Correlates of Parenting Styles in Predominantly Working- and Middle-Class African American Mothers

Article excerpt

We examined reported parenting and disciplinary practices in 114 working and middle class African American mothers of children aged 5-12 using the Parenting Dimensions Inventory (PDI.- Power 1991). Results indicated substantive variation among parents in their disciplinary strategies. Reasoning, which is characteristic of authoritative parenting, was the most frequently reported strategy. Factor analyses were conducted on mother's responses to PDI items, and sociodemographic and psychological variables were related to the identified factors. Maternal education, socioeconomic status, childrearing history, and maternal depression differentially predicted child-centered parenting, reasoning, and mothers' tendencies to let a situation go. The importance of extending theoretical and empirical models of parenting determinants to underrepresented segments of African American families is emphasized in order to gain a fuller understanding of the factors that contribute to diverse styles of parenting in such groups.

Key Words: African American parenting; childrearing history, discipline, maternal depression, parenting.

Numerous investigators have identified significant relations between parenting styles and children's social, emotional, and cognitive development (Baumrind, 1971, 1972; Deater-Deckard, Dodge, Bates, & Petit, 1996; Grolnick & Ryan, 1989; Kochanska, Murray, & Coy, 1997; Steinberg, Elmen, & Mounts, 1989), and many investigators have discussed the centrality of disciplinary strategies in characterizing such styles (Baumrind, 1991; Kochanska, Padavich, & Koenig, 1996). Parents who are responsive to their children's needs, who permit children to be active participants in the establishment of family rules, and who engage in inductive reasoning when disciplining their children are more likely to have children who are self-- assertive, independent, friendly, and cooperative. In contrast, low levels of parental responsiveness, coupled with high levels of power assertiveness, tend to be associated with negative outcomes in children, such as inadequate internalization of conscience or externalizing symptoms (Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992). Given the extensive literature on the central role of parenting styles in children's lives, it is not surprising that interest in the determinants of parenting has burgeoned.

Determinants of Parenting

Based on an integrative literature review on the predictors of parenting, Belsky (1984) asserted that parenting is multiply determined by factors in the broader social context, the experiences and psychological functioning of the parent, and characteristics of the child. He further suggested that factors in the parent are most central to parenting competence, often mediating associations between broader social variables (or child variables) and variation in parenting styles. In support of his emphasis on parents' experiences and psychological functioning, a number of investigators have identified meaningful relations between mothers' childrearing history and depression and general styles of parenting or discipline. Mothers' cognitive appraisals of their own childhood experiences, such as their perceptions of the fairness and harshness of punishment and the degree of rejection they experienced as children, predict various parenting behaviors, including the endorsement or use of physical punishment to maintain discipline. Parents who report experiencing low levels of nurturance during their childhoods have been found to sanction the use of physical punishment (Hunter & Kilstrom, 1979; Ringwalt, Browne, Rosenbloom, Evans, & Kotch, 1989). Among low-risk mothers, those who perceive more rejection in their childhoods have been found to display more negative affect toward their own children (Belsky, Herzog, & Rovine, 1986; Belsky, Youngblood, & Pensky, 1989). In contrast, mothers who report having had positive and secure relations with their mothers during childhood are more likely to be responsive to their infants, and their infants are more likely to be securely attached (Gara, Rosenberg, & Herzog, 1996; Main & Goldwyn, 1984). …


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