Current Semester

Parenting Adolescents in a Multicultural Context: Defining, Refining, and Extending Theory and Research

Fall 2017

Organizing Committee: Andrea Hussong (Chair), Deborah Jones, Melissa Lippold, Roger Mills-Koonce, and Lisa Pearce


 Demographic trends reveal increasing diversity among families, including those in the United States (U.S.). For the first time, for example, two-parent families are no longer the norm in U.S., while blended families (i.e., households that include a step-parent, step-sibling, or half-sibling) are on the rise (Pew, 2015). U.S. families are also increasingly multicultural, with European American families constituting only half (56%) of families, and Asian Americans replacing Latin Americans as the fastest growing U.S. immigrant group (Pew, 2015). Moreover, families are themselves increasingly racially and ethnically diverse, with the current rate (15%) of intermarriage (i.e., marital partners representing more than one race and/or ethnicity) more than doubling among newlyweds since 1980 (6%) (Pew, 2012). Finally, although it is true that ethnic and racial minority families in the U.S. are more likely to be low, rather than high, income, at least one- third of the 13 million children living in poverty are Caucasian, a trend attributed to two recessions (2001, 2007-2009), the slow pace of economic recovery, the housing market crisis and, in turn, a shrinking middle class (National Center for Child Poverty, 2015; Pew, 2015; also see Jones et al., 2017 for a review). As our awareness of such diversity expands, however, it is less clear whether and, if so, to what extent and how, our theory and research on parenting adolescent children has and/or needs to be refined and extended to meet the ever-changing definition of family.

Accordingly, we propose this series to explore how the parenting of adolescents, defined broadly to include parenting styles and behaviors, may or may not be shaped by increasing diversity defined broadly. We are interested in both (a) the negotiation of diverse contexts as a developmental competency that parents must foster in youth to help them successfully navigate adolescence and (b) the ways that diverse family contexts may or may not alter the functions and tools of parenting. Some of the talks in this series provide context for this exploration and others will address specific dimensions of diversity and parenting. In so doing, we hope to address the following discussion questions over the course of the semester:

Guiding Questions:

  1. What are the dominant approaches to conceptualizing parenting in adolescents and the function of family as posited in classic sociobiological theories? How might (or might not) this function be challenged by the context of parenting today in an increasingly diverse world (both internal to and external to the U.S.)?
  2. Given major demographic trends that reflect increasing diversity in the U.S., are there innovations in methodological approaches that may allow the field to more optimally capture nuances within and between adolescents and their families?
  3. Are novel parenting tools and approaches needed for parents to help youth negotiate experiences of diversity as related to race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parental sexual orientation, and family structure. How do parents help children of different backgrounds negotiate the diversity around them (e.g., children of color and European American children; children of high, middle and low income families; children of gay/lesbian and heterosexual parents; and children from non-traditional and traditional family structures)?
  4. We do not assume that all parents hold a similar value for increasing multicultural competence in their children, but we do assume that parenting occurs in context and, therefore, parents must navigate and adapt their parenting values, choices, and behavior within increasingly diverse, multicultural settings. Which contextual factors are most relevant for understanding how parents make choices about helping their children negotiate diverse contexts?
  5. What are the practical implications of this line of research? And what are the most important future directions for research in this area to achieve desirable impact?


Presentation 1. An Introduction to Parenting Adolescents in Diverse Contexts (Panel)

Presentation 2. Family Forms and the Parenting of Adolescents (Pearce, Bauer, Ennett)

Presentation 3. Developmental Trajectories of Parenting in Nine Countries (Lansford)

Presentation 4. Socialization of Race and Ethnicity (Stein, Coard, & Lippold)

Presentation 5. Socialization of Class and Income (Jones)

Presentation 6. LGBTQ Caregivers and the Parenting of LGBTQ Adolescents

Presentation 7. Diverse Family Structures (McBride Murry)

Presentation 8. Digital Diversity (Hussong, Odgers, M. Jensen)

Presentation 9. Parent Mental Health as a Family Diversity Context: The Case of Parental Drug Use (Chassin)