Raising the Future: Contexts and Parenting Practices in Immigrant Families
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
In this paper, we employ data from a large, nationally-representative birth cohort of US children called the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) to look at the contexts–socioeconomic status, material hardship, work, social support, and health–in which immigrant parents operate. We use data from the second and third waves of the ECLS-B, when the children are age two and preschool age, collected in 2003 and 2005-2006. We look at differences between US-born and foreign-born parents, and then at differences by parents’ place of birth: Mexico, other Latin America, China, other Asia, and all other. We examine differences in parenting between foreign-born and US-born parents, and among foreign-born parents from different countries and regions. In doing so, we explore four measures of parenting, two observed and coded by researchers, and two based on parents’ self-reports. Finally, we explore whether differences in contexts mediate differences in parenting among these groups.
We observe, in broad strokes, that foreign-born mothers show less emotional and cognitive supportiveness, as rated by researchers, and report lower household routines compared to US-born mothers. Foreign-born mothers also show lower use of physical punishment. Differences are larger for foreign-born Mexican and Latin American mothers than for Chinese or Asian mothers whether using white US-born mothers or co-ethnic US-born mothers as the reference group. When we add in controls for family contexts—family structure and socioeconomic status, material hardship, employment experiences, mother’s well-being, and social support—we find that these factors explain some, but certainly not all, of the differences in parenting practices between Mexican and Latin American born mothers relative to US-born white mothers, and explain some of the differences in parenting between Mexican-born mothers and US-born Latina mothers. On the other hand, after adding our controls and mediators, we observe greater differences between Asian-born mothers and US-born white mothers and between Chinese-born mothers and US-born Asian mothers. This research has implications for efforts to support parents’ mental health and economic well-being and for home visiting and parenting interventions in immigrant households.