Mother’s, father’s, or both? Parental gender and parent-child interactions in the racial classification of adolescents


Bratter, J. & Heard, H. E. (2009). Mother's, father's, or both? Parental gender and parent-child interactions in the racial classification of adolescents. Sociological Forum. vol. 24 (3) pp. 658-688


Research on racial identification in interracial families shows that children are more likely to be labeled as minority if the father is of minority race. Yet, prior studies have not sufficiently considered the role of parent-child relationships in shaping children’s identification with either mother’s or father’s race. We address this limitation using data on 706 adolescents in interracial families from Wave 1 of Add Health. We examine whether adolescents identify with their mother’s race or with their father’s race, as opposed to selecting a multiracial identity, within specific combinations of parents’ races. We also explore whether indicators of parental involvement (i.e., quantity and quality of involvement, educational involvement, and social control) explain any gender effects. Contrary to prior studies, we find that the tendency to match father’s race is only true in black/white households, particularly if he is white, while adolescents in Asian/white families tend to match mothers regardless of her race. Moreover, while father’s involvement, particularly educational involvement, was more likely than mother’s to influence racial classification, adjusting for involvement does not explain gender patterns. This study shows that the well-known gender influences on parenting have little to do with the complex ways parent-child relationships impact racial classification.


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Journal Article

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Sociological Forum


Bratter, J.
Heard, H. E.

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