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Social Capital, Parenting, and African American Families


African American parents and children are embedded within diverse social networks that cut across social contexts. Using a concurrent mixed-method approach, this study explored mechanisms through which kinship- and community-based social capital (i.e., intergenerational closure) may be associated with children’s own competences at accessing social capital, as well as mothers’ perspectives on the social-relational processes adhered in intergenerational closure, and on its importance for parenting and socialization goals. Third-grade children (N = 149) and their mothers participated in structured home interviews, and a subsample of mothers (n = 10) participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews. Path analysis (LISREL) indicated that kinship-based intergenerational closure was positively associated with communication between mothers and children (e.g., peers and friendships, importance of talking, life lessons) which was positively associated with children’s self-efficacy in accessing intergenerational social resources (i.e., from adults). Community-based intergenerational closure was positively associated with parental community engagement. Parents involved in community organizations engaged in more parent-to-parent communication regarding parenting and childrearing issues. Greater communication between parents was positively associated with children’s self-efficacy. Qualitative analyses indicated that mothers cultivated intergenerational closure across social contexts, that supported parenting and reinforced values, norms, and socialization goals, relying on network processes as theorized by James Coleman. This study highlights the mechanisms that link kinship- and community-based social capital to child social competences, as well as African American mothers’ perspectives on the meanings of social relationships when there is intergenerational closure. Moreover, the study illustrates the applicability of Coleman’s theory among economically diverse, southern, African American families.

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Author Contributions

A.G.H.: Participated in the study design, data analysis and the interpretation of findings (quantitative and qualitative), writing of the manuscript, and participated in the design and data collection of the larger longitudinal study. S.C.D.: Participated in the study design, data analysis and interpretation of findings (quantitative and qualitative) and writing of the manuscript. S.Z.T.: Participated in the qualitative data analysis and interpretation of findings. M.H.: Participated in the literature search and collaborated in writing a component of the manuscript. A.C.F.: Participated in the design and data collection of the larger longitudinal study,and collaborated in the writing and editing of the manuscript.


The study on which this paper is based was supported by a grant to the first and fifth authors from the William T. Grant Foundation. Preparation for this paper was also supported by a grant to the first author from the North Carolina State University Agricultural Research Service.

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Correspondence to Andrea G. Hunter.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Hunter, A.G., Chipenda-Dansokho, S., Tarver, S.Z. et al. Social Capital, Parenting, and African American Families. J Child Fam Stud 28, 547–559 (2019).

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  • Intergenerational
  • Closure
  • Social capital
  • African American families
  • Child social competency