Abstract: Assessing the Relationship between Externalizing Behavior and Parental and School Bonding Among Black, Hispanic, and Latino Girls (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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82P Assessing the Relationship between Externalizing Behavior and Parental and School Bonding Among Black, Hispanic, and Latino Girls

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Sandra Jeter, LMSW, Doctoral Student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Sujeeta Menon, LMSW, Doctoral Student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Camille R. Quinn, PhD, AM, LCSW, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Travis Hirschi's social bonding theory suggests that when adolescents are bonded strongly to socialization agents, they are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors. Having weak bonds at this stage of life could increase vulnerabilities towards later engagement in externalizing behavior and potential involvement in the juvenile justice system. The family and school are considered the strongest socialization agents in adolescence. Further, scholars suggest that for young girls, their familial and school bonds serve as strong protective and predictive factors against delinquency. These agents facilitate the socialization and development of social norms, morality, and expectations in young people that are appropriate and acceptable in society. In this study, the relationship between parental and school belonging, and externalizing behavior is examined. Most social work research that assesses this relationship focus on boys. This study aims to add to the literature by solely focusing on adolescent girls, and by investigating the differences between bonding and externalizing behaviors among three racial/ethnic groups.


The Fragile Families data, a national 1998-2000 birth cohort longitudinal study of 4,898 low-income families, was analyzed and interpreted. Guided by social bonding theory, data was analyzed using Hierarchical Multiple Regression Analysis to discover the significance of parental attachment, school belongingness, parental incarceration, and school suspension/expulsion in predicting externalizing behavior.


Results showed positive relationships across racial/ethnic groups among school suspension/expulsion and externalizing behavior, whereas being suspended/expelled from school resulted in a higher chance of displaying externalizing behaviors among adolescent girls. This association was strongest among Black girls, followed by Latino girls, then White girls. However, parental attachment scores and school belongingness scores were associated with a lower chance that adolescent girls would display externalizing behavior. When split by race, school belongingness was a significant predictor among Black and White girls, although stronger for Black girls; it did not emerge as a significant predictor among Hispanic girls. Also, parental attachment was a significant predicting factor among Black and Hispanic girls, but not among White girls. Lastly, parental incarceration did not emerge as a significant factor with all girls combined. Though, when split by race, parental incarceration did emerge as a significant predicting factor of externalizing behavior only among Black girls.


Altogether, these findings highlight how family and school bonding can influence externalizing behavior among girls, especially Black girls. School suspension/expulsion emerged as a significant predictor of externalizing behavior for all girls, no matter race. Thus, social work research is needed to identify effective alternative school discipline practices that will not remove girls from school, so that they may form secure bonds with their school peers and educators. Findings also demonstrate that only Black girls with histories of parental incarceration reported externalizing behavior. These important intersections of race and gender need to be the focus of broader conversations and social work research that situates Black girls, their needs, and protective factors in the discussion, so that family focused interventions can be culturally tailored to reduce their intergenerational crime and bolster family level strengths.