Racial Dynamics in Families

Kara Powell | Jan 12, 2011

Photo by London Scout

This week I’m reading Growing Up in America: The Power of Race in the Lives of Teens, an examination of the National Study of Youth and Religion’s data on teenagers from the perspective of race. When it comes to family, the biggest differences among whites, Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans were in orientations toward authority, autonomy, and responsibility toward the family. It’s hard to summarize a whole chapter in one blog post but I’ll share some highlights below.

White teens displayed a greater sense of equality with adults and the attitude that family life is meant to cater to their needs and interests. Nonwhite racial groups showed a much greater emphasis on authority and parental control.

While African-American teens were less likely to live in two-parent families, they had more regular contact with at least one parent and were more closely supervised than white or Asian-American teens. White teens tended to receive less supervision and discipline from parents than the other racial groups. White teens have fewer household responsibilities and are more likely to have schedules consumed by activities apart from the family.

Asian-American teens have the highest level of discipline and expectations for behavior, but that does not translate into high levels of contact with family. They also seemed to have the lowest levels of open communication with their parents.

Latino teens spend the most amount of time in family activities of all four racial groups in the study.

I don’t feel like I am doing this chapter justice. I just don’t have enough space. But if you care about kids and are interested in race, I encourage you to check out this book.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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