Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Linking Perceived Discrimination to Longitudinal Changes in African American Mothers' Parenting Practices

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Linking Perceived Discrimination to Longitudinal Changes in African American Mothers' Parenting Practices

Article excerpt

This longitudinal study was designed to test hypotheses, derived from a stress proliferation framework, regarding the association between perceived racial discrimination and changes in parenting among African American mothers in the rural South. A sample of 139 mothers and their children were interviewed 3 times at 1-year intervals. Mothers reported on perceived discrimination and two proliferated stressors: stress-related health problems and depressive symptoms. Both mothers and children reported on mothers' competence-promoting parenting. Structural equation modeling revealed a chainlike sequence: Perceived discrimination forecast increases in mothers' stress-related health problems, which in turn were positively associated with depressive symptoms. Depressive symptoms constituted the proximal variable associated with decreases in mothers' competence-promoting parenting. These results emerged independent of socioeconomic characteristics.

Key Words: African Americans, Depression, Health, Mothers, Parent-child relations, Stress.

In this study, we tested a theoretical model to determine how perceived discrimination is associated with changes over time in parenting among rural African American mothers. The families who participated in this study share distinct characteristics. The risk factors they face include poverty, isolation imposed by geographic distances, and racial discrimination (Brody, Neubaum, Boyd, & Dufour, 1997). Rural African American families, however, also possess protective factors, including strong family ties and an involved, nurturant parenting style we term competence-promoting parenting (Brody, Murry, Kim, & Brown, 2002). Currently, the association between experiences with racial discrimination and competence-promoting parenting is little understood from either a contemporaneous or a longitudinal perspective.

The theoretical model that guided this study was based on Pearlin and colleagues' stress proliferation framework (Pearlin, 1989; Pearlin, Schieman, Fazio, & Meersman, 2005). The notion of stress proliferation grew out of the observation that serious stressors tend to give rise to secondary, or proliferated, stressors that are associated with changes in functioning in important social roles (Hammen, 2003; Pearlin, Aneshensel, & Leblanc, 1997). Applied to the current study, we suggest that perceived discrimination is a Stressor that sponsors increases in rural African American mothers' stress-related health problems and depressive symptoms that, in turn, contribute to declines in mothers' use of competence-promoting parenting. To date, no longitudinal studies from a stress proliferation framework or any other orientation have traced the pathways from exposure to perceived discrimination to changes in parenting practices.

Hypothesis testing from a stress proliferation framework carries with it the requirement of demonstrating the exact temporal sequence of the primary and proliferated Stressors. We executed cross-lagged panel analyses to test the hypothesis that perceived discrimination would lead to increases over time in rural African American mothers' stress-related health problems and depressive symptoms, rather than the reverse. Although previous studies have demonstrated relations between perceived discrimination and indicators of physical health and psychological functioning (Clark, Anderson, Clark, & Williams, 1999), few, if any, of these studies have documented the direction of causality among perceived discrimination, health, and well-being. After meeting this requirement, we tested a theoretical model in which we proposed that perceived discrimination would occasion secondary Stressors that would contribute over time to a decline in competence-promoting parenting. In the following paragraphs, we outline the rationale for particular constructs' inclusion in the model and summarize the hypotheses.

Racial discrimination presents daily challenges for African American families. …

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