While it’s important to focus on the many barriers that Latinos face, it’s also beneficial to highlight the assets of this diverse population.
Latinos have many individual and family strengths they can draw on to be resilience in the face of hardship and guard against the negative effects of adversity on their well-being, according to a new analysis from the National Research Center on Hispanic Children & Families.
Let’s explore strengths of Latino children, parents, and families!
What Are Latino Children’s Strengths?
The new analysis, which reviewed 35 studies from 2000 to 2022, identified strong social skills as one of the key strengths of Latino children.
Social skills help children develop resilience because they promote other domains of development, such as task persistence and learning.
“Most Latinx children enter formal schooling with strong social skills, including the ability to develop friendships and be liked and accepted by their peers and teachers,” according to the analysis from Natasha Cabrera, Angelica Alonso, Yu Chen, and Rachel Ghosh of the National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families. “A study with a nationally representative sample of children found that Latinx children in low-income families … were rated highly on interpersonal skills from kindergarten to third grade.”
Biculturalism and bilingualism also serve as a strength in Latino children.
The ability to communicate in two languages helps children foster a positive ethnic identity, serve as cultural brokers for their families, and develop executive function skills.
“Being bilingual gives [Latino] children a cognitive edge, especially in developing stronger executive function skills (e.g., attentional control, inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility), which are central to academic and social success,” according to the analysis. “Studies with infants and preschoolers have found that bilingual children are better at taking in other people’s perspectives than monolingual children.”
What Are Latino Parents’ Strengths?
Bilingualism and biculturalism are also strength of Latino parents.
The analysis indicates that:
- 85% of Latino parents spoke Spanish to their children (97% of immigrant parents reported doing so).
- 70% of Latinx parents reported often encouraging their child to speak Spanish (percentage was higher among immigrant parents with 82%).
Biculturalism in parents can be promotive of better parenting behaviors, which are, in turn, related to better outcomes in children.
“Many Latinx children experience high-quality parenting, characterized by high levels of warmth and supportiveness,” according to the analysis.
The analysis also revealed strengths of Latino mothers and fathers.
In Latina mothers, the report found:
- Low levels of negative parenting behaviors.
- High levels of emotional support.
- Low to moderate levels of cognitive stimulation with their children, especially with their preschoolers.
In Latino fathers, the report found they are highly committed to their children and involved in their lives long-term.
“Latinx fathers’ engagement with their children significantly contributes to their cognitive, language, and social development, over and above mothers’ contributions,” according to the analysis.
The analysis also found that Latino parents are highly invested in their children’s futures through their frequent engagement in learning experiences.
Findings show that Latino children’s day-to-day experiences are often characterized by routines and predictability, which supports healthy social-emotional development in early childhood.
“Children with regular routines at home tend to have greater self-regulation skills, which are the building blocks of good mental health,” according to the analysis.
What Are Latino Family Strengths?
When it comes to family stability, most young Latino children with foreign-born parents live in two-parent households that are relatively stable during the early years of life.
There is also strength in familial support.
Support from extended family and living in intergenerational households can benefit Latino children’s cognitive skills and social-emotional functioning.
“Besides the potential economic benefits of relying on extended family, extended family can also have positive influences on Latinx parents’ parenting behaviors and their children’s development,” according to the analysis.
Family functioning is also a Latino family strength, including high co-parenting relationship quality.
“Parents who support each other in their parenting roles are more likely to have fewer conflicts and to show more supportive and responsive parenting, both of which are important for children’s development,” according to the analysis.
The analysis also shares that parents’ psychological functioning is a promotive factor that can influence young children’s development.
Optimism can be an important familial trait. The analysis recommendations highlight that there are no studies that examine how parental optimism influences Latino families with young children.
“Understanding how families’ optimism can help them through difficult times is especially important for programs that aim to improve mental health,” according to the analysis.
How Can We Unlock Latino Family Strengths?
Based on its findings, the analysis make recommendations for programs and practices when interacting with Latino families:
- Curricula for parenting programs should acknowledge the culturally specific ways in which Latinx parents promote child development. They should encourage Latinx parents to maintain these practices.
- Programs should acknowledge Latinx parents’ and families’ strengths and encourage families to use these strengths as a platform to build further competencies.
- Practitioners should familiarize themselves with and increase their understanding of the cultural beliefs and practices that Latinx parents view as important resources to help them live in the United States.
- Programs should capitalize on Latinx parents’ optimism and reinforce their positive views of the future to encourage them to continue investing in their children.
- Programs should invite involvement from fathers and extended family members who are involved in childrearing and who may be sources of social support for Latinx parents.
- Programs should meet families where they are—in other words, they should recognize that Latinx families have diverse backgrounds and inherent strengths—and be flexible and targeted in their programming efforts.
- Programs should build on Latinx parents’ high levels of investment in their children’s futures and engage parents in programs by validating and encouraging these investments.
More long-term research is needed – as well as more studies with large samples of Latino families and a focus on fathers and extended family members – to obtain a more well-rounded view of children’s early home environments, according to the analysis.
Find the complete analysis and recommendations here.
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