Abstract: Emerging into Parenthood While in Foster Care: Correlates of Active Parenting Behaviors at Ages 21 and 23 (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Emerging into Parenthood While in Foster Care: Correlates of Active Parenting Behaviors at Ages 21 and 23

Friday, January 13, 2023
Hospitality 3 - Room 432, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Justin Harty, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, AZ
Sunggeun (Ethan) Park, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
Nathanael Okpych, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut, Hartford
Mark Courtney, PhD, Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: Research indicates that positive parental involvement, engaged parenting, and parental warmth lead to improved cognitive, emotional, and behavioral outcomes of children (Amato & Fowler, 2004; Baumrind, 1991; Zhou et. al., 2002). However, little research has been conducted on these dimensions of parenting (i.e., what we call active parenting behaviors) among parenting foster youth (PFY). Furthermore, there is limited knowledge about what may enhance or limit parenting behaviors among PFY (Narendorf et. al., 2013; Schelbe & Geiger, 2017). This study investigates correlates of active parenting behaviors amoung PFY.

Methods: We analyzed CalYOUTH longitudinal survey data when participants were 17, 21, and 23 years old. Our sample includes 243 PFY who participated in the youth surveys and their 392 children. Our dependent variable was a composite measure created from four survey items based on how often PFY engaged in each of the following activities in the past 30 days: spent time on an outing with a child, ate evening meals with the child, showed the child physical affection, and praised the child for doing something worthwhile. A composite measure was created at age 21 (alpha = 0.76) and age 23 (alpha = 0.80). Since some youth had up to three children at 21 and up to five children at 23, we used the mixed-effects regression (Level 1=PFY; Level 2=the child[ren]) to examine a wide range of youth- and children-level explanatory variables.

Results: On average, PFY reported spending time on an outing with children about once a week and practicing other parenting behaviors several times a week at ages 21 and 23. Regression analyses show two consistent predictors of youths’ active parenting behaviors: living with children (p<.001) and part-time education enrollment (p<.05). At age 21, youth were more likely to practice active parenting behaviors when their children had any physical, emotional, or mental disabilities limiting or interfering with their ability to learn or engaging other activities (p=.008). At age 23, Black PFY (vs. White PFY; p<.05) and PFY with an adequate level of tangible support (p<.001) were more likely to practice active parenting behaviors. At age 23, PFY were more likely to practice active parenting toward female than male children (p<.05). PFY with a substance use disorder at age 23 were less likely than their peers to show active parenting behaviors (p<.05).

Conclusions and Implications: Our results found that several parent subpopulations, parent characteristic, and child characteristics correlated with active parenting behaviors. Resident parents, PFY enrolled in school part-time, PFY with enough tangible support, female children, and children with a disability were each associated with increased activie parenting. Conversely, parents with a substance use disorder displayed lower active parenting than their peers. Our findings suggest that PFYs’ access to children, time availability with children, tangible support, and factors directly-related to children may affect PFY active parenting behaviors. Foster care parenting services should tailor services to match unique needs of each PFY and characteristics of their children. Additionally, services should be responsive to extended foster care requirments affecting PYFs’ parenting behaviors.