Differential parenting of children from diverse cultural backgrounds attending child care

Research Paper No. 39 – April 2007

You are in an archived section of the AIFS website. Archived publications may be of interest for historical reasons. Because of their age, they may not reflect current research data or AIFS' current research methodologies.

Results

Parenting beliefs and behaviours in the sample overall

To obtain an overall picture of parenting beliefs and behaviours among the sample of parents and carers, mean and standard deviation scores were generated for each aspect of parenting measured (see Table 2).

Table 2: Mean and standard deviation scores on parenting measures
Measure Mean ( SD)
Parent Carer
Parenting goals
Independent 4.26 (.59) 4.20 (.61)
Compliant 4.08 (.62) 3.64 (.84)
Sociable 4.41 (.66) 4.20 (.66)
Discipline beliefs
Inductive reasoning 3.87 (.66) 3.99 (.65)
Power assertion 2.25 (.89) 1.66 (.61)
Developmental expectations
Motor development 2.36 (.44) 2.56 (.46)
Sits unsupported 1.91 (1.16) 2.16 (1.34)
Crawls on all fours 1.94 (.48) 2.08 (.58)
Stands independently 2.39 (.57) 2.63 (.61)
Walks alone 2.76 (.55) 2.98 (.46)
Language development 3.18 (.72) 3.34 (.81)
Makes sounds to communicate 2.32 (.99) 2.14 (1.17)
Speaks 2-6 words, understands more 3.20 (.75) 3.50 (.76)
Carries on a simple conversation 4.10 (.87) 4.32 (.80)
Independent behaviour 4.58 (.67) 4.77 (.76)
Says when need to go to the toilet in enough time 4.23 (.68) 4.52 (.66)
Is completely toilet trained

 

4.83 (.85) 5.07 (.84)
Feeds self independently with spoon or fork 4.03 (1.07) 4.15 (1.22)
Dresses alone 5.24 (.85) 5.33 (.95)
Cognitive development 5.27 (.76) 5.65 (.76)
Reads familiar signs/logos 5.70 (.95) 6.09 (.89)
Recognises some letters by name 5.36 (.88) 5.72 (.87)
Counts to 10 in correct order 5.08 (.91) 5.38 (.97)
Sorts objects 4.92 (1.01) 5.36 (1.04)
Obedience and self-regulation 5.37 (.97) 5.54 (1.00)
Understands that some things are not allowed 4.67 (1.35) 4.92 (1.32)
Understands effect of own behaviour on others 5.36 (1.22) 5.41 (1.11)
Understands reason for rules 5.50 (1.12) 5.61 (1.07)
Obeys parents/other adults 4.96 (1.36) 5.27 (1.32)
Is quiet and well-behaved 5.56 (1.19) 6.00 (1.17)
Controls own emotions 6.18 (.98) 6.21 (1.05)

Parenting goals

In respect of parenting goals, both parents and carers regarded child independence and social skills very highly. Child compliance was valued to a lesser extent by both parents and carers. Mean scores were moderately high, however, indicating that compliance was also regarded favourably.

Discipline beliefs

In respect of discipline beliefs, both parents and carers believed reasoning to be a relatively effective measure in managing difficult child behaviour, and thought the use of power to be considerably less effective.

Developmental expectations

Individual items in the developmental expectations scale are reported in Table 2, in addition to summary sub-scale scores for easier interpretation of parents' and carers' beliefs about the timing of children's developmental milestones. The analyses show that parents and carers generally expect to see children sitting unsupported, crawling, standing independently, walking, and making sounds to communicate before their first birthday. Carers and parents expected 1-year-olds to be able to speak a few words and understand more. Parents and carers both expected 2-year-old children to be able to carry on a simple conversation, to indicate toileting needs, to feed themselves with a spoon or fork and to understand that some things are not allowed. Although the responses of parents and carers ranged widely, parents also expected 2-year-old children to be toilet trained and to be able to sort objects, whereas carers did not expect this until children were aged 3. Parents and carers expected 3-year-old children to be able to dress themselves, to recognise some letters and to be able to count up to 10. Parents and carers also expected that 3-year old children would be able to understand the reason for rules and the effect of their own behaviour on others. Parents also expected 3-year-old children to be well behaved and to obey adults, and also expected them to be able to recognise familiar signs, whereas carers did not expect this until children were aged 4. Both parents and carers expected 4-year-old children to be able to control their emotions.

