Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Legitimizing Family Management: The Role of Adolescents' Understandings of Risk

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Legitimizing Family Management: The Role of Adolescents' Understandings of Risk

Article excerpt

Adolescents and their parents differ in their views about where the limits of parental authority should be drawn. Indeed, across ethnicities, adolescents describe more issues as outside the bounds of legitimate parental authority than do parents (Smetana & Daddis, 2002). Researchers suggest that adolescents' concerns for autonomy drive their views about the spheres that parents have a right to oversee (Smetana, 2002). For instance, scholars argue that, because it threatens their growing independence, middle-class African American adolescents regard parental authority over the personal domain-their friendships, activities, and bodies-as excessive (Smetana, Campione-Barr, & Daddis, 2004). Such findings raise the question of how adolescents from nondominant groups, whose parents often exercise strenuous control over their personal choices (Burton & Jarrett, 2000; Elliott & Aseltine, 2013; Ferguson, 2000; Furstenberg, Cook, Eccles, Elder, & Sameroff, 1999; Jarrett, 1997), perceive their parents' expectations and rules. Yet few studies use the kinds of rich qualitative data that permit an investigation into how everyday experiences of risk pertain to adolescents' interpretations of the socialization processes within their families. This paucity hampers efforts to understand how contextual demands, in addition to concerns for personal autonomy, relate to adolescents' perceptions of their parents' family management practices. It also corresponds to a more general gap: Despite growing attention to how children influence their parents, there remains a dearth of family science research that places the child's interpretations at the center (Corsaro, 2005; James, Jenks, & Prout, 1998; Parkin & Kuczynski, 2012; Stattin & Kerr, 2000; Tokic' &Pec' nik, 2011).

In this study, I analyzed how Black adolescents (N = 64), living in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, explained their parents' expectations and rules. Black adolescent interpretations of family life warrant attention. Black children are disproportionately likely to live in high-poverty environments (Sharkey, 2008), and children's respect for parental authority is necessary for ensuring that parents' practices are truly protective (Furstenberg et al., 1999). In elaborating my findings, I developed a grounded concept (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; LaRossa, 2005) of legitimizing parents' expectations and rules and contribute to existing research in two ways. First, I advance the literature on parent-child relations among urban Black families with adolescent children; and second, I deepen understanding of how contextual demands relate to adolescents' perceptions of parental authority. Below, I highlight perspectives on racial stratification. Then, I summarize research in three relevant areas: adolescent conceptions of parental authority, families from nondominant groups, and parental regulation of adolescent self-presentation.

Theoretical Influences

Racial Stratification and Family Processes

Family scientists have called for more attention to the influence of racial hierarchies on families (Burton, Bonilla-Silva, Ray, Buckelew, & Hordge Freeman, 2010). Yet, most studies that examine adolescents' perceptions of their parents' expectations and rules rely on questionnaires with limited ability to assess how the social realities of life in a racially ordered society could influence parent-child relations (e.g., Smetana & Daddis, 2002; Stattin & Kerr, 2000). By contrast, family science research that integrates a definition of the United States as uniquely racially constituted (Patterson, 1982) examines how racial stratification affects family dynamics (Bonilla-Silva, 2014). For instance, Ferguson (2000) and Hamer (2005) examine how life in a racially unequal society shapes Black parents' child-rearing goals. They highlight how Black parents' priorities are rooted in their concerns about how racial discrimination and disadvantage affect their children. …

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