Parenting and Families: Creating Supportive Higher Order Contexts

Ellen Skinner and Kristen Raine

Learning Objectives: Higher-order Contexts that Support Parents and Families

  • What are “higher-order contexts of parenting” and why are they important?
  • Explain three ways higher-order contexts can influence parenting and families.
  • Give multiple examples of inequities in living conditions based on poverty (Evans reading) and racism (Trent et al. reading).
  • In what ways can stress have an impact on parenting?
  • Describe the assets and resiliency of families who raise children in developmentally hazardous contexts.
  • Describe three ways we can improve higher-order contexts so they better support families.

Contextualist perspectives on development, like lifespan, ecological, and developmental systems approaches, highlight the important roles that social contexts play in all of our development. For example, research on child and adolescent development documents the central roles of parents, caregivers, and extended families. At the same time, parenting and families have social contexts of their own. Research on the cultural and societal forces that influence family functioning can help identify some of the contextual factors that make the task of parenting easier or harder.

The term “higher-order contexts of parenting” refers to factors that are operating on the “next level up” (i.e., higher-order) from parents themselves. So they could also be called “higher-level contexts” or “higher-order systems.” These higher-order contexts can include marital relationship, families, extended families, neighborhoods, and communities. They keep going up to include cultural and societal structures or forces (like legal, educational, political, and economic systems). Parents are embedded in these contexts and we are interested in them because they can influence they way that individuals parent. In a systems view of parenting, research that includes these higher-order systems (like extended families) can provide a fuller explanation of why people parent the way they do.

We are especially interested in what Bronfenbrenner calls macrosystem factors, by which we mean societal and cultural factors that have an impact on families and parenting. To better understand the idea of “higher-order contexts of parenting,” we examine two higher-order societal factors that exert a downward pressure on parenting, namely, status hierarchies of class (i.e., wealth and education or socioeconomic status, SES) and race (i.e., socially-assigned categories based on outward appearance).

By status hierarchies, we mean that all societies endorse more or less explicit rank orderings of the value of different subgroups of people (Ridgeway, 2014). These societal ladders, which place subgroups on higher or lower rungs, matter to development because rank orderings grant subgroups more or less access to opportunities and resources. Societies treat subgroups at the top and bottom of such hierarchies very differently and these inequities produce disparities in living conditions, health, and functioning. Based on entrenched myths (i.e., prejudice and stereotypes), such disparities are often used as evidence of the inherent superiority of subgroups at the top and the inferiority of subgroups at the bottom. If subgroups object to the injustice of hazardous conditions and entrenched myths, they are handed cover stories, which insist that people at the bottom have only themselves to blame for these inequities. In trying to raise their families, parents have to deal with both hazardous objective living conditions, and the effects of entrenched myths and cover stories.

There are three major ways that status hierarchies, like those organized around class and race, make parenting harder:

  1. Inequities create objective living conditions that are developmentally hazardous to children and families;
  2. Hardships and discrimination force people to parent under stressful conditions; and
  3. Families must expend effort to counteract the pervasive effects of discrimination and prejudice on the development of their children and adolescents.

Optional Reading: Macrosystems of Development

If you would to learn more about societal status hierarchies, for example, how they are created and enforced, and the kinds of research that document their effects, we have created an optional supplementary essay that delves deeper into these issues. [Macrosystems of Development (pdf)]


Developmentally Hazardous Living Conditions

Status hierarchies based on class and race mean that, depending on where a family falls on these ladders, they are parenting in different worlds. Children and families at the bottom of multiple status hierarchies are particularly at risk for developmentally hazardous living conditions and other inequities. The compounding of environmental risk is especially troubling because racial/ethnic minority children are up to three times more likely than their white counterparts to be living in families with incomes below the poverty line. For example, according to the US Census Bureau, in 2018, of all the white children in this country under the age of 6, 9.1% lived in families with incomes at or below the poverty line; of Asian-American children, 11.2%. However, among Latinx children, more than twice as many, 24.3%, lived in poverty, and for Black children, more than three times, or 32.4%; this rate is probably similar for Indigenous children.

