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Abstract

Practitioners, policy-makers, and researchers have relied on empirical knowledge based on samples of European American/White and middle-class samples as standards for the evaluation of racial and ethnic minority children and families. Despite much effort to curb the pervasiveness of the deficit and pathological perspective, racial and ethnic minority children and families continue to be evaluated using standards that decontextualize their environmental, cultural, racial, and economic realities. This exploratory examination of everyday socialization messages and practices of urban, low-income African American families with their young children during toddlerhood contributes to a small body of existing basic research literature that document the parenting and socialization processes of non-European American/White and/or middle class children and families. In addition, the study sought to support and invigorate continued efforts to use empirical methodology and knowledge to challenge the pervasive and persistent deficit and pathological perceptions of urban, low-income African American families. This study utilized secondary longitudinal, qualitative data, selected from a unique set of multi-hour, naturalistic video observations of urban, low-income African American families living in high-risk environments. One-hour video segments of 17 families at children’s ages 12, 24, and 36 months were transcribed to include verbal and nonverbal interactions captured on the videos. A two-tiered coding structure was developed to capture socialization message events and the parenting practices used to convey those messages. Socialization messages were based on Social Domain Theory’s three social knowledge domains and 9 associated categories that cover a wide range of everyday parental socialization topics including children’s personal safety, others’ safety and fairness, food and mealtime, family routines and chores, orderly behavior, social relationships, traditions, and etiquette, self-care, ownership and care of property, and self-knowledge, identity, and personal choice. Parenting practice codes were conceptualized around the dimensions of parental power assertion which includes high power, moderate power, low power, and 14 associated categories, each with at least two subcategories. Mixed quantitative and qualitative methods were utilized to analyze the data including ANOVA, multiple regression, and qualitative comparative analysis. Generally, this study found that urban, low-income African American families actively socialized their children around a wide variety of social knowledge concerns that covered all categories across the three ages and nearly all categories at each age. To convey those message events, families employed a large magnitude of a variety of parenting practices. In addition, there’s strong evidence that families shifted both the number and types of messages conveyed and practices used as their children got older. For example, families in the study decreased their socialization efforts around children’s personal safety as children increased in developmental capacities and skills, consistent with existing conceptual and empirical knowledge. The findings also suggest that two areas that feature prominently in overall body of literature, moral development and parental use of physical discipline, make up very small proportions of the socialization efforts that families focus on day-to-day. The findings are discussed relative to the surprisingly few existing publications regarding the everyday socialization efforts of families with their toddlers in the majority and minority racial and ethnic groups. Overall, the socialization efforts of urban-low-income African American families with their toddlers appear to parallel the socialization efforts of families in the larger population, including the majority group. The dissertation closes with a conceptual discussion that frames how findings from this study can be understood within the context of the social, racial, cultural, and economic realities of urban, low-income African American families.

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