Ethnic Differences in Parenting and Adolescent Antisocial Behaviors: The Role of Harsh Discipline and Parent Support

Galloway, Sarah Kathryn, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Wilson, Melvin, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

Historically, parenting and adolescent behavior has been largely studied from an ethnic majority perspective and then applied to ethnic minority families; furthermore, research examining ethnic differences in parenting processes and adolescent behavior has been predominately conducted on US based samples. The family ecologies of minority adolescents are different from majority adolescents and ethnicity serves as a powerful factor during the socialization process; therefore, when examining parenting and adolescent behaviors, culture and ethnicity are essential in understanding variations in individual processes. The purpose of this study was to examine ethnic minority and majority differences in parental harsh discipline, perceived parental support, and adolescent antisocial behaviors within a non-US based sample. This study specifically addresses methodological and conceptual difficulties of previous research on ethnic differences in parenting and adolescent antisocial behavior. First, previous research examining ethnic differences in parenting has neglected to perform tests of measurement invariance on parenting variables before measuring ethnic differences in parenting; consequently, making critical, but untested assumptions that scales of parental discipline have been measuring the same construct across ethnicity. Next, research often uses racial categories to explain psychological phenomena. As race is often used as a proxy for other variables and has no conceptual meaning, other independent variables that conceptualize culture should be used. Accordingly, this study conceptualizes ethnicity through a broad cultural variable, language spoken at home. Ethnic Differences in Parenting ii Our sample was derived from a large-scale study that investigates school achievement and psychosocial development in the German federal state Bremen. Our subsample was comprised of 1,063 students in seventh and ninth grade (51% male). 828 students' primary language spoken at home was German and 235 students' primary language spoken at home was Turkish. It was found that ecological and cultural factors play a role in the socialization of adolescents. Results from this study indicate that there are differences in normative levels in the use of parental harsh discipline across culture. Additionally, parent support serves as an important protective factor reducing adolescent engagement in antisocial behaviors; moreover, parent support is an exceptionally powerful protective factor for minority adolescents. Lastly, the relationship between parental discipline, adolescent perceived parent support, and antisocial behaviors varies between ethnic minorities and the ethnic majority living in Germany. Mechanisms explaining ethnic differences in harsh parenting and the differential relationship between parenting and adolescent antisocial behaviors are discussed, as well as future directions and implications for interventions targeting adolescent problem behavior.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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