A comparison of European American and Puerto Rican parents' beliefs and expectations concerning early intervention programs for preschool children

Date of Completion

January 2000


Education, Early Childhood|Psychology, Developmental




Cross-national studies have identified differences in parents' belief systems about child-rearing and socialization. However, within the United States, research concerning the beliefs of ethnic minority parents whose children are involved in early intervention programs is limited. This study compared the beliefs of European American and Puerto Rican parents about their socialization goals for children, and their expectations concerning the skills to be encouraged in early childhood programs. ^ Participants were 60 parents (30 European American, 30 Puerto Rican) of children in Head Start programs in Northeast Connecticut. Parents were interviewed using a semi-structured interview schedule including open-ended questions and rating and ranking-scales. The interview focused on parents' beliefs about: desired/undesired competencies for children; benefits of preschool education; competencies that children should learn at Head Start; and the importance of Head Start services. ^ Both groups of parents valued prosocial skills, readiness skills, and skills related to good behavior for children. They considered creative and physical skills as least important. Both groups also had similar beliefs about undesirable behaviors that they did not want children to have; about the benefits of preschool education; and about the importance of different Head Start services. ^ However, even though the two sets of parents agreed overall, there were differences between European American and Puerto Rican parents in the importance of skills in a number of domains. More European American parents desired skills in the domains of Emotional-Affective skills, and skills related to Autonomy, Integrity, and Pre-Academic behavioral skills. In contrast, more Puerto Rican parents' mentioned desired skills related to being Educated, Successful, Social Skills with adults, and Pre-Academic Content skills. ^ There also were significant differences in weightings between the two groups of parents in expectations about skills to be encouraged in the Head Start program. Discriminant function analysis showed Autonomy was the most powerful predictor (European American > Puerto Rican), Pre-Academic skills was the next (Puerto Rican > European American), and finally, Social Skills with Adults was the third most important predictor (Puerto Rican > European American) for determining ethnic group membership. ^ The importance of these results for policy-makers, administrators, and educators for working with children and families from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds is discussed. ^