Social and Emotional Adjustment and Family Relations in Ethnic Minority Families

By Harmon, Alison | The Journal of Negro Education, Summer 1998 | Go to article overview

Social and Emotional Adjustment and Family Relations in Ethnic Minority Families


Harmon, Alison, The Journal of Negro Education


Social and Emotional Adjustment and Family Relations in Ethnic Minority Families, edited by Ronald W. Taylor and Margaret C. Wang. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1997. 239 pp. $55.00, cloth; $37.50, paper. Reviewed by Alison Harmon, Eastern Michigan University.

As co-directors of the National Center on Education in the Inner Cities at Temple University, Ronald Taylor and Margaret Wang fully realize the need for newer, more, and more culturally sensitive research on economically disadvantaged ethnic minority families and children in the United States. As they maintain in their remarks prefacing this compilation, there is today "a pressing need to develop a research base for preventative and intervention-oriented efforts that foster the resilience and educational success of adolescents from minority backgrounds, who for a variety of reasons, live in circumstances that place them at risk developmentally and educationally" (p. ix). Thus, Taylor and Wang sought a grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI) to sponsor an invitational conference designed to bring together professionals representing a broad range of disciplines to discuss the recent advances that have been made in research and theory related to this focus.

Scholarly presenters at the Temple University conference included developmental psychologists, economists, educators, and sociologists, all of whom were asked to pull from their research and disciplines information that would address specific questions relative to the conference theme. As stated in the powerful and informative volume that harvests their efforts, these questions included the following:

Are there parenting style differences among minority parents that are unique to particular groups?

Do differences in parenting styles among minority parents impact on competence development and school achievement of adolescents?

What are the mechanisms through which the economic prospects of families influence adolescents' psychosocial well-being?

What impact do parent participation and experience in the labor market have on family functioning and adolescent adjustment?

What is the impact of neighborhood // community on family functioning (including childrearing practices) and adolescents' well-being?

With regard to reducing adolescents' risk of serious learning and social adjustment problems, what features of the contexts in which ethnic minority families function are amenable to intervention?

The resulting product offers a comprehensive, multidisciplinary assessment of the critical issues facing ethnic minority families in the United States today. This book does an excellent job of summarizing existing research on family relations in racial / ethnic minority populations. It also excels in synthesizing the issues related to various groups' socioemotional adjustment, and clearly illustrates the affective variables that determine their wellbeing and buoyancy in education and life (i.e., cultural practices, attitudes, behaviors, dispositions, and beliefs) as well as those that present challenges (i.e., poverty, unemployment, underemployment, family disruption, etc.).

The book's three-part organization helps readers focus on and cross-reference information relative to various racial/ethnic minorities. Part one, "Economic Resources, Family Environment, and Adolescent Adjustment," addresses linkages between families' economic resources and the nature of family functioning and adolescent adjustment. The authors present research findings that illustrate the impact of poverty, socioeconomic status, and culture on the emotional and physical well-being of children and adolescents. Three of the five chapters in part one focus exclusively on African American children and families, while one chapter focuses on American Indian children. Edmund Gordon provides the book's introduction while comparing and contrasting the terms "resilience" and "defiance," the later being, in his view, the phenomena the book addresses. …

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