Commands, Competence, and Cariño : Maternal Socialization Practices in Mexican American Families

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Gabriela L. Stein, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: Early research on the socialization of Latino children has posited that mothers exercise authoritarian practices, compared with lateral reasoning (authoritative) strategies emphasized by Anglo mothers. This work aimed to categorize fixed types of parenting practices tied to the mother’s personality rather than to culturally bounded contexts; it often ignored the emotional warmth or harshness present in compliance attempts and relied on interview questions rather than naturalistic observation. We built from ecocultural theory to observe daily home activities in which Mexican American mothers attempted to correct their young child’s behavior or encourage completion of a task (compliance attempt). We observed 24 first or second-generation mothers and their 4-year-old children and analyzed the activity contexts and multiple forms of 1,477 compliance attempts. Mothers typically led with direct verbal commands in their attempt to achieve compliance. Many blended commands with other compliance strategies, rather than repeating simple behaviors. Drawing on Crockenberg and Litman’s (1990) differentiation of variable compliance strategies, we find that most mothers relied on low power-assertive methods, including verbal commands, rather than inductive strategies that involved reasoning. Few compliance episodes prompted high power-assertive or harsh strategies. The degree of reliance on verbal commands and the complexity of mothers’ repertoires appear to be related to their education and acculturation levels.

Additional Information

Livas-Dlott, A., Fuller, B., Stein, G.L. Bridges, M., Mangual-Figueroa, A., & Mireles, L. (2010). Commands, competence, and cariño: Maternal socialization practices in Mexican-American families. Developmental Psychology, 46(3), 566-578.
Language: English
Date: 2010
Latino child development, maternal socialization practices, immigrant families

Email this document to