison with the national standard. In this way, ethnically diverse mothers can find out the aspects of parenting in which they excel and recognize domains where they should focus on learning. Such an approach can also support a more equitable allocation of financial and other community resources by giving priority to the subgroups and individuals that present the greatest need (Rose, 2006).
Sources for Evaluating Parent Success
Self-impressions. Communities have traditionally made known the criteria that parents relied on for self-evaluation (Putnam, 2000; 2004). However, as society has evolved, many parents now find themselves lacking community standards as a basis for guiding their behavior. As a result, some turn to professionals on television and radio or to authors of self-help books to define success and suggest how to assess progress. Many parents express confusion as to which among conflicting expert opinions to accept and would welcome having a suitable group reference for self-comparison, preferably other parents raising children of the same age as their adolescents. They would like to know what other parents expect of children, how they solve their problems, the frustrations and satisfactions they experience, and how well they achieve their goals. In addition, many parents want to understand how their children judge them because they recognize that success as a family member cannot be defined by only one generation. This means that better decisions about self-improvement can be made when parents become aware of observations by the children they seek to influence (Weiss, Kreider, & Lopez, 2005).
Adolescent impressions. Parents are able to identify some personal assets and shortcomings. Yet, if they are the only source of judgment on their performance, some learning needs and strengths will likely be overlooked. Adolescent development experts recommend that parents show respect toward youth by listening to their views. For this reason, a promising research strategy is to collect a two-generational perspective about family interaction, examining self-impression of parents, and adolescent observations of their parents. This balanced orientation can produce a more accurate appraisal of parent competence, learning needs, and better gauge how parents influence their children.
Purpose of this Study
Survey responses from Black, Hispanic, and White mothers with 10-to 14-year-olds were examined to assess how they saw their parenting assets and shortcomings as compared to the national standard. Observations of adolescents from the same ethnic groups were also explored to determine how they perceived the parent performance of their mothers. This study provides a comparison of how each of the three subcultures depart from a national reference standard and identifies contexts in which further learning warrants attention.
Subjects and Recruitment
The 1,545 participants in this study included 739 mothers of adolescents and 806 adolescents from the southeast and southwest regions of the United States. Demographic data including frequencies and percentages for each generation of respondents presented in Table 1 show that most mother respondents were married (74%), high school graduates (91%), employed (81%), and had annual incomes above $35,000 (55%). Most adolescent respondents were 12 to 14 years of age (63%), female (58%), and had average or above school grades (95%).
Mothers of students in randomly selected classrooms were sent a letter explaining that the purpose of the survey was to identify maternal strengths and learning needs. The mothers of adolescents in some classes completed a survey regarding their mother-child relationship and returned it to the principal's office; mothers of students in other classes were asked to let their child complete a survey at school. The reason unrelated mothers and students were recruited was to avoid the bias that can occur when parents are aware of the content in surveys that their child will complete on family relationships. Of 895 mothers asked to complete a survey, 739 (83%) consented. Permission sought from 952 mothers for their adolescent to respond yielded 806 (85%) contents.
The Parent Success Indicator (PSI) purposes are to identify favorable qualities of parents of 10- to 14-year-olds and to detect learning needs (Strom & Strom, 1998). This instrument focuses on fundamental aspects of parent behavior revealed by six scales, each containing ten items. The two generational versions of the PSI include English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Japanese translations. Mothers who complete the parent version report on self-impression. In the …
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Publication information: Article title: Comparing Black, Hispanic, and White Mothers with a National Standard of Parenting. Contributors: Strom, Robert D. - Author, Strom, Paris S. - Author, Beckert, Troy E. - Author. Journal title: Adolescence. Volume: 43. Issue: 171 Publication date: Fall 2008. Page number: 525+. © 1999 Libra Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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