Kelly Sheperd, M.A. (May 2008)
(Mentor: Charissa Cheah)
Interest in the consequences associated with early childbearing for mother and child has grown over time. Young mothers and their children are at risk for cognitive, social and physical developmental delays. However, not all mothers or children experience these difficulties. Several factors may serve to alleviate the negative consequences associated with early parenting, such as increased knowledge of parenting and a supportive social environment.
Most of the research that examines the factors that promote positive parenting focuses on adult mothers. Belsky’s determinants of parenting model proposes three factors that influence parenting: (1) parental well being and psychological resources, (2) child characteristics, and (3) contextual sources of stress and support. However, models of adult parenting may not capture the experience of young mothers. One model of adolescent parenting proposes that cognitive variables such as knowledge and attitudes about parenting are predictive of nurturing parenting practices in young mothers. Maternal psychological resources, perceived child characteristics, parenting stress, and social support were also examined as predictors of parenting. The researchers found that maternal characteristics were more predictive of parenting practices than child characteristics or contextual factors.
The present research employed a modified version of the models of parenting mentioned previously. Specifically, I examined the influence of three factors, psychological adjustment (well being and life satisfaction), readiness to parent (parenting knowledge, parenting attitudes, and maternal age), and environmental protectiveness (parenting stress and social support) on the positive parenting practices of young mothers assessed six months later.
A limitation of the previous models of parenting is the exclusion of the role of culture. Beliefs about the development of young adults and values regarding appropriate parenting practices vary across cultures. The current research examined cultural similarities and differences in the predictors of parenting among European Canadian and Aboriginal Canadian young mothers. These particular cultures are of interest because they represent traditionally individualistic (European Canadian) and collectivistic (Aboriginal Canadian) cultures within a predominately individualistic country. Individualistic cultures emphasize independence and the importance of the individual. Collectivistic cultures emphasize interdependence and connectedness. Furthermore, both cultures have somewhat ambiguous norms regarding young adult sexuality and early parenthood.
Participants in the present research were part of a larger study of Aboriginal (n = 32) and European Canadian (n = 54), conducted in an urban environment in Canada. The predictors of parenting and parenting practices were measured using questionnaires and an interview that included (1) Ryff’s Well Being Scale, (2) Satisfaction with Life Scale, (3) Knowledge of Infant Development Inventory, (3) Perceptions of Parenting Inventory, (4) Parenting Events Scale, (5) Social Network Questionnaire, and (6) Child Rearing Practices Report. The goals of the present study were to examine the relation between each of the factors that predict parenting (psychological adjustment, parenting readiness, and environmental protectiveness) and parenting practices, as well as whether these relations were different for mothers of either cultural group.
Results revealed that each of the determinants of parenting were related to positive parenting practices overall. Environmental protectiveness was the strongest predictor of parenting. This finding suggests that parenting programs may have the greatest impact by providing parenting support groups to develop a supportive network of individuals with shared experiences. In addition, interventions should teach coping skills to provide parents strategies to manage the stressors associated with common parenting situations.
Psychological adjustment and environmental protectiveness were more strongly associated with positive parenting for European Canadian mothers only. None of the predictors were strongly related to the parenting of Aboriginal mothers only. It is important to note that the model applied in the present research has been developed in Western samples and these factors may not be as relevant to the parenting of Native immigrant mothers. Future research should attempt to identify other factors that may promote positive parenting among Aboriginal mothers. For example, ethnic identity and acculturation status may be relevant to the parenting of these mothers as they are the ethnic minority group. Although social support was not related to the parenting of Aboriginal mothers, social relationships may still be important to these mothers. Since these urban-residing mothers have infrequent contact with support providers who remain on the reservations, it may be more relevant to consider frequency of contact with social network members instead of actual support received.