Cultural variation in parenting beliefs and behaviours

To explore cultural differences in parenting beliefs and behaviours, one-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs), utilising post-hoc Scheffe tests, were conducted. Analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs) were used to ascertain whether cultural differences in parent scores on parenting measures were confounded by the length of time spent in Australia (believed to be a marker of acculturation), and whether carer scores on parenting measures were confounded by early childhood education/training and experience.

Cultural variations in parent scores on parenting measures

ANOVAs (see Table 3) suggested all aspects of parenting varied according to cultural background. The source of significance for all aspects of parenting is discussed below.

Table 3: Cultural variations in parent scores on parenting measures
  Mean ( SD)    
Anglo Vietnamese Somali Diverse
(non-Anglo)
F(sig) n
Parenting goals
Independent 4.63 (.32) 4.19 (.42) 3.83 (.62) 4.33 (.78) 33.30*** 236
Compliant 3.91 (.58) 4.37 (.53) 4.01 (.64) 4.06 (.72) 7.80*** 236
Sociable 4.77 (.33) 4.45 (.52) 3.88 (.68) 4.45 (.88) 31.64*** 236
Discipline beliefs
Power assertion 2.51 (.65) 2.72 (.70) 1.39 (.74) 2.47 (.82) 47.57*** 237
Inductive reasoning 3.71 (.70) 3.83 (.54) 4.05 (.66) 4.08 (.66) 4.20** 237
Developmental expectations
Motor development 2.38 (.37) 2.47 (.57) 2.23 (.36) 2.35 (.33) 3.64* 237
Language development 2.78 (.50) 3.28 (.69) 3.72 (.68) 2.92 (.58) 30.47*** 237
Independent behaviour 4.31 (.49) 4.61 (.57) 4.92 (.80) 4.42 (.60) 12.20*** 237
Cognitive development 5.00 (.70) 5.12 (.73) 5.78 (.60) 5.12 (.83) 17.79*** 237
Obedience and self-regulation 4.81 (.78) 5.45 (.88) 6.11 (.74) 4.94 (.91) 34.07*** 237

Notes: * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001.

Parenting goals

In respect of parenting goals, Anglo parents valued child independence significantly more than Vietnamese and Somali parents, and Vietnamese and diverse (non-Anglo) parents valued child independence significantly more than Somali parents. Child compliance was valued significantly more by Vietnamese parents than both Anglo and Somali parents, and social skills were valued significantly more by Anglo parents than Vietnamese and Somali parents. Diverse (non-Anglo) parents also valued social skills significantly more than Somali parents. The length of time mothers and fathers had been in Australia did not account for differences between Somali and Vietnamese parents.

Discipline beliefs

Analyses revealed significant differences between cultural groups on beliefs about the effectiveness of power assertion and reasoning in managing difficult child behaviour. Somali parents thought power assertion to be less effective than each of the other three cultural groups. Somali parents also thought reasoning was more effective than Anglo parents. The years that mothers and fathers had spent in Australia accounted for significant differences in beliefs about the effectiveness of reasoning observed between Somali and Vietnamese parents.

Developmental expectations

Somali parents expected children's motor skills to develop earlier than Vietnamese parents. In contrast, Somali parents expected cognitive and language milestones later than all other cultural groups. Somali parents expected independent behaviour later than all other cultural groups, and Vietnamese parents expected independent behaviour later than Anglo parents. Similarly, Somali parents also expected obedience/self-regulation later than the other cultural groups, and Vietnamese parents expected children to achieve obedience/self-regulation milestones at a later stage than Anglo parents. The length of time parents had spent in Australia accounted for differences in all developmental expectations observed between Vietnamese and Somali parents.

