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Assessing Parenting Behaviors Across Racial Groups Lawrence M. Berger Christina Paxson Center for Health and Wellbeing Princeton University prepared for Fragile Families workshop Columbia University July 2004. In-home addition to Fragile Families.

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slide1

Assessing Parenting Behaviors Across

Racial Groups

Lawrence M. Berger

Christina Paxson

Center for Health and Wellbeing

Princeton University

prepared for Fragile Families workshop

Columbia University

July 2004

in home addition to fragile families
In-home addition to Fragile Families
  • Added an in-home assessment to the Fragile Families Study.
  • In-home assessments added at 36 and 60 months.

Information includes:

  • Child health and behaviors
  • Parenting (through interviews and direct observation)
  • Children’s cognitive development (PPVT, Woodcock-Johnson)
  • Parental physical and mental health and cognitive ability (stress; anthropometrics; PPVT)
  • At 60 months: ask families about involvement with the child welfare system.
questions to be addressed
Questions to be addressed:
  • How do factors such as economic status, family structure, and parental health affect the environments in which children live? (“Environments” include aspects of the physical environment as well as parenting.)
  • What are the determinants of very poor parenting behavior?
  • How does the care that children receive (across a variety of domains) affect their cognitive and developmental outcomes?
  • Do policy changes that alter the economic status of parents affect children’s environments and outcomes?
this paper in progress racial differences in parenting
This paper (in progress!): Racial Differences in Parenting

Why is this topic of interest?

  • A large literature documents racial and ethnic differences in parenting of young children, along a variety of domains.
  • It is possible that these parenting differences may account for differences in early achievement/school readiness.
  • Question: how much (and which) socioeconomic and parental characteristics can account for racial and ethnic differences in parenting?
another motivation child maltreatment and race
Another motivation: Child Maltreatment and Race
  • The issue of “racial bias” in the assessment of parenting is an important topic in the child maltreatment literature.
  • Based on official statistics, blacks represent 15 percent of the U.S. children and 25 percent of child maltreatment victims. Whites represent 65 percent of children and 51 percent of maltreatment victims.
problems of interpretation
Problems of Interpretation
  • Validity of official statistics as accurate measures of maltreatment rates can be questioned.
  • Poor children—especially those on welfare—may be more likely to come to the attention of mandated reporters, especially at young ages.
  • Some evidence of racial bias in reports of maltreatment (Lane et al, JAMA).
slide8

What might explain racial differences in

  • maltreatment rates?

There is an active debate over the source of the disparity in official maltreatment rates. Potential explanations include:

    • Differences in parenting behaviors that are correlated

with race.

    • “Racial bias” in the child protective services (CPS)

system.

Racial bias refers to a racial double standard, such that otherwise identical families of different races are assessed differently by reporters of maltreatment or by the social workers, judges, etc. who verify the validity of reports of maltreatment.

slide9

What might drive racial bias?

There are several reasons in theory why racial bias in reporting and substantiation might be observed:

    • Stereotyping: Individuals expect to see “worse”

parenting among some groups, and observe what they

expect to see. (Could be driven by genuine differences

in average behaviors in the population.)

    • Miscommunication: Individuals do not know how to

interpret information from members of some groups.

Assessments may not be systematically biased, but

may be more error-ridden (so more chance that an

extreme value is “observed.”

slide10

Implications, for maltreatment rates and for surveys:

    • Maltreatment: Greater error in the system, possibly for both blacks and whites.
    • Surveys: The same kinds of factors that result in biased assessments by reporters and social workers could result in biased assessments by interviewers.
slide11

Research Objectives

  • To investigate whether there are differences in parenting across racial groups (blacks versus whites).
  • To assess whether these differences can be accounted for by household and maternal characteristics other than race.
  • To study whether parents’ reports of their own behaviors and interviewers’ assessments of parental behaviors are related to the race of the interviewer.
slide12

Data

Our data are drawn from an in-home module of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCW). This contains self-reported and interviewer-observed parenting measures.

Data are available for 20 cities from the 36-month interview.

Our sample consists of 1,149 blacks and 367 whites. All completed the full in-home module, and had interviewers for whom race was known.

slide13

Parenting Measures

  • Based on maternal reports:

(1) absence of nonviolent discipline;

  • (2) use of psychological aggression;
  • (3) use of physical assault;
  • Based on interview observations:
  • (1) harshness
  • (2) lack of warmth;
slide14

Measures of Maternal and Child Characteristics

  • Based on interviewer observations:
  • Maternal verbal/social skills
  • Maternal understanding/attention
  • Maternal hostility/suspicion
  • Problems with child’s appearance
  • Problems with child’s behavior
slide15

Sociodemographic Characteristics

  • and Maternal Behaviors (core survey)
  • natural logarithm of needs-adjusted family income
  • the number of children and adults in the household
  • indicators for maternal education
  • indicators for presence and employment of father/other man in household
  • an indicator for whether the mother worked in the week before the core survey
  • maternal depression score
  • Indicator variables for whether the mother smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, or used drugs during her pregnancy
slide16

Question 1:

  • Are there racial/ethnic differences in parenting?
  • Cross-tabulations of parenting measures indicate there are significant differences in the distributions across whites and blacks.
slide17

Examples: Frequency mother uses time-outs, explains why something

is wrong, gave something else to do, etc.

slide18

Examples: Called child lazy or dumb; shouted, yelled or screamed

at child; threatened to hit; threatened to kick out of house

slide20

Items:

Parent did not shout at child

Parent did not express annoyance with or hostility toward child.

