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Mexican and Salvadoran Heritage Families’ Ethnic and Racial Socialization Practices in Daily Routines


Research based on Latino heritage parents of adolescents highlights a positive relation between ethnic and racial socialization and ethnic and racial identity development. This is significant given the positive relation between ethnic and racial identity and academic and psychosocial outcomes for Latino youth. However, racial and ethnic socialization has been studied in a limited way with little attention to parents of Latino elementary school-aged children and to variability within this population. This study employed quantitative and qualitative methods, including a photo elicitation task, to explore Mexican and Salvadoran mothers’ ethnic and racial socialization practices within the context of their daily routines and children’s racial and ethnic identity formation. Findings showed that parents’ goals for their children’s education was a part of their racial and ethnic socialization, yet this only came through when utilizing a method that allowed participants to show how they experienced and defined racial and ethnic socialization. In addition, parents reported endorsing egalitarian ideals with great frequency, almost daily, with their school-aged children. Parents’ racial and ethnic socialization messages were multi-faceted and were not easily categorized as either preparation for bias, promotive of egalitarian ideals, or as fostering a color-blind perspective. Engagement in ethnic and racial socialization was variable although in general parents did not talk with their children frequently to prepare them for potential situations of bias, the did not avoid the topic of race with their children and they engaged in cultural socialization that was embedded in daily routines to a great extent than explicit cultural socialization. There was also substantial variability in how parents supported their educational goals and egalitarian ideals with their children, which to some extent was explained by contextual factors including parental work patterns, social support networks, and neighborhood ethnic and racial composition. Intersecting contextual factors impacted the sustainability of daily routines and ethnic and racial socialization such as non-standard work hours coupled with limited social supports. Implications for developmental science are discussed.

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