Poverty and racism create objectively different living conditions for children and youth. As summarized in the required readings (Evans, 2004; Trent, Dooley, & Dougé, 2019), inequities start with differential access to the basics of life: healthy food, secure housing, and health care. Poor children are exposed to more violence, instability, chaos, turmoil, and family separation. Neighborhoods with higher concentrations of poverty are more dangerous, offer fewer municipal services, suffer greater physical deterioration, and contain fewer amenities (e.g., community centers, playgrounds, parks). Schools and daycare are of lower quality. Disparities by class and race are found in opportunities for higher education, employment, and economic advancement. There are even differences in the quality of the air children breathe and the water they drink (Taylor, 2014). Such disparities are so significant that they register in differential physical health and mortality rates for children from different racial/ethnic groups and levels of SES (e.g., Council on Community Pediatrics, 2016). All of these objective disparities make the job of caring for a family more difficult. Researchers have concluded that it is not any one factor, but the accumulation of multiple environmental risks that make these living conditions so risky (e.g., Evans, Li, & Whipple, 2013).

The developmentally hazardous conditions in which many poor and minority children grow up can be thought of as societally sanctioned. By this we mean that our society has decided that children only get as much of the basics needed for their healthy development as their families can afford. Outside the US, many societies have decided that all children should breathe clean air and drink clean water, by enforcing statutes that make pollution illegal and thereby preventing concentrations of pollution in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty. Or they legislate mixed-income housing, so there are no neighborhoods with concentrations of poverty. Or they decide that everyone should have access to healthy food, secure housing, and affordable health care. Some societies invest in the infrastructure and safety of all communities, so that low wealth neighborhoods still have community centers, farmer’s markets, and parks. Or they fully fund all schools and provide free access to a high-quality college education. In some societies, there is a threshold below which the living conditions of children and families are not allowed to fall. All families have the right to these developmental basics. In these societies, the disparities in living conditions between the richest and poorest children are not as stark, and conditions for the poorest children are not developmentally dangerous.

REQUIRED Reading: Integration of research on the effects of childhood poverty

Evans, G. (2004). The environment of childhood poverty. American Psychologist, 59, 77-92.

This short paper by Gary Evans (Evans, 2004) is a required reading for human development because it summarizes the developmentally hazardous conditions experienced by children at the bottom of the SES hierarchy. This report is especially sobering because the poorest subgroup in the US is made up of children– children under the age of 6 to be exact (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2018). It can be discouraging to read about the long list of risky conditions that poor children face, but this information is a crucial step toward deciding as a society the kinds of living conditions in which we want our children to grow up.

Although this paper was written in 2004, the conditions it describes continue to be true TODAY.

REQUIRED Reading: Integration of research on the effects of racism on child and adolescent health and development

Trent, M., Dooley, D. G., & Dougé, J. (2019). The impact of racism on child and adolescent health. Pediatrics, 144(2), e20191765.

This short paper, commissioned by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), is a required reading for this class because it provides an overview of research on the harmful effects of racism on child and adolescent health and development. It ends with a series of recommendations for ways in which pediatricians and the AAP can help to protect children and adolescents from these effects, and at the same time transform pediatric training and practice to work toward more just and equitable healthcare systems.

Tip for class projects. The recommendations at the end of this paper provide a good example of how developmental contexts can be improved, and may inspire you and your group as you work on plans to reimagine and reinvent your target developmental contexts.

Parenting Under Stress

A second way that status hierarchies exert a downward pressure on children and families is that people are forced to do their caregiving under very stressful conditions. The objective hardships, discrimination, and prejudice some families face create an unsupportive context for the important job of parenting and providing for a family, which are challenging tasks even under the best of circumstances. Most parents and families rise to these challenges, but few people parent their best under such adversity.

