Guns, Violence, and Identity among African American and Latino Youth

By Deanna L. Wilkinson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Family:
One Important Developmental Context

In this chapter, respondents' family backgrounds were examined as a developmental context. Respondents were asked to describe their family relationships during childhood and adolescence. They described each of their parents' employment status, level of caring and personal support, alcohol or drug use patterns, involvement in criminal activities, monitoring and social control behaviors, and views on the respondent's illegal activities. Respondents spoke openly about the dysfunction and tragedy in their families. In most cases, their matter-offact descriptions of those devastating situations reflected cognitive dissonance as well as limited exposure to alternative models. One respondent's description of his family characterizes many among the sample:

DARRELL: I am not going to say it's a Brady Bunch family
or one of them happy families but it's a family where I could
say anything goes. I don't really know how to describe my
family.

Respondents were raised in a variety of family situations. Only 16.7 percent of the sample grew up in a two parent family, 61.7 percent were raised in female-headed households while 17.5 percent were raised by other family members including grandmothers, aunts, uncles, or siblings. The average family had 5.4 members with a mode of 4 members. Most of the respondents' families faced numerous hardships, losses, and economic instability and family members strongly influenced the outlooks of respondents. The characterizations of family life were generally dynamic; respondents often experienced changes in family life over their childhood and adolescent years.


SINGLE-MOTHER HOUSEHOLDS

Single mothers raised the majority of youth in this study. Most of these young men stated that their mothers did the best job they could to raise their children with limited resources. Respondents most often reported positive, loving relationships with their mothers. Jeff made the following comments about his single mother:

-65-

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