Cultural variations in carer scores on parenting beliefs and behaviours

Parenting beliefs and behaviours of carers from different cultural backgrounds were compared. One-way ANOVAs were conducted and significant differences were examined using post-hoc Scheffe tests. Summary statistics are shown in Table 4.

Table 4: Cultural variations in carer scores on parenting measures
  Mean ( SD) Min Max n
Parenting goals
Independent .01 (.70) -3.10 2.05 232
Compliant .43 (1.05) -3.00 3.00 230
Sociable .18 (.85) -3.67 2.67 232
Discipline beliefs
Power assertion .59 (1.02) -2.60 3.40 232
Inductive reasoning -.12 (.94) -3.33 2.00 232
Developmental expectations
Motor development -.21 (.63) -3.00 3.33 232
Language development -.11 (.94) -3.00 3.33 233
Independent behaviour -.16 (.83) -2.25 2.75 233
Cognitive development -.35 (.98) -2.58 2.50 233
Obedience and self-regulation -.14 (1.23) -3.67 4.83 233

Notes: ** p < .01; *** p < .001.

Anglo/diverse carers valued independence more and compliance less than Vietnamese carers, and Vietnamese carers had later expectations for language development than Anglo/diverse carers. Somali carers had significantly different responses to Anglo/diverse carers across all aspects of development. With the exception of motor development, they expected development to occur at a slower rate, valued independence and social skills less and compliance more, and believed power assertion and inductive reasoning was less effective.

Vietnamese and Somali carers differed considerably in their responses. Vietnamese carers valued social skills more than Somali carers, had earlier expectations for all aspects of development except motor development, and thought power assertion was more effective. However, both level of education and years of experience in the early childhood field accounted for differences between Somali and Vietnamese carers.

Differential parenting among parents and carers

Discrepancy scores were created in order to describe the difference between parent/carer dyads (the responses of parents and carers linked to a specific child) along parenting measures used in this study. Discrepancy scores are the result of subtracting carer scores from parent scores (parent score - carer score = discrepancy score).

Positive discrepancy values indicate that parent scores were higher than carer scores (indicating greater importance of a parenting goal, stronger beliefs in the effectiveness of a discipline method and later expectations for an aspect of development), and negative values indicate that carer scores were higher than parent scores. A positive score for the 'compliant' parenting goal measure, for example, would indicate that parents value compliance in children more than carers, whereas a negative score would indicate the reverse. The size of the discrepancy score indicates the relative size of the difference between parent and carer scores (a score of -3 indicates greater difference than a score of -1, for example). A score of zero indicates parents and carers rated that particular item/scale the same.

Table 5 presents mean discrepancy scores for each parenting measure. Minimum and maximum values are also presented to indicate the variation in discrepancy scores among parent/carer dyads. Results of these analyses suggest considerable variation among individual pairs of carers and parents across all parenting measures, with perhaps the greatest discrepancy being in relation to beliefs about power assertion and the extent to which compliance is a valued characteristic in children.

Table 5: Discrepancy scores for parenting measures
  Mean ( SD) Min Max n
Parenting goals
Independent .01 (.70) -3.10 2.05 232
Compliant .43 (1.05) -3.00 3.00 230
Sociable .18 (.85) -3.67 2.67 232
Discipline beliefs
Power assertion .59 (1.02) -2.60 3.40 232
Inductive reasoning -.12 (.94) -3.33 2.00 232
Developmental expectations
Motor development -.21 (.63) -3.00 3.33 232
Language development -.11 (.94) -3.00 3.33 233
Independent behaviour -.16 (.83) -2.25 2.75 233
Cognitive development -.35 (.98) -2.58 2.50 233
Obedience and self-regulation -.14 (1.23) -3.67 4.83 233

Comparisons between parents and carers groups on parenting beliefs and behaviours

To determine whether differences between parents and carers were statistically significant, parent and carer scores on parenting measures were compared using t-tests for paired samples. These analyses compare the average or mean score obtained for parents with the average mean score obtained for carers, and thus do not take into consideration variations among individual parent/carer dyads. The analyses also include only those cases in which carer and parent data could be linked to a particular child. Table 6 shows the results of the paired t-tests for the total sample.