When studying parents and families, and especially when examining parenting practices that seem problematic, it is essential to view them in context. Some practices, for example, extremely strict parenting, are connected with authoritarian styles (a combination of high demands for obedience with low warmth and affection) and undesirable outcomes in white middle class children and youth. In other racial/ethnic groups, however, extremely strict parenting is often accompanied by high parental warmth and affection (creating a parenting style not yet captured in standard typologies that might be called “protective”). Children and adolescents may see their parents as demanding but fair, their behavior grounded in love and genuine concern for their welfare. For example, an indigenous practice endorsed by native and immigrant Chinese parents called “training” is rooted in Confucian tradition and emphasizes strict parental control and guidance of children’s behaviors through parental devotion, involvement, and monitoring (Chao, 2000). In these cases, “harsh” parenting may have different consequences. As well as different antecedents– within communities of color and immigrant communities, parents may prioritize keeping children safe under dangerous conditions where disobedience can have serious consequences.

All children need and deserve high quality parenting, and are not to blame if their parents and families are not able to meet their needs. An idea relevant to everyone, but especially important to students whose families are at the bottom of multiple status hierarchies, is the concept of inter-generational trauma” [pdf]. This notion is especially useful for conceptualizing the ways that histories of discrimination and prejudice, as seen in the childhoods and lives of their parents and grandparents, can help students understand some of the ways that unresolved post-traumatic stress may have shaped their families while they were growing up. During the period of emerging adulthood, young people begin to be able to see their parents as whole people, operating within powerful histories and societal forces not of their own making. We try to help students understand that at every rung in our status hierarchies all parents at times show behaviors that are self-centered, neglectful, inconsistent, or unfair. And that parents who are sometimes harsh or rejecting, are also sometimes loving, caring, warm, and affectionate. All parents make mistakes, and most recognize and regret any harm they have done to their children. Like everyone else, parents are growing and developing.

Over time, many students come to appreciate and admire what their parents have been able to accomplish, and respect their protective efforts and the lessons they tried to teach, while also acknowledging the work we all still have to do on unresolved issues left over from our childhood experiences. Students are reassured by research showing that most people, even those who experience extreme adversity as children, are resilient, able to recover and heal, and go on to lead productive adult lives and provide excellent parenting for their own children. Many people report that some of the most theraputic activities involve beginning to create families of their own that provide children and youth (whether biological, adopted, foster, nieces, nephews, or neighborhood children) stable and loving childhood experiences.

Counteracting Prejudice and Discrimination

A third way that status hierarchies make parenting harder is that parents must work to protect their offspring from the effects of entrenched myths societies hold about subgroups on the lower rungs. Families must teach children and adolescents how to cope constructively with prejudice and discrimination (e.g., Jones et al., 2020).

For example, research on implicit bias suggests that societal prejudices about race and class are widespread. Now think of all the people with whom children and youth interact in the settings of their everyday lives: At school (classmates, peers, teachers, guidance counselors), in the neighborhood (friends, neighbors, shopkeepers, medical professionals, social workers, police officers, prosecutors, judges), and eventually at universities and work. We can keep on going up the levels of the macrosystem, considering social media, politics, science, and so on. Parents are right to worry about what happens when their offspring spend much of their lives being taught, guided, judged, and hired by people who unconsciously regard them as “less than.” Parents spend a great deal of time and energy working with these systems to make sure that their children and youth are treated fairly.

One of the most eye-opening effects of status hierarchies is that children are introduced to the core idea underlying them, namely, that some subgroups of people are of greater value than others. Few endorse this idea in the abstract. Most people would never say that boys are worth more than girls, or people with a lot of money are better than people without, or white people are more valuable than people of color. But we have to come to grips with the fact that, whether we admit it or not, status hierarchies clearly communicate these messages to children (e.g., Ruck, Mistry, & Flanagan, 2019).

Since categories are socially constructed, children first have to be taught to recognize them. They slowly learn, for example, that this society makes a big deal of the characteristics we call “race” and the qualities we assign to “money.” Then, as children directly experience and observe the ways that people are treated differently based on category membership, they begin to understand what it means to belong to different ranks on that category. Finally, as children come to see where they themselves fall on those rankings, for example, on subgroups we call “race,” we can say that children have been “racialized.” They see themselves and their identity in terms of those categories and the values they have been assigned. They are introduced to the societal idea of hierarchies of human value, and they are shown where they belong on these different hierarchies.

