Current literature suggests that African American (AA) parents may use higher levels of control and more authoritarian decision-making and disciplinary practices, but sometimes with less negative effects relative to European-American (EA) parents. Descriptive observational studies of actual limit-setting and disciplinary behaviors in AA families, however, are lacking. In this study, maternal limit-setting behaviors and patterns were observed, described, and compared in 50 AA and 66 EA mothers (ages 18-53) with their 36 month-old children. Controlling for demographic risk and children's gender, there were no ethnic differences in the distribution of maternal limit-setting patterns, and an authoritative limit-setting pattern was the most common pattern in both ethnic groups. AA and EA mothers using an authoritative pattern used firm control along with greater use of less-directive and empathic strategies such as reasoning, distractions, and sensitive support of their child's autonomy. These data provide support for the normative use of age-appropriate authoritative limit-setting in AA and EA mothers with 36 month-old children.
- African American
- Child discipline
- Cultural diversity
- Parental discipline
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Life-span and Life-course Studies