Latinos represent the fastest-growing segment of the minority population in America today. Unfortunately, Latino children are more likely to live in poverty than children from other ethnicities. The high number of Latino children living in impoverished communities raises concern because their environment puts them at increased risk for exposure to violence, crime, and other negative events. The parents of Latino children are the first line of defense for these individuals, and understanding how fathers and mothers parent their children could help clinicians determine their strengths and weaknesses and implement helpful strategies when needed. In an effort to identify unique parenting practices among high-risk Latinos, Rosario Ceballo of the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan interviewed 49 Latina mothers from a community faced with violence and poverty.
She found that the mothers used three particular methods of parenting to insulate their children from the threat of violence. First, they withdrew socially and physically from their community and surroundings. Second, the mothers communicated effectively and frequently with their children about the risks in their community and maintained a heightened sense of awareness with relation to their children’s physical and emotional conditions. Third, the Latina mothers in this study reported increased involvement in positive activities.
Ceballo notes that although only one in five mothers reported positive activity engagement as a parenting strategy, the responses were given freely and not chosen from a list. This could mean that more mothers used this method than reported. The most commonly cited strategy was that of parent-child communication. Open lines of dialogue allow children and parents to express concerns about potential threats and discuss ways to avoid them. This also serves to protect children from other stressors, like absentee fathers. Ceballo also found that culture played a big role in parenting. For the mothers in this study, the goal of creating a warm, supportive environment for their children was more important than monitoring every move they made. Providing a safe, nurturing, and willing parental scaffolding seemed to be at the root of all the strategies employed in this sample of mothers. This finding has far-reaching clinical implications. “Put simply, prevention efforts that target parenting among Latino families would be remiss to overlook the cultural meanings embedded in parenting,” Ceballo said.
Ceballo, Rosario, Traci M. Kennedy, Allyson Bregman, and Quyen Epstein-Ngo. Always aware (siempre pendiente): Latina mothers’ parenting in high-risk neighborhoods. Journal of Family Psychology 26.5 (2012): 805-15. Print.
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