Research shows that, to counteract these potentially harmful influences, poor and minority families draw on a variety of strengths and assets, including proficiencies and protective factors not typically found in the repertoire of white middle class families, such as processes through which families constructively deal with ongoing racial/ethnic discrimination (e.g., Gaylord‐Harden, Burrow, & Cunningham, 2012). Chief among these assets are supportive extended family networks, close-knit communities, cultural traditions and practices, familial racial/ethnic socialization, and social activism.

Families prioritize and cherish their children and youth, and together, these community strengths contribute to the development of positive racial/ethnic identities, instill cultural pride, teach adaptive ways of coping with adversity, and model civic participation in movements for social justice.

REQUIRED Video: The Story We Tell about Poor People Isn’t True

To continue the process of reworking entrenched myths, we ask students to watch this short video by Mia Birdsong, who focuses her TED talk on the true story of the creativity, resourcefulness, grit, and determination shown by poor people. Her goal is to change attitudes of decision-makers so that policies and practices can more equitably support poor people in finding ways to generate income while supporting their communities.


Incorporating Traditional Culture into Positive Youth Development for American Indian and Alaska Native Youth

Fascinating frameworks focus on the positive development of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children and youth (e.g., Kenyon and Hanson, 2012) and highlight ways that traditional worldviews, values, rituals, and practices can provide a scaffold for interventions, programs, and practices that support children and adolescents. To give youth a strong sense of tribal heritage, identity, and belonging, programs are anchored in relational native worldviews and include activities like elders’ instruction in tribal history, storytelling, drumming, singing, language, traditional art and craftwork, sacred ceremonies, outdoor activities, cultural events, and social justice projects. From this perspective, deep connections to culture and heritage are prevention, meaning that engaging AI ⁄AN youth in cultural practices and reinforcing traditional Native worldviews serve to bolster positive development.

Kenyon, D. B., & Hanson, J. D. (2012). Incorporating traditional culture into positive youth development programs with American Indian/Alaska Native youth. Child Development Perspectives, 6(3), 272-279.

Critiques and Next Steps in the Study of Higher-order Contexts of Parenting

Over the last several decades mainstream developmental science has been actively criticized for its approach to studying the development of poor and minority children, youth, and families (e.g., Coll et al., 1996; Spencer, 1990). Three sets of serious critiques have been leveled.

Inclusive Models of Higher-order Contexts

First, developmental models of higher-order contexts rarely included the dominant social hierarchies created by race/ethnicity and class (and gender, sexual orientation, etc.). These societal conditions create troubling realities involving prejudice and discrimination that children and adolescents encounter on a daily basis, and without them, it is impossible to construct a full account of the causal forces shaping their development. These same factors also affect children from dominant groups, who in many ways are the beneficiaries of systems that advantage the subgroups to which they belong. Yet up until recently these forces seemed to be largely invisible to mainstream researchers, who are overwhelmingly white and middle class.

More inclusive contextual models incorporate these realities, for example, the phenomenological variant of ecological systems theory (PVEST; Spencer, 2006; Spencer, Dupree, & Hartmann, 1997) [pdf], and the integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children (Coll et al., 1996). Drawing on social stratification theory and other sociological approaches, they highlight the role of positionality or intersectionality (an individual’s, family’s, or subgroup’s location in a particular societal context on the multiple status hierarchies of race, class, gender, and so on; Crenshaw, 1989, 1991) in determining access to power, resources, and opportunities, and in shaping identities and corresponding biases and viewpoints. These more complex conceptualizations of higher-order contexts enrich our understanding of the development of all children and families.

Cultural Wealth of Poor and Minority Children, Youth, and Families

Second, mainstream researchers have been taken to task for bringing a predominantly deficit lens (Valencia & Solórzano, 1997) to the study of the development of poor and minority children and families. Researchers largely focused on the problems these subgroups experience, describing children and youth as “at-risk” and “vulnerable.” Moreover, researchers often argued (typically without evidence) that the disparities they found in children’s outcomes were due to problems stemming from children themselves or from their parents, families, or cultures, labeling them as “disadvantaged.” Researchers seemed to forget that the majority of poor and minority children develop along adaptive and healthy pathways, and to overlook the strengths and assets of their families and communities.

In response to these deficit assumptions, there has been a push to study the positive development of minority children and youth (e.g., Cabrera, 2013; Cabrera, Beeghly, & Eisenberg, 2012). This approach, as seen in the recent publication of the first Handbook on Positive Development of Minority Children and Youth (Cabrera & Leyendecker, 2017), highlights a strength-based view that focuses on positive adaptation, competence, and resilience and the factors that enable such healthy development. As feminists pointed out in the study of girls, growing up female and raising female children within higher-order systems that label and treat girls differently even before they are born is a challenging task (Robnett, Daniels, & Leaper, 2018). One way researchers can help is by assuming that girls’ families and communities are finding multiple creative and courageous ways to support their girls and young women so they grow up into strong and resilient people, whole and magnificent, who will be ready to do their parts to change these discriminatory societal conditions and narratives. Poor and minority children and families deserve the same clarity of understanding.

To counteract deficit assumptions, the last few decades have seen an outpouring of research documenting the cultural wealth of historically marginalized communities (e.g., Yosso, 2005 [pdf]). Some of the most interesting research on children and families today lifts up and learns from the cultural resources created and preserved by Black, Native, Latinx, Asian-American, immigrant, deaf, and LGBTQ+ communities, as well as countless others. Their cultural knowledge and wisdom enable them to prepare children not only to negotiate the developmental tasks faced by all children and youth, but also to deal with obstacles that families higher on the status hierarchy do not have to face, such as coping constructively with ongoing inequities and entrenched myths. Communities also have a wealth of knowledge and experience in resisting oppression and fighting for social justice, valuable expertise that is often lacking in mainstream families. Minority, immigrant, and poor communities have much to offer children and youth, and also the larger society of which they have always been an integral part and to which they have always made crucial, although often unacknowledged, contributions.

Future Directions

Developmentalists who study the effects of higher-order contexts on the functioning of children and families must be very thoughtful. On the one hand, they want to catalog as accurately and clearly as they can the human costs of growing up and trying to raise children in developmentally dangerous conditions. They hope that the pervasive inequities they document can be used as a basis for supporting collective efforts at societal change. On the other hand, they do not want to be cogs in the societal machine that reinforces entrenched prejudices and stereotypes. They do not want their research to be used to imply that children and families are “less than” in any way. On the third hand, researchers cannot let the positive development of most poor and minority children and the cultural and family strengths of racial/ethnic and low wealth communities be used as an excuse not to tackle the status hierarchies that produce poverty and racism head on (Brown, Mistry, & Yip, 2019; Killen, Rutland, & Yip, 2016).

Research as a Call to Action

Research on widespread inequities and their effects on children and families motivate researchers to participate in collective action to right these injustices. There are several strategies societies can use.

  • We can de-couple families’ positions on status hierarchies from access to the basic conditions their children need for healthy development. For example, we can ensure that all neighborhoods are safe, and include affordable housing and access to healthy food.
  • For hierarchies like class, we can work to get rid of such big disparities between the rungs, by prioritizing actions that reduce income inequality. For example, we can increase the minimum wage to a living wage, focus on job creation and training, and increase opportunities for meaningful employment. Key to both these strategies is access to free high-quality education from cradle to college graduation, because educational achievement is the most effective way to move up societal ladders.
  • The most important strategy, of course, is to reinvent higher-order contexts themselves by surfacing and demolishing societal hierarchies of human worth. From this perspective the two strategies described above are first steps toward this ultimate goal. Researchers who favor this strategy actively critique other interventions that focus on “fixing” individuals (e.g., children or their parents) and then plonking them back into hazardous developmental conditions. Researchers argue that strategies focused on transforming higher-order contexts are both more equitable and more effective, so in the end, they are much less expensive– in terms of both monetary and human costs.

Poor People’s Campaign: A Call for Basic Human Rights

If you are interested in learning more about grassroots political movements aimed at lifting people out of poverty and providing basic necessities for everyone, a great place to start is with the website for the Poor People’s Campaign.