Parent neither slapped nor spanked child during the visit.

Parent did not scold or criticize child during visit.

Parent did not interfere or restrict child more than 3 times.

slide21

Items:

Parent spontaneously vocalized to child twice.

Parent responded verbally to child’s vocalizations.

Parent told child the name of an object or person during visit

Parent spontaneously praised child at least twice.

Parent's voice conveys positive feelings toward child.

Parent caressed or kissed child at least once.

slide22

Items:

Parent's speech was distinct and audible.

Parent initiated verbal exchanges with visitor.

Parent conversed freely and easily.

slide23

Items:

Respondent’s attention to interview (coded 0-3)

Respondent’s understanding of questions (coded 0-3)

Respondent’s ability to articulate answers (coded 0-3)

Respondent’s level of cooperation (coded 0-3)

slide24

Items: Did respondent appear to be:

Suspicious?

Uncommunicative?

Anxious/nervous?

Hostile?

To be on drugs?

(Each on 3 point scale)

slide25

Examples:

Child’s clothes dirty, ill-fitting, or inappropriate for season

Child appears to be recently bathed

Child’s hair is combed and clean

slide26

distributions not

significantly different

across races

Items (each scored 0-3)

Displays of negative emotions during interview

Displays of positive emotions during interview

Cooperation during PPVT

Cooperation during height and weight measurement

Persistence during PPVT

question 2 do sociodemographic and maternal characteristics account for racial differences
Question 2: Do Sociodemographic and Maternal Characteristics Account for Racial Differences?
  • Estimate regressions that control for city of residence; then add sociodemographics; then add maternal depression and risky behaviors.
  • Dependent variables are indicators being above the 75th and 90th percentiles for each of the scales.
  • I show OLS results, because I move to fixed effects models later (although conditional logits show similar results.)
question 3 does the race of the interviewer matter
Question 3: Does the Race of the Interviewer Matter?
  • Estimate regressions that control for the race of the interviewer (including all other controls used so far).
  • Estimate models with interactions between the race of the mother and the interviewer.
  • Estimate models with race interactions and interviewer fixed effects.
descriptive information on interviewers
Descriptive information on interviewers:
  • Interviewer characteristics
descriptive information on interviewers1
Descriptive information on interviewers:
  • Interviewer characteristics
  • Assignment of interviewers to respondents
descriptive information on interviewers2
Descriptive information on interviewers:
  • Interviewer characteristics
  • Assignment of interviewers to respondents
  • Is assignment random?
slide40

Dependent variable: indicator that interviewer is black

Note: All sociodemographic and maternal controls included.

interpretation of these results
Interpretation of these results:
  • The fact that there are systematic differences in assessments by the race of the interviewer, although interesting, does NOT provide evidence of bias.
  • We need to examine whether the assessments of black relative to white respondents vary across black and white interviewers.
  • Next set of regressions include a complete set of interactions between the race of the interviewer and the respondent (omitted category: white respondent and non-black interviewer.)
slide45

Harshness (90th percentile cut point)

Test for bias: (MB/IW – MW/IW) = (MB/IB - MW/IB)

Or: ( 0.066 – 0 ) – (-0.007 – 0.023) = 0

Or: 0.096 = 0 (p-value for test is 0.013).

slide46

Physical assault (90th percentile cut point)

Test for bias: p-value=0.550 (hypothesis of no racial bias cannot be rejected.)

slide47

Lack of Warmth (90th percentile cut point)

Test for bias: p-value is 0.002

slide49

Summary so far:

  • Self-reports of parenting behavior are not affected by the race of the interviewer relative to the respondent.
  • The race of the interviewer is systematically related to the assessments of harshness and lack of warmth– black interviewers are consistently less likely to give all parents, black and white, more negative ratings.
  • We find evidence of racial bias in assessments of harshness (at 75th and 90th p’tile cut point) and lack of warmth (at 90th p’tile cut point).
  • Could these findings be due to more negative interactions of the interviewer with the mother in mixed-race interviews, or “worse” child behavior?
slide53

Conclusions

  • There are racial differences in self-reported and interviewer-assessed parenting behaviors.
  • For many (although not all) measures, racial differences are accounted for by household and maternal characteristics.
  • The race of the interviewer matters for interviewer assessments of parenting.
  • There is some evidence of racial bias in interviewer assessments of parenting measures.