The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Exploring The Association Between Out-Of-Home Family Management Strategies and Neighborhood Violence

Thursday, January 16, 2014: 3:30 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 003A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Aditi Das, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Amy Claessens, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Purpose: In growing numbers of communities across the United States, families live in neighborhoods plagued by violence, crime, and drug activity (U.S. DHHS, 2000). Exposure to these conditions is associated with aggressive, impulsive and self-protective behaviors (Gorman-Smith & Tolan, 1998) and the self-discipline needed for school success (Farver,1999). Duncan and Raudenbush (2001) assert that families might serve as mediators between community context and child developmental trajectories. In order to understand how parents residing in conditions of deterioration and violence regulate the interaction between their children and the larger community, we use Furstenberg and colleagues’ (1999) out-of-home family management strategy framework. Drawing on Coleman’s (1988) social capital theory, out-of-home family management is classified into two major domains, promotive strategies wherein parents expose their children to structured learning situations to foster their skills and competencies and preventive strategies that restrict their children’s exposure to dangerous circumstances. The current study addressed two primary questions. First, does the preventive/promotive distinction suggested by Furstenberg and colleagues accord with parental caregiving strategies, and second, what factors may shape the strategies employed.

Method: The data was obtained from the qualitative component of an ongoing study titled “The Causes of Truancy and Dropout: A Mixed-Methods Experimental Study in Chicago Public Schools (CPS)”. In-home semi-structured interviews were conducted with approximately 30 parents of elementary school children in 3rd and 8th grades, residing in impoverished neighborhoods in Chicago. Using content analysis approach, a preliminary examination of 10 interviews guided by deductive theme development based on a categorical scheme was undertaken with the aid of NVivo10. Conceptually clustered matrices were then constructed to detect patterns in the themes across the interviews.

Results: Descriptive information about the family structure, respondent’s work situation, extent of residential stability and perceptions about neighborhood and school safety are identified. The overall range of parental strategies appeared to fit within the domains of preventive strategies like chaperoning, use of threats and peer supervision and promotive strategies like enrolling children in after-school programs, church activities and parental school involvement. Additionally some strategies such as routinizing their children’s lives or creating an alternate “functional neighborhood” emerged without the intention of engaging in either promotive or preventive activities. Data suggest several factors may explain the kinds of strategies used by parents including the historical and cultural ties that the families have to their neighborhoods, prior exposure to violent conditions, extent of kin and non-kin support garnered and individual human capital resources.

Conclusions and Implications: This exploratory study involving a non-representative sample of primarily economically disadvantaged African American families, highlights the key mediational role that parents play by monitoring, locating and cultivating the social contacts in which their children engage outside the household. Understanding the parenting processes within violent environments has important implications for children’s growth and school success. Given the large numbers of children and families living in these contexts, more research is needed to understand how parents and children cope with the external pressures of their contexts and how to best intervene to ensure their safety and development.