Take Home Messages about Higher-Order Contexts of Parenting

We emphasize four big ideas from this reading:

  1. Poverty and racism create objectively different living conditions for children and youth. Caregivers and families at the bottom of hierarchies (especially at the bottom of multiple hierarchies) face unnecessary hardships in the objective living conditions under which they are forced to raise their children. Using Bronfenbrenner’s ecological terms, the effects of poverty and racism pervade all the microsystems that shape the development of children and youth (homes, schools, neighborhood, social work, juvenile justice system, etc.).
  2. The objective hardships, discrimination, and prejudice some families face create an unsupportive context for the important tasks of parenting and providing for a family, which are challenging even in the best of circumstances. Most parents and families rise to these challenges, but few people parent their best under such hardships and stresses. The notion of “inter-generational trauma” may be useful for conceptualizing how histories of discrimination and prejudice, as seen in the childhoods and lives of parents and grandparents, can help to explain some of the ways that unresolved post-traumatic stress shapes families and parenting.
  3. Through their strength and resilience, minority and low wealth communities protect and support children and youth, and help them build developmental competencies. Among these cultural assets are supportive extended family networks, close-knit communities, cultural traditions and practices, familial racial/ethnic socialization, and social activism. Families prioritize and cherish their children and youth, and contribute to the development of positive racial/ethnic identities, instill cultural pride, teach adaptive ways of coping with adversity, and model civic participation in social justice movements.
  4. Over the last several decades developmentalists have more fully incorporated the roles of status hierarchies into their models of lifespan development, replacing deficit lenses with more accurate understandings of the positive development of minority children and youth, and their supportive extended families, communities, and cultures. Because of the hazardous developmental conditions status hierarchies create, many developmentalists are working on a transformation agenda, to reinvent societal systems so they can be more supportive of all children, youth, and families.


Brown, C. S., Mistry, R. S., & Yip, T. (2019). Moving from the margins to the mainstream: Equity and justice as key considerations for developmental science. Child Development Perspectives13(4), 235-240.

Cabrera, N. J. (2013). Positive development of minority children and commentaries. Social Policy Report27(2), 1-30.

Cabrera, N. J., & Leyendecker, B. (Eds.). (2017). Handbook on positive development of minority children and youth. New York, NY: Springer.

Cabrera, N. J., Beeghly, M., & Eisenberg, N. (2012). Positive development of minority children: Introduction to the special issue. Child Development Perspectives6(3), 207-209.

Chao, R. K. (2000). The parenting of immigrant Chinese and European American mothers: Relations between parenting styles, socialization goals, and parental practices. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 21, 233–248.

Coll, C. G., Crnic, K., Lamberty, G., Wasik, B. H., Jenkins, R., Garcia, H. V., & McAdoo, H. P. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development67(5), 1891-1914.

Council on Community Pediatrics. (2016). Poverty and child health in the United States. Pediatrics137(4), e20160339

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. The University of Chicago Legal Forum, 140, 139–167.

Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241–1299.

Evans, G. (2004). The environment of childhood poverty. American Psychologist, 59, 77-92.

Evans, G. W., Li, D., & Whipple, S. S. (2013). Cumulative risk and child development. Psychological Bulletin139(6), 1342-1396

Gaylord‐Harden, N. K., Burrow, A. L., & Cunningham, J. A. (2012). A cultural‐asset framework for investigating successful adaptation to stress in African American youth. Child Development Perspectives6(3), 264-271.

Harrison, A. O., Wilson, M. N., Pine, C. J., Chan, S. Q., & Buriel, R. (1990). Family ecologies of ethnic minority children. Child Development61(2), 347-362.

Jones, S. C., Anderson, R. E., Gaskin-Wasson, A. L., Sawyer, B. A., Applewhite, K., & Metzger, I. W. (2020). From “crib to coffin”: Navigating coping from racism-related stress throughout the lifespan of Black Americans. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry90(2), 267-282.

Kenyon, D. B., & Hanson, J. D. (2012). Incorporating traditional culture into positive youth development programs with American Indian/Alaska Native youth. Child Development Perspectives6(3), 272-279.

Killen, M., Rutland, A., & Yip, T. (2016). Equity and justice in developmental science: Discrimination, social exclusion, and intergroup attitudes. Child Development87(5), 1317-1336.

Pinquart, M., & Kauser, R. (2018). Do the associations of parenting styles with behavior problems and academic achievement vary by culture? Results from a meta-analysis. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology24(1), 75.