Significant differences were observed between groups of parents and carers along most parenting measures used in the current study. Parents valued both compliance and social skills in children significantly more than carers, whereas independence was valued to a similar degree by both groups. Parents also thought power assertion to be a more effective discipline technique than carers did. The difference between parents and carers in their beliefs about reasoning (carers reporting this to be more effective than parents did) was approaching statistical significance (p < .1). Generally, carers held significantly later expectations for children's development than parents. Differences between parents and carers were statistically significant at the p < .05 level in respect of children's motor development, independent behaviour and cognitive development.

Table 6: Differential parenting between parents and carers
  Parent Carer t(sig) n
Parenting goals
Independent 4.26 4.25 .21 232
Compliant 4.04 3.66 6.13*** 230
Sociable 4.41 4.23 3.18** 232
Discipline beliefs
Power assertion 2.25 1.67 8.74*** 232
Inductive reasoning 3.87 3.99 -1.91 232
Developmental expectations
Motor development 2.36 2.57 -5.14*** 232
Language development 3.19 3.30 -1.75 233
Independent behaviour 4.57 4.73 -2.94** 233
Cognitive development 5.26 5.61 -5.40*** 233
Obedience and self-regulation 5.36 5.50 -1.70 233

Notes: ** p <.01; *** p < .001.

Association of culture with differences across parent/carer dyads

To determine whether culturally mixed parent/carer dyads differed along parenting measures more than culturally matched parent/carer dyads, independent sample t-test analyses were used. For the purpose of these analyses, the following were considered matched dyads:

  • Somali parent/carer dyads;
  • Vietnamese parent/carer dyads;
  • Anglo parent and Anglo/diverse carer dyads; and
  • diverse (non-Anglo) parent and Anglo/diverse carer dyads.

Results of these analyses (reported in Table 7) suggest that there is more disagreement among culturally mixed parent/carer dyads than culturally matched parent/carer dyads in relation to how each values child compliance and independence. This is also true of expectations for language development and obedience/self-regulation. Contrary to expectation, however, parents and carers from the same cultural background disagree more in relation to expectations for independent behaviour than parents and carers from different cultural backgrounds, suggesting other sources of parenting variation.

It is also interesting to note the direction of difference (that is, whether discrepancy scores are positive or negative in value) between parents and carers in culturally matched and culturally mixed dyads. In culturally matched parent/carer dyads, parents valued independence more than carers, whereas in culturally mixed parent/carer dyads, the reverse was true (that is, parents valued independence less than carers). Moreover, in culturally matched parent/carer dyads, parents had earlier expectations for language development, independent behaviour and obedience/self-regulation than carers, but in culturally mixed parent/carer dyads, parents had later expectations in these areas than carers.

Table 7: Mean discrepancy scores for culturally matched and mixed parent/carer dyads
  Group type Mean ( SD) t(sig) n
Parenting goals
Independent Matched .12 (.68) 3.96*** 171
Mixed -.29 (.69) 3.96*** 61
Compliant Matched .31 (1.05) -2.71** 169
Mixed .74 (1.02) -2.71** 61
Sociable Matched .24 (.86) 1.88 171
Mixed .00 (.82) 1.88 61
Discipline beliefs
Power assertion Matched .63 (.86) 1.06 172
Mixed .47 (1.40) 1.06 60
Inductive reasoning Matched -.10 (.92) 6.36 172
Mixed -.18 (.10) 6.36 60
Developmental expectations
Motor development Matched -.23 (.61) -.614 171
Mixed -.17 (.71) -.614 61
Language development Matched -.32 (.80) -6.15*** 172
Mixed .48 (1.06) -6.15*** 61
Independent behaviour Matched -.26 (.79) -3.25** 172
Mixed .13 (.87) -3.25** 61
Cognitive development Matched -.40 (.94) -1.50 172
Mixed -.19 (1.07) -1.50 61
Obedience and self-regulation Matched -.32 (1.06) -3.97*** 172
Mixed .38 (1.51) -3.97*** 61

Notes: ** p < .01; *** p < .001.