Discussion

In this chapter, we focused on parents' messages to children about race and ethnicity as a central component of parenting, particularly among ethnic minority parents. After providing a brief overview of the concept of racial/ethnic socialization and the literature in this area, we focused on exploring the extent to which parents' racial/ethnic socialization messages are actually heard by children, and the conditions under which there is likely to be lack of correspondence in perceptions of, or reports about, racial/ethnic socialization among parent-child pairs. The literature, to date, has not addressed this issue, and, to a large extent, has been based on reports from a single informant—either parents or their children. Our findings, albeit exploratory, raise a number of important issues and suggest directions for future study.

We first examined relationships between parent and child reports of several dimension of racial/ ethnic socialization. Our initial examination of correlations between parents' reports of messages sent and children's reports of messages received are somewhat concerning. That is, although the correlations were positive in direction they were quite modest and nonsignificant statistically, suggesting either that parents intended racial/ethnic socialization messages may be falling on "deaf ears" or that parents may be unable to verbally communicate the messages they would like to send children. Notably, several alternative explanations for the relatively weak correlations are also plausible. For one, our modest sample size probably provided insufficient statistical power to detect relationships that were small or moderate in size. Whether the correlations we reported would be statistically significant in studies based on a larger number of respondents remains to be seen. Moreover, our sample was ethnically diverse, and it is quite possible that relationships between parents' and children's reports of racial/ethnic socialization vary across ethnic groups. For instance, among groups for whom the possibility of discrimination is quite high, such as Black American or Dominican groups, relationships between parents' and children's reports of preparation for bias may be stronger than among groups for whom discrimination is not a salient issue, such as European American immigrants. Indeed, in a very exploratory set of within group analyses, it was only among Black parent-child pairs that levels of reported preparation for bias were not significantly lower for parents than they were for children. Alternatively, stronger agreement on egalitarianism/cultural socialization may be found within ethnic groups who have cultural traditions and holidays that are quite distinct from those celebrated in this country.

The finding that parents' reports of egalitarianism/cultural socialization messages were correlated with children's reports of preparation for bias messages raises the possibility that some messages from parents to children about racial or ethnic issues may be ineffectually verbalized and, thus, misinterpreted by children. This is a fascinating and potentially important finding in that it underscores the extent to which parents' messages about race must be carefully crafted to avoid misinterpretation. Findings from other qualitative interviews suggest that many parents fail to discuss racial issues with children despite their belief that is important to do so precisely because they are concerned that race-related discussion will be misinterpreted by children (e.g., Peters, 1981; 1985). Thus, future studies need to examine how children actually hear and interpret different types of messages, as well as the unintended effects of racial/ethnic socialization messages vis-à-vis a variety of child outcomes.

Despite the modest correlations we originally reported, it is important to note that a significant proportion of parent-child pairs did show agreement on individual items. This suggests that some parents send messages that children do hear, remember, and properly interpret. Thus, in the future it will be extremely important to further study those parent-child pairs who do show agreement in order (a) to identify what makes these pairs special (e.g., Are we finding parents who are simply more accurate with their reporting of messages sent or are we finding parents who have developed an effectual communication style and better understand what will make their children listen?), and (b) to determine if agreement between parent-child pairs is meaningful for other child outcomes.

Analyses that examined correspondence between parents and children on each individual item made it clear that when agreement was not found, it was most often because parents reported sending more messages pertaining to egalitarianism and fewer messages pertaining to preparation for bias than children reported hearing. Although we found this systematic source of disagreement to be quite intriguing, our current data set does not permit us to determine if the primary issue is one of biased reporting or miscommunication. Specifically, it is possible that parents believe they should be communicating messages to children about equality and that they should be promoting egalitarian principals but fail to send these messages in their day to day interactions with their children. Alternatively, parents themselves may not believe children need to hear about equality on a consistent basis but might believe that the interviewers who are asking them questions about racial/ethnic socialization think such messages are important. At the same time children who are surrounded by examples of unequal racial/ethnic treatment in the media and most likely in their day to day lives may simply believe that their parents share ideas with them concerning preparation for bias although their parents do not actually speak about such things directly. Finally, it is possible that parents may intend to convey a message about egalitarianism to children but unintentionally highlight racial or ethnic differences. In turn, children may become more aware of racial and ethnic differences and thus of the potential for biased treatment. For example, it is easy to imagine a parent showing a child history books with famous individuals from many racial and ethnic backgrounds as a way to send messages of egalitarianism, but a child might actually interpret the lesson as one suggesting that the minority individual who also made the history book was unusual. Thus, dynamic investigations of various types of racial/ethnic socialization messages as they are actually sent and actually received will be a great contribution to the literature and will answer many questions concerning the disagreement between what parents report saying and what children report hearing.

Finally, our results suggest that cultural practices influence children's evaluation of their ethnic group. Specifically, in examining the relationship between parents' practices and children's ethnic evaluation, we found celebration of cultural holiday celebration was associated with more positive ethnic evaluation, although neither parent- or child-reported racial/ethnic socialization messages were associated with children's ethnic evaluation. This suggests, that we need to look more closely at the ways in which parents report verbal messages that are intended to provide children with a positive view of themselves and with positive ways to negotiate the realities of their worlds. It may be through direct celebration of culture, race, and ethnicity that children most effectively learn to appreciate certain aspects of themselves.

1. Unfortunately many Dominican parents who gave consent were not interviewed due to a limited number of Spanish speaking interviewers. In addition, we were unable to contact several parents due to changed phone numbers and summer vacations. In general, roughly half of the parents in each ethnic group who received consent forms agreed to be interviewed and we did not find any systematic differences in rates of participation.

Joy Of Modern Parenting Collection

Joy Of Modern Parenting Collection

This is a collection of parenting guides. Within this collection you will find the following titles: Issues, rule and discipline, self esteem and tips plus more.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment