MATERNAL ETHNIC IDENTITY AND COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT OF PRESCHOOL CHILDREN
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The purpose of this research was to study the relationship between the ethnic identity of Puerto Rican mothers and the quality of cognitive performance by their preschool children. From Feurstein's perspective on cultural deprivation, it was assumed that children's performance on cognitive tasks would reflect the extent of maternal ethnic identity, but not necessarily the specific referent of such identity.;Cognitive functioning of 61 preschool children was studied with mothers teaching their children, then subsequently with a less familiar adult as teacher. Six experimental tasks were developed which tested Feurstein's Mediated Learning Experience concept. In the first three tasks, mothers instructed their children in how to arrange sets of blocks in a specified sequence, while the next three tasks tested transfer of original learning with similar materials but now with the experimenter as instructor.;Otherwise, the study investigated maternal ethnic identity and its various correlates. An Ethnic Identity Scale was developed to determine whether maternal ethnic identity was in the direction of the Puerto Rican culture (the Island group, N = 26), the Mainland United States culture (the Mainland Group, N = 5), or whether it was ambivalent (the Mixed group, N = 30).;It was hypothesized that there would be (a) a significant relationship between maternal ethnic identity and children's task performance irrespective of the specific direction of the mother's ethnic identity, and (b) a significant, positive relationship between extent of time spent in a country and maternal ethnic identity.;The results indicated that as hypothesized, extent of maternal ethnic identity and quality of children's task performance were curvilinearly related. Specifically, it was found that children of mothers with an Island or Mainland orientation performed better overall than those of the Mixed group mothers, and children of the Island and Mainland group mothers performed better under the maternal teaching condition than those of the Mixed group mothers. A further and unpredicted result showed that children of mothers with an Island Orientation performed better under the transfer condition than those of the Mainland group mothers, and both of these groups exceeded children of mothers with a Mixed ethnic orientation.;Regarding the second hypothesis, it was found as predicted that mothers who had spent more time in Puerto Rico identified with the Puerto Rican culture, while mothers who spent the most time in the United States identified with the mainland culture.;The superior cognitive functioning for children of mothers who were most strongly ethnically identified could not be otherwise explained as a function of maternal years of education, socioeconomic status, or parents' language preference. Rather, such superiority could be best explained as a function of the extent of maternal ethnic identity, as predicted.;The results of the study were discussed from the perspective of the intra-ethnic differences that were found in the relationship of task performance quality to maternal ethnic identity as a function of the quality of dyadic verbal communication.;Implications for further research were presented for development of ethnic identity scales, analysis of dyadic verbal exchange, and inclusion in preschool program evaluation research of ethnic identity considerations. Educational implications included broadening the professional training of educators and increasing awareness of cultural differences within and between cultural groups and within social class, development of parent training programs responsive to various types of parental and children's needs, and the introduction of English to children who are able to perform successfully on transfer tasks.
Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 41-08, Section: A, page: 3467.