Academic journal article Family Relations

Sources of Parental Knowledge in Mexican American Families

Academic journal article Family Relations

Sources of Parental Knowledge in Mexican American Families

Article excerpt

We examined correlates of sources of parental knowledge of youths' experiences in Mexican American families, including child self-disclosure, parental solicitation, spouse, siblings, and individuals outside the family. Home and phone interviews were conducted with mothers, fathers, and their seventh-grade male and female offspring in 246 Mexican American families. Results indicated that mothers and fathers relied on different sources of knowledge; parent-child relationship quality and cultural orientations predicted parents' sources of knowledge, and different sources had different implications for youth adjustment. Specifically, child disclosure to mothers and fathers' reliance on their spouse were consistently linked to better youth outcomes. Moderation analyses revealed that correlates of parents' knowledge sources were not always uniform across mothers and fathers or daughters and sons.

Key Words: cultural orientations, Mexican American families, parent-child relationships, parental monitoring, sources of knowledge, youth adjustment.

Mexican Americans are among the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority populations in the United States (Ramirez & Patricia de la Cruz, 2002), but are underrepresented in family research. Without research on underrepresented groups, our understanding of family processes remains limited. Mexican American youth are also at increased risk for a variety of problems relative to other racial-ethnic groups in areas such as academics (Okagaki & Frensch, 1 998), internalizing problems (Roberts & Chen, 1995), and externalizing problems (De La Rosa, Holleran, Rugh, & MacMaster, 2005), indicating a clear need for research on factors that support or undermine youth well-being in this population. This study took an ecological approach to understanding the well-being of Mexican American youth by focusing on parents' sources of knowledge about their offspring's daily experiences, given the benefits of parental knowledge for youths' psychosocial functioning (e.g., Stattin & Kerr, 2000).

Researchers have extensively studied processes surrounding parental knowledge of youths' experiences, including levels of knowledge and the implications of knowledge for youth well-being (e.g., Stattin & Kerr, 2000; Waizenhofer, Buchanan, & Jackson-Newsom, 2004). Investigations have clearly indicated benefits of higher levels of parental knowledge for diverse youth populations (Cota-Robles & Gamble, 2006; Halgunseth, Ispa, & Rudy, 2006; Plunkett & Bámaca-Gomez, 2003; Stattin & Kerr; Waizenhofer et al.). However, our understanding of how parents acquire this knowledge is limited, and few investigations have focused on sources of knowledge (exceptions include Crouter, Bumpus, Davis, & McHaIe, 2005; Stattin & Kerr; Waizenhofer et al.), particularly in ethnic minority families. Knowing parents' sources of knowledge and how these sources are linked to youth functioning can assist us in better understanding family processes and youth outcomes in Mexican American families.


Ecological theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1977, 1986) highlights the importance of context in understanding family processes and development. Parental knowledge does not occur in isolation, but parents acquire knowledge from a variety of sources across multiple ecological systems. For example, youths themselves may tell their parents about their experiences (child selfdisclosure), or parents may ask their children about them (parental solicitation). Child selfdisclosure and parental solicitation both involve direct parent-child communication and occur at the most basic dyadic unit of the family microsystem. Other potential sources of knowledge in the microsystem include the spouse and children's siblings. When parents rely on other members of the family to learn about their child' s experiences, a third party is brought into the knowledge acquisition process, making it triadic in nature. …

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