Racial/Ethnic Differences in Mothers’ Socialization Goals for Their Adolescents

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Objectives: We explored the socialization goals that African American, Latino, Chinese and White mothers held for their adolescents within 4 domains that are centrally relevant during adolescence—proper demeanor, academics, race/ethnicity, and peers. Method: A card sort task and subsequent logistic regression analyses were used to explore mothers’ choice of the most important socialization goals for their ethnically/racially diverse 6th-grade adolescents (N = 185). Results: Compared to White mothers, African American, Latino, and Chinese mothers were significantly more likely to select proper demeanor goals that emphasize deference over benevolence, and peer goals that emphasize instrumental over relational friendships. African American and Latino mothers were more likely to select race/ethnicity goals that emphasize cultural over egalitarian goals compared to Chinese and White mothers. All mothers were more likely to select academic engagement as more important than performance. In contrast to mothers’ emphases within domains, mothers’ ranked the importance of these different domains remarkably similarly. Conclusions: Mothers’ socialization goals illustrate both similarities and differences across race/ethnicity. Findings are discussed with reference to how mothers’ goals reflect broad cultural orientations as well as the contextual demands of their adolescents’ experiences.

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