Predictors of Positive Parenting and Use of Spanking Among Low Income, Predominantly Single, African American Mothers of Toddlers
Bruton, Robin Denise
Koblinsky, Sally A.
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A large body of research emphasizes the key role of maternal parenting in fostering positive outcomes for children, particularly during children's early years. Given this literature, it is important to identify factors that predict positive parenting, especially in the most vulnerable populations of families with young children. Therefore, this study used secondary data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study (FFCW) to examine predictors of positive parenting and use of spanking in a sample of 1,161 low income, predominantly single, African American mothers of toddlers (mean age of 13 months). Study mothers had limited education, with 82% having a high school degree or less. An ecological risk and resilience framework was used to investigate the potential risk and protective role of four microsystem variables, including maternal education, maternal health, parenting stress, and number of children; one child characteristic, the presence or absence of a toddler with asthma; and one mesosystem factor, paternal support, in predicting the two parenting outcomes. Findings revealed that mothers engaged in many positive parenting practices and approximately one quarter (26.4%) had spanked their toddler within the previous month. Results of linear regression analysis indicated that better maternal health, lower parenting stress, more paternal support, and having a child with asthma were predictive of mothers' engagement in more positive parenting practices. Logistic regression analysis revealed that more parenting stress, lower paternal support, better maternal health, only one child in the home, and having a child without asthma predicted greater maternal use of spanking. Maternal education was not found to be a predictor of either parenting behavior. Results revealed that study mothers engaged in more nurturing and caregiving activities than learning activities with their toddlers. Overall, findings suggest that family practitioners and health care professionals should introduce culturally sensitive interventions to reduce parenting stress, increase paternal support, and improve maternal health among this population of low income mothers. Programs should continue to support mothers with asthmatic children, educate all mothers about alternatives to spanking, and encourage maternal engagement in activities that foster toddlers' cognitive development. Additional implications of the study for policymakers and program developers are discussed.