Academic journal article Family Relations

Parenting Alone to Multiple Caregivers: Child Care and Parenting Arrangements in Black and White Urban Families

Academic journal article Family Relations

Parenting Alone to Multiple Caregivers: Child Care and Parenting Arrangements in Black and White Urban Families

Article excerpt

Parenting Alone to Multiple Caregivers: Child Care and Parenting Arrangements in Black and White Urban Families* Andrea G. Hunter,** Jane L. Pearson, Nicholas S. Ialongo, and Sheppard G. Kellam

This paper examines domain-specific variations in child care and parenting arrangements in a community-defined sample of urban families. Children lived in a variety of family types; parenting systems ranged from parenting alone to multiple caregivers. The residential status of additional caregivers varied. The effects of family type, income, and child gender on the likelihood of caregivers sharing child care and parenting activities varied by type of activity.

Key Words: Black families, child care, family structure, parenting, racial differences.

Longitudinal studies of American children's living arrangements indicate that they are likely to spend a significant proportion of their childhood in households that are not two-parent (Bumpass, 1984; Hofferth, 1985). In addition, American children will likely experience significant changes in family structure and live in a variety of family configurations across their childhood and adolescent years (Hofferth, 1985: Hunter & Ensminger, 1992). There are also racial differences in children's living arrangements (Beck & Beck, 1989; Bumpass, 1984; Hofferth, 1985; Richards, White, & Tsui, 1987). Black children spend fewer years in two-parent households and are more likely to have never lived with two parents than are White children. Black children are also more likely to make a transition to extended family households and, once a part of these households, they live in them longer than do White children. For both Black and White children, current patterns in family structure increase the likelihood of parental isolation in child rearing and provide opportunities for multiple caregivers to become involved in central domains of parenting. Hence, important questions for the study of families and the provision of support services are: How do parents and other caregivers organize child care and parenting tasks? Who participates in the provision of care? What is the role of parenting agents inside and outside of the household?

Changes in family demography, shifts in mothers' work and family roles, and increased emphasis on the expressive roles of fathers has fueled interest in examining the allocation of child care and parenting tasks in new ways. This includes the examination of continuing differences in the parenting tasks of mothers and fathers in the wake of social change (Hochschild, 1989; Thompson & Walker, 1989); the parental involvement of nonresidential parents, primarily fathers (Furstenberg & Harris, 1992; King, 1994; Mott, 1990); and the parenting role of stepparents in blended and remarried families (Hetherington, 1989; Pasley & Ihinger-Tallman, 1987). There is also an increased recognition of the potential parenting roles of extended and fictive kin; particularly for ethnic minority populations (Red Horse, 1980; Taylor & Roberts, 1995; Wilson, 1986). Further, there is a growing literature on grandparenthood which indicates that across race and ethnicity, grandparents, particularly grandmothers, are frequently involved in parenting and child care (Hunter & Taylor, 1998; Pearson, Hunter, Cook, Ialongo, & Kellam, 1997; Robertson, 1995; Solomon & Marx, 1995). In addition to who is involved in care, where people who participate in parenting live (i.e., with the child or not) is also an important question. As studies of extended families and non-custodial parents have shown, parenting relationships and responsibilities can extend across household boundaries.

Taken together these bodies of work are suggestive of the potential complexity of child care and parenting arrangements in today's families. However, studies of parenting rarely look at the parental dyad, extended and fictive kin, and the role of parenting agents inside and outside of the household. …

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