How Do Latino Parents Protect High-Risk Children?

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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  • KC


    November 15th, 2012 at 11:26 PM

    If one group is vulnerable then it only makes sense if they adopt unique measures to insulate their children.It is good to see that Latino mothers are devising strategies such as these as it will hopefully not just help their children but will reduce the negative events in the community as a whole.

    Also if I could suggest a way it would have to be neighborhood participation in insulating children and keeping the anti social elements away.

  • tomas


    November 16th, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    Well, the parents in these cases have to make veen more of an effort then normal to stay involved in their kids lives to ensure that they don’t get caught up in the worng crowd or begin making decisions very early on that will lead to harm for them later in life.

  • Mikal


    November 16th, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    Why should having less income automatically indicate a tendency to be in a high risk group?

  • reid


    November 16th, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    several reasons,Mikal.having less income means you are probably living in a neighborhood with low education levels and high crime rates.what that also means is more exposure to drugs and other illegal activities.

    moving on there will be low access to healthcare,education and several other things.the list can go on but we need to have some sort of a buffer to help all those that belong to this section.

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