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Parenting Style Discrepancies: A Comparison of Inter-ethnic and Intra-ethnic Couples

Parenting and family interactions are thought to play a critical role in children’s development and are often key targets in clinical interventions for children with behavioral problems. Multiple factors are thought to determine patterns of parenting behavior including child and parent characteristics as well as broader social and cultural factors (Abidin, 1992; Belsky, 1984; Maccoby, 1992). Because culture is thought to influence parenting, it is possible that inter-ethnic couples may experience a greater discrepancy than intra-ethnic couples in their parenting styles, but research considering the role of different cultural backgrounds and parenting has been sparse. The current study examined whether inter-ethnic couples showed greater differences in their parenting styles than couples in which parents were of the same ethnic background, and if so, whether consequences of discrepancy were reflected in children’s behavior. Marital conflict and the number of years spent co-parenting were also examined as potential predictors of variability between couples. Results indicated no significant differences between inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic couples in parenting style, and no significant associations between discrepancies in parenting style and child behavior. Marital conflict was found to be significantly associated with discrepancy in warmth for fathers in intra-ethnic relationships, in support for the spillover hypothesis (Margolin, 2001). This is the first study to examine parenting discrepancies between inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic couples. This research contributes to a growing understanding of the co-parenting relationship among inter-ethnic couples and has important clinical implications for family intervention with multi-cultural families.