Exploration of Parenting Styles in African American Community

Exploration of Parenting Styles in African American Community

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Culture and social factors have been suggested to influence parenting styles. However, the existing knowledge on the link between socioeconomic status and parenting has been constricted in scope. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate how culture and socioeconomic status influence African American parenting styles. The objectives of the study were to determine the parenting style of African American parents, to explore how social class affects parenting, and to explore whether there exist differences between African American and White community parenting styles. A literature-based research design was applied in the study. The findings indicated that; authoritarian parenting style has been associated with African Americans but authoritative and democratic approaches have been observed, African American parenting styles vary with social class with low-class parents demonstrating more control and African American parenting style differ due to cultural differences. The results demonstrate that underlying cultural and socioeconomic factors influence parenting in African American communities.


Background of the Study

Researchers indicate that there exist at least two broad kinds of parenting which include labeled parental support and parental control. The parental support dimension relates to the affective nature of the relationship between the parent and the child which is indicated by showing emotional availability, involvement, acceptance, responsivity, and warmth. On the other hand, the control dimension has been associated with positive development results in children. The control dimension is comprised of two sub-divisions including psychological and behavioral control (Kuppens & Ceulemans, 2019). According to Shek et al. (2018), behavioral control is the state in which the parents utilize explicit control approaches for instance monitoring the activities of their children and their whereabouts as well as applying rules and restrictions as a way of managing the behaviors of their children. In contrast, psychological control refers to the implicit manipulation of the behavior of children by regulating their emotions, feelings, and thoughts.

Parenting is paramount to nurturing quality interactions between the parent and the child (Calik et al., 2015). According to Doinita & Maria (2015), parenting is the behavior that parents choose to use in the care, raising, and education of their children. In contrast, parenting styles are termed as the psycho-social structures that involve the tactics that families utilize in the raising of their children are molded by the parents’ behaviors, culture, children, and patterns of behavior that their parents acquired from their families (Calik et al., 2015). According to Shahsavari (2012), parenting styles can be impacted by different factors including social, cultural, economic political, and other factors. Attitudes, behavior, and beliefs of the parents which are comprised in a parenting style are very essential factors in the development of the moral character and stability characteristics of the child. Psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted a study and discovered the different styles of parenting including authoritarian parenting, permissive parenting, authoritative parenting and uninvolved parenting (Baumrind, 1966).

Statement of the Problem

According to Shahsavari (2012), culture and social factors affect parenting styles. (Roubinov & Boyce, 2017) also indicate that parenting is highly affected by and situated within the wider social ecology in which it occurs for example, the socioeconomic environment. According to the authors, the existing research on the connection between socioeconomic position and parenting has been extensive but its scope has been narrow with the majority of the researchers focusing on how socioeconomic status affects the development of children. This research aims to fill this gap by exploring whether the parenting style of African American parents varies with social class. On the other hand, culture has been suggested to have an association with parenting, and different parenting styles are associated with different cultures (Smetana, 2017). This research aims to add more knowledge to this scope of knowledge by exploring the parenting style differences between African American and White parents.

Research Questions

The aim of this descriptive research is to explore the parenting style differences between African American and White parents. Additionally, the study aims to explore whether parenting styles in African American settings vary with social status. To fulfill these aims, the following research questions will guide the research.

Which parenting style represents the African American Parenting approach?

What is the Influence of social class on African American parenting style?

What is the difference between African American and White parenting styles?

Literature Review

The literature review section presents the review of literature that relates to the topic of the study.

Parenting Styles

Psychologist Diana Baumrind is considered the pioneer of the research regarding parenting styles. She established a typology with four parenting styles to define the differences in normal parenting behaviors. These types include authoritarian parenting, authoritative parenting, permissive parenting, and uninvolved parenting (Baumrind, 1966). Each strategy is differentiated along two factors including responsiveness and demandingness. Responsiveness is the concept that stresses the extent of regard provided to the wants and needs of the child while demandingness is the extent to which boundaries are established and demands are made.

Authoritarian Parenting

This is a parenting style that is regarded as extremely strict and which demands unquestionable obedience and exerts excessive control over children. Authoritarian parents are perceived to lack responsiveness and warmth. Their approach of control entails threats, guilt induction, coercion, punishment, love withdrawal among other practices. This parenting style is associated with numerous externalizing and internalizing issues for both boys and girls for example kids who experience perfectionistic pressures from their parents tend to be more prone to elevated levels of perfectionism, critical attitude, rigidity, and anxiety. Such children also report increased levels of internalizing problems and reduced levels of life satisfaction (Taylor et al., 2011).

Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative parents make reasonable demands to their children and they are also highly responsive. They possess high expectations and they establish basic limits while listening to and validating children and making sure that they have the necessary support and guidance for success and being independent. Discipline is applied fairly by these parents and they discuss the reasoning for the decisions related to discipline as well as how to adjust behavior in the future. They appreciate the rights of their children as well as individual differences between them. Authoritative parents continually convey caring, warmth and love to their children. Research indicates that children who are raised based on authoritative parenting have higher chances of becoming independent, socially accepted, academically successful, self-reliant, and have happier dispositions. Even though this approach has been considered to result in the best outcomes, potential negative impacts may be possible and they need to be comprehended and countered. For example, some authoritative parents place additional demands on people at home and consider differences among siblings during parenting (Taylor et al., 2011).

Permissive Parenting

Permissive parents are characterized by providing their children with few to no commands. They do not limit the behavior of their children but rather spoil and coddle them. Children in a household with permissive parents can be regarded as co-owners of the house since they have no responsibility as far as rules go (Howenstein et al., 2015).

Neglectful Parenting Style

Neglectful parenting is an approach that is characterized by little warmth and low control and it defines parents who are emotionally disconnected. These parents are commonly not responsive and they are often uninvolved in the lives of their children. According to Howenstein et al. (2015), these parents do not volunteer to be studied which indicates that existing research on this style of parenting has been minimal.

Parenting Style Description

Authoritarian Low parenting responsiveness, high parental demand, unquestioning obedience, clear parenting authority, punitive tactics

Authoritative Parental responsiveness is high, parental demand is high, reasoning or induction, warmth, and involvement, demographic participation

Permissive Parental responsiveness is high, parental demand is low, acceptance of the decisions of the child is common, misbehavior of the child is ignored

Neglecting Parental responsiveness and demand are low

Table SEQ Table * ARABIC 1: A Summary of Parenting Styles

Socio-economic Status and Parenting

Socio-economic status is a multifaceted concept which needs to be defined for this study’s purpose. The measures of socioeconomic status entail the social indicators that define rank or positioning in terms of class. On the other hand, economic factors are related to the factors that are resource or material-related for instance the income of the parents.

Empirical studies have indicated that there are associations between socio-economic status and parenting practices. According to Roubinov & Boyce (2017), parenting within families that are having low socioeconomic status has been observed to be harsher and more disciplinary when compared to higher socio-economic status family settings. Additionally, the low SES environment has demonstrated an elevated level of chaos and more instability in daily family routines.

This source was essential in this study since it established parenting as a construct that is complex and multiply determined and its variability across the slope of socio-economic status. Furthermore the sources demonstrated the presence of different variables and provided figure 1 to help explain the nature of the association between socioeconomic status and parenting.

Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 1: Factors Explaining the Association between SES and Parenting

Source: (Roubinov & Boyce, 2017)

Culture is a factor that has a substantial role in defining the value and meaning of parenting approaches. According to Sherman & Harris (2012), differences in culture are clearly demonstrated through interactions can be observed through interactions between parents and children and with institutional authority figures on their children’s behalf. (Shechory-Bitton et al., 2015) indicate that there is an agreement that culture impacts parenting approaches since parents raise children based on principles and norms validated in their culture. For African American parents, transmitting cultural values and norms awareness is integrated into parenting where the upbringing of a child is modeled by the removal of systems of support through slavery experience, Jim Crow laws, and the recent systems of racism and discrimination. Additionally, corporal punishment has been applied as a strategy to control and contain children’s behavior and also that of the youth. The utilization of physical punishment in African American settings can be understood only when historical and psychological factors that affect family practices are appreciated (Thomas, 2017). The sources are essential in the study since they try to demonstrate that culture plays a role in the parental practices demonstrated by parents.

The model by Roubinov & Boyce (2017) indicates that parents in a higher SES have more capital which can contribute to the children’s higher-order development results while those in the lower SES households have to attend to more fundamental pressing family needs. More pay and education status can also mean higher social capital that affects parenting strategies indirectly through education and occupation opportunities. Households that are economically disadvantaged have smaller amount resources to spend for their children and spending time in various jobs means it is tough to devote time to their children (Roubinov & Boyce, 2017). According to Peoples (2016), social class has an influence on many facets of life in the U.S with parenting being one of them. The author further indicates that on a basic level, lower and working-class parents place more value on conformity and they expect their children to respect authority with practices such as talking back being discouraged while communication and negotiation are expected. In working-class settings, parents tend to be more likely to apply an authoritarian approach to parenting in contrast to upper-class parents since working-class parents value conformity rather than self-direction. The sources are very useful in the study since they illustrate how different socio-economic factors such as social class influence parenting approach.

