White parents of lower, middle class favor harsher parenting practices: study

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-19 07:29:40|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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CHICAGO, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- White parents who feel that they're falling through the cracks of today's economy may be more likely to believe in authoritarian parenting practices such as spanking and demanding obedience, a new study showed on Monday.

The study released by the University of Illinois (UI) included more than 6,450 parents of young and school-aged children who participated in the U.S. General Social Survey during the period 1986-2016.

The researchers examined the impact of subjective and objective measures of income inequality on parents' attitudes about spanking and child obedience. They also explored whether these objective markers and subjective perceptions influenced parental philosophies jointly or independently and if any racial differences existed.

In addition to providing data on objective measures of income inequality such as their level of education and earnings, parents in the study also were asked how they thought their families' income compared with other American families: far below average, average or above average; and which social class: lower, working, middle or upper class, they identified with.

In comparison with families in the highest income category, parents in the middle were 25 percent more likely to endorse spanking.

However, adults' subjective perceptions of their social class and economic well-being had far greater influence on their parenting philosophy than their actual socioeconomic status.

Parents who perceived their incomes as being far below average were three times more likely to believe that obedience was very important, while parents who thought their income was average were about twice as likely to endorse that belief.

"When we looked at subjective inequality, we also found that the racial differences became quite stark," said UI social work professor William Schneider. "White parents who perceived themselves as working class or lower class were much more likely to approve of authoritarian child-rearing practices than black parents who viewed themselves similarly.

The differing perceptions that were identified among white and black parents and the various socioeconomic groups, and how these parents view their places in the overall economy and social structure, could be instrumental in designing targeted services and interventions for such families, Schneider said.

Authoritarian parenting places a high value on children's adherence to strict rules and obtaining compliance through corporal punishment. And the practice has been associated with a number of adverse outcomes for children in prior research.