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INTRODUCTION Parents living in high-risk, low-income neighborhoods often have approaches to child rearing that are in contrast with traditional, middle-class parenting behavior (for reviews see Bornstein & Bradley, 2003; Hoff Ginsberg & Tardif, 1995;
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Parents living in high-risk, low-income neighborhoods often have approaches to child rearing that are in contrast with
traditional, middle-class parenting behavior (for reviews see Bornstein & Bradley, 2003; Hoff Ginsberg & Tardif, 1995;
Magnuson & Duncan, 2002). It is often proposed that parents in high-risk settings behave in a harsher, more authoritarian
fashion towards their children because they maintain parenting values that emphasize obedience and conformity (Kohn,
1963; 1977; 1979; Luster, Rhoades, & Haas, 1989; Schaefer & Edgerton, 1985). However, there is little evidence actually
linking parenting values to corresponding parenting behaviors (Luster,Rhoades & Hass, 1989; Miller, 1988). The studies
that do exist have rarely examined parents of adolescents, and are typically limited by an exclusive reliance on self-reported
parenting. Thus, the current study utilized a sample of 177 young adolescents (83 males, 94 females; average age = 13
years) and their mothers to examine the links between mothers’ parenting values and both self-reported and observed
parenting behaviors. It was proposed that mothers’ parenting values – in particular, her valuing of conformity – would
mediate the link between neighborhood risk and parenting behavior.
RESULTS: EVIDENCE OF MEDIATION
Established mediation using the following 3 steps (Baron & Kenny, 1986).
STEP 1: Neighborhood risk was significantly positively associated with mothers’ valuing of conformity (r=.28***).
STEP 2: Neighborhood risk was significantly associated with each of the five parenting behaviors (s ranged from .15 for
mother reported psychological control to .20 for teen reported psychological control, all p<.05).
STEP 3: Entering mothers’ valuing of conformity into each regression equation caused the beta weight for neighborhood
risk to drop to below p<.05 in all 5 models, indicating full mediation in all cases.
Neighborhood Quality Questionnaire: mothers’ self-reports of the level of risk existing in their neighborhoods
Maternal Valuing of Conformity
Parenting Values Measure (Schaefer & Edgerton, 1985; Kohn, 1977): mothers’ self-reports of their values with regard to
their adolescent’s behavior
Self-Reported Parenting Behaviors
1. Psychological Control – Child Report of Parenting Behavior Inventory (Schaefer, 1965; Schluderman & Schluderman,
1970): adolescents’ and mothers’ reports of maternal psychological control.
2. Authoritarian Decision-Making – Parent-Child Conflict Questionnaire (Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992; Steinberg,
1987; Dornbusch et.al, 1985): adolescents’ and mothers’ reports of mothers’ unilateral decision-making.
Observed Parenting Behaviors
1. Supportive Behavior – Supportive Behavior Coding System (Allen, Insabella, Hall, Marsh, & Porter, 1999): Valuing of
the other person, being engaged in the interaction, interpreting the adolescent’s problem, and adolescents’ satisfaction with
the interaction during a task in which adolescents asked mothers for help with a problem.
2. Positive Relatedness – Autonomy and Relatedness Coding System (Allen, Hauser, Bell, Boykin, & Tate, 1995):
Engagement in interaction and validating adolescents’ statements during a revealed differences task.
This study was supported by grants to Joseph P. Allen at the
University of Virginia from the National Institute of Mental
Health (R01-MH44934, R01-MH58066, and F31-
Maternal Childrearing Values: Mediating the Link Between Neighborhood Risk and Mother-Adolescent Relationship QualityKathleen Boykin McElhaney, Ph.D. Davidson College/University of Virginia
RESULTS: DIRECTION OF EFFECTS
Self-Reported Parenting Behaviors
1. When mothers valued conformity, their adolescents reported that they exercised more psychological control (Table 1).
Observed Parenting Behaviors
1. Mothers who valued conformity demonstrated less successful support during interactions with their teens (see Table 3).
2. Mothers who valued conformity also expressed fewer positive relationship behaviors while discussing a disagreement (see Table 4).
1 An interaction between gender and mothers’ parenting values in this model revealed that this effect was particularly pronounced for female adolescents (not depicted).
2. Mothers who valued conformity also reported exercising more psychological control as well as engaging in more authoritarian decision making (see Table 2).
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
These results suggest that parents who live in high risk settings place a high value on conformity, and that this parenting
value explains the association between neighborhood risk and a relatively harsh and authoritarian parenting style. More
specifically, mothers who valued conformity were rated as more psychologically controlling and did not involve their
adolescents in decision-making. Further, these mothers were observed to be less engaged, supportive and validating with
their adolescents, whether discussing a problem that the teen was having outside or within the mother-adolescent
Finally, the results of this study suggest that a complete understanding of the effects of the neighborhood context on
family functioning requires a careful consideration of parenting values – and more specifically, how such values might
effect parenting behaviors.
Future research on this topic would benefit from examining how parenting values and their corresponding parenting
behaviors might interact over time to affect adolescents’ social and emotional development in both high and low-risk
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