Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Community Differences in the Association between Parenting Practices and Child Conduct Problems

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Community Differences in the Association between Parenting Practices and Child Conduct Problems

Article excerpt

Various hypotheses were identified regarding the manner in which community context might influence the association between two dimensions of parenting-control and corporal punishment-on child conduct problems. The authors used hierarchical linear modeling with a sample of 841 African American families to test these hypotheses.

Consistent with the evaporation hypothesis, the results indicated that the deterrent effect of caretaker control on conduct problems becomes smaller as deviant behavior becomes more widespread within a community. The findings for corporal punishment supported the normative parenting argument. Although there was a positive relationship between caretaker corporal punishment and child conduct problems in communities where physical discipline was rare, there was no association between the two variables in communities where physical discipline was widely prevalent. These results suggest that a particular parenting strategy may be more effective in some neighborhood environments than others. The theoretical implications of this view are discussed.

Key Words: African American, conduct problems, community context, corporal punishment, parenting.

In recent years, several studies have examined the effect of neighborhood on families (Booth & Crouter, 2001; Brooks-Gunn, Duncan, & Aber, 1997; Burton & Jarett, 2000; Furstenberg, Cook, Eccles, Elder, & Sameroff, 1998). Much of this research has focused on the extent to which parenting strategies vary across different types of communities (Furstenberg et al., 1998; Jerrett, 1997; Simons, Johnson, Conger, & Lorenz, 1997). Although research regarding the relationship between neighborhood conditions and parental behavior is important, the present study addresses a related issue that has received much less attention. We examine the extent to which the association between various parenting practices and child adjustment varies by community context. Stated differently, we investigate the possibility that certain parenting strategies are more effective in some neighborhood environments than others.

Our analysis is based on a sample of 841 African American children and their caretakers. We focus on this ethnic group because we expect that any effects of community context are more likely to be evident among African American than European American families. There are two reasons for believing that this is the case. First, the majority population is more likely than ethnic minorities to select friends and activities based on common interests rather than spatial propinquity. For minority groups, a shared ethnic identity is likely to reinforce the effects of residential propinquity (South, 2001). Second, past research indicates that community effects are most evident when extremely disadvantaged neighborhoods are compared to more advantaged communities (Wilson, 1987). Community effects are often small when working-class neighborhoods are compared to middle-class communities. White families, even those that are poor, tend to live in communities where the majority of families are not poor. Many African American families, on the other hand, live in extremely disadvantaged communities. Not only are they poor but most of their neighbors are as well (Sampson & Wilson, 1995; Wilson, 1987, 1996). Given these racial differences, community effects are more likely to be evident for African American than European American families.

We investigate the effects of two dimensions of parental behavior. The first involves the extent to which caregivers set behavioral standards, monitor their child's behavior, reinforce successes, and discipline noncompliance. In this article, we refer to this set of parenting behaviors as caregiver control. The second dimension of parenting consists of the extent to which caregivers rely upon corporal punishment when disciplining their child. Child conduct problems is used as the outcome variable in investigating the consequences of these parenting strategies. …

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