Bandura’s self-efficacy theory

The self-efficacy theory was developed as part of the social learning theory that was published in 1977 by Bandura. The origins of the social learning theory started in the 1930s at Yale Institute of Human Relations under the leadership of May and Hull (Pajares, 2004). Bandura joined Stanford university’s faculty as a professor where his initial study focused on the social monitoring of human action, motivation, and thought. The research on children’s development of self-regulatory abilities began in the 1960s. The social learning theory elevated the interest in social learning and psychological modeling and Bandura’ developed the theory of social cognitive theory of the functioning of humans which focused on cognitive, self-regulatory, vicarious, and self-reflective processes of adaptation and change (Bandura, 1986). He later extended this theory by centering on the self-efficacy belief system in 1997.

The term self-efficacy refers to a person’s belief in their ability to perform a provided task successfully. This can be in the manner in which a person may behave, demonstrating whether they try a task, the amount of effort they direct to the task, and how long they persist when they encounter difficulties and aversive experiences. Bandura created the concept of self-efficacy after the establishment of Social Cognitive Theory (SCT ) which provides a clarification for the performance of specific tasks on the reciprocity of different factors for instance personal factors, environmental events, and behavior. (Bandura and Adams, 1977) indicate that people draw on four variables to evaluate their self-efficacy. The four sources are; interpretations of their individual performance (performance achievements) for instance successful performances have the probability of raising self-efficacy and vice versa, their own capabilities by observing others perform the task (vicarious experience), their reaction to social persuasion (verbal persuasion) and their psychological and emotional situation (psychological states) for example happiness and confidence have the capability to instill a higher self-efficacy as compared to fear and anxiety.

Based on Bandura’s model, parenting self-efficacy (PSE) can be termed as the confidence of the parent or caregiver in their capability to raise children successfully. It entails both the strength and belief and an understanding of capability grounded on that belief. Parenting self-efficacy is situation-specific and varies according to the task and context. From the model, it can also be postulated that parenting self-efficacy can be a strong predictor of parenting style since perceived parental efficacy has been regarded as a motor for adequate parental practices de (Montigny & Lacharité, 2005). From the model, it can also be postulated that social factors affect parenting practices based on the verbal persuasion or social persuasion source of interpretation of self-efficacy.


Research Method and Design

The most suitable research approach utilized in the study was qualitative. This approach was the most suitable because it gives the researcher a chance to; utilize multiple sources of data, analyze the data inductively and interpret the findings in a subjective manner (Shakouri, 2014). This approach was also applicable since it allowed the researcher to extract detailed information from multiple secondary sources of data. Therefore, the qualitative approach made it easier to compare and contrast data acquired from different sources and interpret it subjectively in order to address the research questions that directed the study.

A literature-based design was applied in the study. According to Newman and Gough (2020), this design can be utilized as a methodology by researchers to base their arguments on what they already know and what they do not know about the phenomenon under study. Additionally, this design was ideal since it allows researchers to develop conceptual models (Snyder, 2019). This allowed the researcher to establish a model that effectively demonstrates how culture and socioeconomic factors associate with parenting.

Search Strategy and Selection Criteria

A search on reputable databases such as ProQuest, Science Direct, EbsoHost, Sage databases among others was conducted systematically to identify publications that were most relevant to the research topic. Such terms such as “social status and parenting styles”, African American and parenting style” “culture and parenting style” were used in the systematic search. An inclusion and exclusion criteria were established to ensure that only the most relevant and credible sources were applied in the data analysis process. The inclusion criteria allowed for the inclusion of publications that had up-to-date information and that only peer-reviewed publications were utilized. The exclusion criteria allowed for the exclusion of blogs, newspapers, podcasts which are not considered reliable sources of academic information.

Data Analysis

Thematic and content analysis of secondary data were applied in the research. Thematic analysis was done first to allow the assembly of evidence obtained from multiple sources of data. This approach of data analysis concentrates on patterns that lead to the identification of major themes. Content analysis was then applied to allow the researcher to familiarize with the data and critically evaluate major themes obtained from thematic analysis and interpret these themes to address the research questions.

Limitations of the Study

The main methodological limitations of the study are the biases of those in power and publications used may not be representative of the wider population. In the review of secondary data, there can be the possibility of biases of those in power which can be present when the researchers limit what they can find out. Additionally, the publications obtained may not be representative of the general population majorly when older documents are used. Additionally, some publications may not be available in databases utilized by the researcher. to ensure the validity of the secondary sources, the researcher reviewed the author, the approach of data collection used, and the references used in the publications. The researcher ensured that publications that were authored by experts in the field of parenting, publications that utilized credible sources, and those that explained the validity of their data were utilized.



