Academic journal article Family Relations

Do Socialization Goals Explain Differences in Parental Control between Black and White Parents?

Academic journal article Family Relations

Do Socialization Goals Explain Differences in Parental Control between Black and White Parents?

Article excerpt

African American and White parents differ in their use of parental control strategies. This study examined the degree to which these differences are related to socialization goals or socioeconomic factors. Using a sample of 320 parents, the authors found that socialization goals for child independence, cultural connection and respect for elders (i.e., cultural-filial piety), and financial success explained most of the ethnic differences in parental strictness. Ethnic differences in autonomy granting were more related to economic factors. It was concluded that African American parents scoring higher on measures of strictness than White parents is related to having different socialization goals and cultural beliefs about child obedience and respect for elders. However, African American parents seem to provide less autonomy than White parents, perhaps due to sociocontextual factors such as greater neighborhood dangers.

Key Words: ethnicity and cross-cultural issues, parenting, parental social cognitions

Adolescence is the developmental period during which children seek connectedness with and autonomy from their families and develop a sense of individuation (Steinberg & Morris, 2001). As adolescents spend time outside of the home and away from parental supervision, parents must establish a new balance of how much decision-making opportunities they grant to their adolescents and the extent to which they should control what their adolescents are allowed to do. Parents' ability to establish appropriate levels of parental control to meet their adolescents' needs can influence a variety of social, behavioral, and academic developmental outcomes (Dixon, Graber, & BrooksGunn, 2008; Goldstein, Davis-Kean, & Eccles, 2005; Mandara, Varner, Greene, & Richman, 2009; Steinberg & Morris, 2001).

The goal of this study was to examine the cultural and economic factors related to ethnic differences in parental control. Researchers have long been interested in identifying predictors of parental control, as studies have found that parental control varies by ethnicity, particularly between White and African American parents. Among low-income, mixed-income, and nationally representative samples of White and African American families, studies have found that in comparison to Whites, African American parents are less likely to grant their adolescents autonomy in decision making (Bulcroft, Carmody, & Bulcroft, 1996; Goldstein et al., 2005) and tend to be more controlling of their adolescents' behavior (Dearing, 2004; Dixon et al., 2008). For example, with a low-income sample of preadolescent girls, Dixon et al. (2008) found that African Americans and Whites were more restrictive in their parenting, even when controlling for parent education, age, and marital status. Research also shows that differences in parental control can help account for some of the disparities in developmental outcomes between White and African American adolescents (Mandara et al., 2009), and therefore it is necessary to examine the factors related to why Whites and African Americans exhibit different levels of parental control.

Many researchers argue that socioeconomic factors explain these variations in parenting (Bradley, Corwyn, McAdoo, & Garcia Coll, 2001; Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Steinberg, 1996; Weis & Toolis, 2008). Because income (Chao & Kanatsu, 2008) and neighborhood characteristics (Pinderhughes, Nix, Foster & Jones, 2001) are related to levels of parental control, accounting for ethnic differences in these factors would mediate ethnic parenting differences. Other studies have adopted a cultural framework. These studies suggest that African Americans tend to have interdependent socialization goals whereas Whites have more independence-oriented goals, thus explaining their different levels of parental control (Kagitçibasi, 2005; Suizzo, Robinson, & Pahlke, 2008; Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2007).

However, there have been few attempts to disentangle socioeconomic and cultural factors to explain parenting differences (Chaudhuri, Easterbrooks, & Davis, 2009; Suizzo et al. …

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