Abstract: Differences in Parenting Perspectives on Youth Identity, Socioemotional Well-Being and Contemporary Social Events across Different Racial/Ethnic Groups (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Differences in Parenting Perspectives on Youth Identity, Socioemotional Well-Being and Contemporary Social Events across Different Racial/Ethnic Groups

Friday, January 13, 2023
Encanto A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Jeanna Campbell, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Tiffany Laursen, ALM, PhD Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Jenna Mahoney, MSW, PhD Student, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Kevin Tan, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Durriyyah Kemp, PhD, Acting County Director and Social & Emotional Learning Educator, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Westchester, IL
Background and Purpose: Parents play critical roles in the identity and socioemotional development of young people. Events that started in the Year 2020 have posed new challenges in parenting our young to be effective citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic and the politicization around masking, the killing of George Floyd by police and Black Lives Matter Movement, and the Capitol Insurrection on January 6, 2021 have elicited strong socioemotional response from both parents and young alike around race relations. Parents need to create safe, structured, predictable, and engaging environments in which opportunities are provided for young people to explore their identities. This study compares differences in views on youth identity and socioemotional well-being among parents from diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds.

Methods: Six focus groups with parents (N = 30) as part of the broader Healing Illinois Project were conducted. The focus groups were organized by race: majority White; Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) only; and mixed with both White and BIPOC participants. Semi-structured questions were asked on the impacts of contemporary events on youth identity and socioemotional well-being. Semantic qualitative thematic analysis was used to identify and compare emergent themes according to the racial composition of the focus groups.

Results: Two salient themes emerged across all the participant groups: increased social awareness and socioemotional distress. All participants shared a level of difficulty navigating the politics and impact of contemporary events in daily life. We observed that parents in the BIPOC only groups often shared that social awareness starts at an early age for their children: “having a six-year-old who's [i]n first grade now who's very much so well aware of the things that are happening in the world today.” In contrast, for White parents, their children became socially aware at older ages. Though White parents observed that their older children were more aware, there was difficulty navigating the politics (“my youth is too young to understand politics”). White parents also shared more frequently that it was difficult to explain politics to their children: “it's hard to explain to them... what’s right and what’s wrong”. For parents in the BIPOC only group, the impact of contemporary events was salient in their children’s lives: “it's hard to watch the news...with them, you know it's traumatizing to them, and they're very knowledgeable about what's going on.” In addition, BIPOC parents shared more often that systemic trauma has been endured throughout their children’s lives, and contemporary events like the pandemic are adding trauma; “trauma has been a part of our...of [my child’s] life unfortunately earlier on, and so I see this experience that we're going [through] this pandemic is just another form of trauma that families are experiencing.” Parents from all focus groups stated the importance of having difficult conversations with each other.

Conclusions and Implications: Parents play a key role in youth’s socioemotional well-being and understanding of contemporary social events. Supporting parents on having structured conversations with their children could improve socioemotional outcomes for all, as well as the development of equitable youth outcomes.