Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Counseling

Cultural Variations in Parenting and Implications for the Counseling Professional

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Counseling

Cultural Variations in Parenting and Implications for the Counseling Professional

Article excerpt

Culture can be defined in words that we all understand, and yet can be the source of many misunderstandings. Counselors working in the pluralistic society of today are faced with the challenge of understanding the impact of culture on the counseling process. Counselors have an ethical obligation to know, understand, and include their client's cultural background in order to provide an appropriate counseling experience (Dana, 1998; Webb, 2001).

This article will focus on different cultural approaches to parenting and the implications for the field of counseling. The cultures that will be compared include African American, Asian, Hispanic, and European American or Caucasian. Much research has been done on this topic; however, it is not without controversy or contradictions. Some of the issues that contribute to the controversy include the impact of acculturation on minority populations, Western or European American influence in determining what is appropriate parenting often fails to account for socio-economic differences in sample populations (Jambunathan, Burts, & Pierce, 2000; Chao, 1994; Stewart, Bond, Kennard, Ho & Zaman, 2002; Ferrari, 2002).

African Americans

African Americans have a unique heritage that separates them from any other ethnic group. Other groups have come to the United States to escape oppression and obtain more freedom. African Americans were brought to this country to live a life of slavery and have a history of inequality, which influences parental socialization and group values. African American parents tend to operate from a stricter, more authoritarian style in order to prepare their children for living in an environment filled with racial bias and discrimination (McAdoo, 2001; Jambunathan, Burts & Pierce, 2000). It is believed this will help children to develop the necessary coping skills to survive in an environment characterized by racism.

According to Mosby, Rawls, Meehan, Mays & Pettinari (1999), African Americans have a higher incidence of utilizing physical discipline as an integral part of child rearing, but have strict guidelines for its administration to prevent abuse. This research was concerned with the overrepresentation of African American children in child protective systems based upon the use of physical punishment and the unwillingness of many African American parents to alter their disciplinary strategies. The authors utilized narrative interviews with African American elders who served as parenting mentors in order to better understand their justification for the use of physical punishment. The narratives suggested strict guidelines for the administration of physical punishment in order to prevent abuse. These guidelines included the elements of nurturing and teaching the child why the discipline is being administered. The elders suggested that children who are not disciplined are unruly and out of control. The unruly behavior is more likely to result in the parent raising their voice and speaking inappropriately to the child. The elders all agreed that verbal abuse is far more detrimental to the child than appropriately administered physical discipline. Ferrari (2002) supports the research regarding higher incidence of physical discipline among this population. However, the same study also reports a high level of nurturing behaviors among African American parents.

There are common generalizations found through the literature regarding the values of African Americans. They report that the culture values familism, which emphasizes dependency on, sense of obligation to, and responsibility for others. Others are defined as the family unit, as well as the greater community. Extended family members are often involved in child rearing and frequently live in the same house or in close proximity. Supportive social networks consist of family, friends, neighbors, and church members and provide emotional and financial support (McAdoo, 2001). …

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