Ridgeway, C. L. (2014). Why status matters for inequality. American Sociological Review79(1), 1-16.

Robnett, R. D., Daniels, E. A., & Leaper, C. (2018). Growing up gendered: Feminist perspectives on development. In C. B. Travis, J. W. White, A. Rutherford, W. S. Williams, S. L. Cook, & K. F. Wyche (Eds.), APA handbooks in psychology®. APA handbook of the psychology of women: History, theory, and battlegrounds (p. 437–454). American Psychological Association.

Ruck, M. D., Mistry, R. S., & Flanagan, C. A. (2019). Children’s and adolescents’ understanding and experiences of economic inequality: An introduction to the special section. Developmental Psychology55(3), 449-456.

Spencer, M. B. (1990). Development of minority children: An introduction. Child Development, 61, 267-269.

Spencer, M. B., Dupree, D., & Hartmann, T. (1997). A phenomenological variant of ecological systems theory (PVEST): A self-organization perspective in context.

Spencer, M.B. (2006). Phenomenology and ecological systems theory: Development of diverse groups. In W. Damon, & R. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, vol. 1 (R. Lerner, Ed.): Theoretical models of human development (6th ed.), (pp. 829-893). New York: Wiley.

Taylor, D. (2014). Toxic communities: Environmental racism, industrial pollution, and residential mobility. NYU Press.

Trent, M., Dooley, D. G., & Dougé, J. (2019). The impact of racism on child and adolescent health. Pediatrics144(2), e20191765.

Valencia, R. R., & Solórzano, D. G. (1997). Contemporary deficit thinking. The evolution of deficit thinking: Educational thought and practice, 160-210.

Valencia, R. R., & Solórzano, D. G. (1997). Contemporary deficit thinking. The evolution of deficit thinking: Educational thought and practice, 160-210.

Vélez-Agosto, N. M., Soto-Crespo, J. G., Vizcarrondo-Oppenheimer, M., Vega-Molina, S., & García Coll, C. (2017). Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory revision: Moving culture from the macro into the micro. Perspectives on Psychological Science12(5), 900-910.

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education8(1), 69-91.

Supplementary Learning Materials

We invite you to find readings on cultural assets that appeal to you. Select ones that focus on a community to which you belong or one about which you would like to learn more. Here are some papers on parenting and families in ethnic/minority and immigrant communities and you can easily locate more readings and videos. We encourage you dive right in!

  • The Cultural-Asset Framework focuses on the resources and practices that support the positive development of African American children and youth in the face of racial discrimination (Gaylord‐Harden et al., 2012). For example, it highlights the protective roles of racial socialization, strong and positive racial identities, and culturally-relevant forms of adaptive coping, such as communalistic and spiritually-based coping strategies.

Gaylord‐Harden, N. K., Burrow, A. L., & Cunningham, J. A. (2012). A cultural‐asset framework for investigating successful adaptation to stress in African American youth. Child Development Perspectives, 6(3), 264-271.

  • Interesting frameworks also focus on positive development of Asian-American (AA) children and youth (e.g., Zhou et al., 2012). Assets and protective factors for AA youth have been found within children themselves (e.g., maintenance of heritage culture, bilingualism, coping, and emotion regulation), as well as in families (e.g., authoritative parenting and parental support) and neighborhoods (e.g., ethnic composition).

Zhou, Q., Tao, A., Chen, S. H., Main, A., Lee, E., Ly, J., … & Li, X. (2012). Asset and protective factors for Asian American children’s mental health adjustment. Child Development Perspectives, 6(3), 312-319.

  • Other researchers provide reviews of specific socializers, for example, Cabrera and Bradley (2012) focus on the important and changing role of Latino fathers.

Cabrera, N. J., & Bradley, R. H. (2012). Latino fathers and their children. Child Development Perspectives, 6(3), 232-238.

  • This handbook provides dozens of chapters focusing on the positive development of minority children and youth. Pick your favorite topic!

Cabrera, N. J., & Leyendecker, B. (Eds.). (2017). Handbook on positive development of minority children and youth. New York, NY: Springer.

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The story we tell about poverty isn’t true by TED is licensed CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0


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