Abstract: Racial/Ethnic Differences in Parenting Competence in the Context of Family Complexity (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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538P Racial/Ethnic Differences in Parenting Competence in the Context of Family Complexity

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Yoona Kim, MIPA, Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Research suggests that experiencing multiple parental roles is more common for less educated and non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic young adults than for their more highly educated and non-Hispanic White counterparts. Having multiple responsibilities across different households may engender identity conflicts if there is discrepancy between expectations of others and own perception of one’s role. The identity conflicts created by having children in multiple households can result in lower self-esteem, sense of competency, and self-worth. Moreover, these multiple identities may intersect with race and ethnic identities to create different effects, especially if different population groups have different expected responsibilities or face different levels of discrimination. However, little is known about whether individuals in complex families have more or less self-efficacy in a parental role, or whether the relationship, if any, varies by different populations. Given the structure of contemporary families has become complex, especially among socioeconomically disadvantaged racial/ethnic minorities, it is imperative to examine how their complex situations are related to their self-perception of their own parenting.

Therefore, this study focuses on two questions: (1) whether having multiple parental responsibilities across different households is associated with self-perception of own parenting and (2) whether the association varies by different racial and ethnic group.

This study uses a baseline survey of about 8,000 noncustodial parents (NCPs) from the Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED), a federally funded intervention for NCPs who are behind in their child support payments and having employment difficulties, a group that is more likely to have complex families. When measuring multiple parental responsibility, both multiple-partner fertility status and residency with children are considered. Self-perception of parenting is measured as a proxy of parenting competence by asking how they think themselves as parents. Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression is used in the analysis.

Surprisingly, those with complex responsibilities sometimes report higher self-competence in parenting. For example, higher competence is reported by non-Hispanic whites who have had children with multiple partners (compared to those with only one), and by non-Hispanic whites who have residential children as well as non-residential ones. These associations can differ by race/ethnicity. For example, among those who have multi-partner fertility, non-Hispanic Black parents report lower parenting competence than their white counterparts.

The findings suggest that some of those with complex family responsibilities report higher levels of competence, highlighting their resilience in the face of competing demands. However, racial/ethnic differences in parenting competence exist in the context of complex families. This study calls for further research on mechanisms through which to consider the racial/ethnic differences in the self-perception of parenting. This study also has implications for parenting programs: for those involved in family complexity, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach may not work because of different patterns by race and ethnicity.