The primary aim of the research was to explore whether the type of parenting style that represents African Americans. The study applied secondary data acquired from publications. This section presents the findings of the study which were guided by the following research questions.

Which parenting style represents the African American Parenting approach?

What is the Influence of social class on African American parenting style?

What is the difference between African American and White parenting styles?

RQ1: Which parenting style represents the African American Parenting approach?

Based on the review of existing literature, one theme that addressed the first research question which sought to determine whether African American communities are characterized by a specific parenting style was evident. This theme is authoritarian parenting

Theme 1: Authoritarian Parenting

Several publications suggested that the authoritarian parenting style is common in African American community. (Watkins-Lewis & Hamre, 2012) indicate that parents in the African American community have the belief that strict control leads to increased trust in adults and children social maturity which will ultimately safeguard children against dangers and enhance their socio-emotional wellbeing. This finding is supported by Spigner (2011) who indicates that the cultural background of African Americans has been evidenced to influence the parenting approach. When compared to Caucasian parents, African American mothers emphasize respect and compliance and this authoritarian approach has been found to impact children’s outcomes. (Querido et al., 2002) also contribute to this theme by suggesting that African American families have greater importance on shared parenting roles among the members of the community and utilize physical punishment regularly. However, Tamis-LeMonda et al. (2008) point out that democratic and authoritative approaches to parenting are evident in middle-income parents which contradicts the authoritarian characterization of African American parenting.

RQ2: What is the Influence of social class on African American parenting style?

This research question aimed to help the researcher understand whether parenting style differences exist between different social classes in African American communities. One theme which is the impact of socioeconomic factors on parenting was obtained.

Theme 1: Impact of Socioeconomic Factors on Parenting

Reviewed publications indicated that there are different parenting styles in the different African American social classes. (Tamis-LeMonda et al., 2008) notes that elevated levels of control, physical discipline, and intrusiveness in African American parents have been grounded on the experiences of families that are associated with low income and less education. The publication further suggests that middle-class African Americans are more educated and they demonstrate less control when compared to their lower-class counterparts. This finding was consistent with the finding from Robinson & Harris (2013) which indicated that parents in higher social class do not dedicate more attention to raising obedient children and they depend more on reasoning, psychological techniques, and reasoning when it comes to discipline.

RQ3: What is the difference between African American and White parenting styles?

Theme 1: Culture and Parenting

Existing literature indicates that there are differences in types of parenting between African American and white parents. The findings indicated that racial differences in parenting with white parents having the tendency to emphasize the happiness and self-esteem of their children while African Americans emphasize more obedience and performance in school. African Americans also consider being a disciplinarian as the major role that parents should play (Coley et al., 2014). The findings were consistent with the results from Taylor et al. (2011) who found that corporal punishments are a typical form of punishment by African American parents when compared with white parents.

Analysis and Discussion

From the reviewed publications, it is evident that all the research questions were addressed. The findings indicated that most studies associate authoritarian forms of punishment with the African American community. However, one finding demonstrated that an authoritative and democratic parenting approach has also been observed among African Americans. This finding can be associated with the findings of the second research question that social status determines the approach of parenting such that African American parents in the low economic class tend to be more controlling as compared to those in the middle and high class. Additionally, the results showed that parenting style differs between races with African American parents emphasizing discipline while the whites emphasizing the happiness of their children. These results can be explained by the claim made by Thomas (2017) that cultural values and norms are integrated into parenting by African American parents and to understand the different practices such as corporal punishment, it is important to appreciate the existing historical factors such as racial inequality and discrimination which influence family practices.


Overall, the research the results of the study indicate that parenting style differs with social status and culture. The research was unique because it provided clear confirmation of the notion that all African American parents demonstrate an authoritarian parenting style. The findings of this study can be utilized by policymakers trying to reduce punishment or corporal form of punishment utilized by African American parents. For their efforts to be effective, they have to appreciate underlying factors such as culture and social status.

Recommendations for Future Research

The findings of the study demonstrated that the parenting style utilized by parents is influenced by culture. However, recent studies exploring this phenomenon have not been sufficient. Considering that no culture is static, researchers can conduct studies in this area to evaluate whether cultural changes through time have had an impact on this association.

Additionally, a lot of studies evaluating parenting differences based on culture have focused on African Americans and European Americans. Therefore, researchers can conduct empirical studies involving African American and other minority group parents for instance Arab Americans and Asian Americans in order to add more knowledge to this area of study.


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