Apr 12 2019

While a growing body of research points to the importance of children’s self-regulation skills in early academic success and social-emotional development, little is known about Latino immigrant parents’ perceptions of self-regulation and their own parenting practices.

A new study by University of Washington College of Education doctoral student in learning sciences and human development Cinthia Iris Palomino, presented at the 2019 meeting of the American Educational Research Association, aims to fill that gap.

Palomino interviewed Latino immigrant parents at a Head Start center in Seattle to gain a deeper understanding of their perceptions of self-regulation, the parenting practices they use to support this skill with their children, and how cultural values might influence both of these processes.

In analyzing her interviews with parents, Palomino said that the cultural values of “sympathy” (maintaining positive and agreeable relationships with others) and "collectivism" (putting the needs of the group first) were particularly important in guiding perceptions of what self-regulation was and what purpose it should serve in their children’s lives.

“Those perceptions seem to be in relationship to others, to those surrounding the child, rather than on the individual child,” Palomino said. “That is very interesting because how research defines self-regulation is, usually, a set of skills that helps the child complete tasks or achieve goals, which is centered on the individual child, or the needs of the child.

“But for this group of parents … self-regulation always seemed to be in relationship to others, to the community surrounding the child.”

Palomino noted that other important values included "respeto" (respect for adults and those in positions of authority), which seemed to influence how parents interacted with children on an everyday basis.

“They were consistent and firm, and this also involved providing direct, verbal commands to the child, especially when the child was dis-regulating,” Palomino said.

With the increasing proliferation of programs focused on teaching parents how they can support their children’s self-regulation development, Palomino said it’s important to take parent’s values into consideration in designing programs that are culturally-responsive.

“If, for this group of Latino immigrant parents, the values of respeto, the values of sympathy or the values of being well educated are important for them and influence their parenting practices, we need to incorporate those values into the implementation of those parenting programs,” Palomino said.

In addition, Palomino noted that parenting programs can also capitalize on practices that Latino immigrant parents are doing well already in support of self-regulation, such as being consistent with their children, and use that as a base for teaching about other parenting practices.

“This group of parents had a developmentally sound understanding of what self-regulation looked like and how it developed, and I think this points out the need for researchers and practitioners to use a strengths-based approach and value the knowledge that minority parents have,” Palomino said.

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Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu